Repressing the Helsinki Groups: Ukraine, 1977-1978 (48.3)

<<No 48 : 14 March 1978>>

Pressure on Mykola Rudenko.

Mykola Rudenko [head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group] was sent to a camp only in November 1977, two months after his appeal hearing (for his trial, see CCE 46.4). All that time the authorities continued to exert pressure on him (see CCE 47).

On 14 October 1977, an official of the Donetsk KGB, Lieutenant-Colonel Zuyev, visited Rudenko in prison. On behalf of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, he proposed that Rudenko write a letter requesting emigration. Rudenko agreed. Without renouncing his beliefs, he wrote that owing to his state of health he would be unable to endure seven years of incarceration in strict-regime camps. He asked that this punishment be replaced by another: that he be deported outside the bounds of the USSR. Having received this letter on 17 October, Zuyev promised that it would be examined the following day by the Presidium of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet.

Mikola Rudenko, 1920-2004

At the end of October, they transferred Rudenko to Kiev, where again they asked him to recant. To questions about what he would do if he went abroad, Rudenko replied that he did not intend to engage in politics — he would write poems and science fiction. On 14 November he was informed that the Ukrainian authorities and the KGB objected to his being exiled abroad. Two days later he was sent to a camp.

At the same time pressure on Raisa Rudenko was being increased: although she has been officially praised as a “shock-worker of communist labour”, they sacked her from her job “in connection with staff reductions”. At times she was openly shadowed.

On 27 December 1977, after a meeting with her husband in camp, Raisa Rudenko wrote a letter to the First Secretary of the Ukrainian communist party Central Committee, V.V. Shcherbitsky. Describing the pressure to which her husband was being subjected (see above) she writes:

My husband has a serious injury and suffers from no less serious heart trouble and somatic illnesses: he has a double inoperable inguinal hernia which is continually strangulating. For example, during the investigation in Donetsk prison he had two strangulations. The interrogation was then interrupted, and first aid was urgently administered. In Donetsk Prison this was possible. But in a Mordovian camp there is no such possibility. The nearest hospital is 20 kilometres away from the camp. Even for the healthy the journey there by bus is an ordeal difficult to bear. I am terrified at the thought of what will become of my husband when he has his first strangulation.

Recalling her husband’s wartime services and literary activity, R, Rudenko concludes:

“My husband has committed no crimes — what is criminal is the monstrous sentence condemning an innocent man to inevitable death. I beg you, Vladimir Vasilyevich, to show humanity and save the life of Mykola Rudenko by allowing him to emigrate from the USSR.”

The Arrest of Lukyanenko

On 12 December 1977 Levko Lukyanenko, a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, was arrested in Chernigov.

Lev Grigorevich LUKYANENKO was born in 1927 in the village of Khripovka in Chernigov Region. From 1944 to 1953 he served in the army; here he joined the Communist Party. In 1958 he graduated from the Law Faculty at Moscow University and began working in the western Ukraine, first on the staff of a district Party committee and thereafter as a defence lawyer. In I960 he composed a draft programme of the “Ukrainian Worker-Peasant Union”. The draft, written on a Marxist basis, proposed a referendum on self-determination for the Ukraine, and the following socio-economic reforms: genuinely voluntary peasant cooperative societies: the legalization of private enterprise in the sphere of services and small-scale industry. On 20 and 21 January 1961, a group of seven persons (Party officials and lawyers, among them Ivan Kandyba), who had scarcely begun to discuss the draft, were arrested. A closed trial on charges of “Betrayal of the Motherland” [Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code] sentenced Lukyanenko to be shot, Kandyba to 15 years and the rest to 10 and 11 years. Lukyanenko spent two months and six days in the death cell. An appeal court commuted execution to 15 years.

Lukyanenko’s imprisonment and subsequent two years under surveillance have been reported in many issues of the Chronicle: CCE 33, 36, 39, 43-47.

Lukyanenko was detained as part of “Case No. 39”, an investigation initiated as far back as February 1977 when Mykola Rudenko was arrested (CCE 44.2). On the day Lukyanenko was arrested there was a search of his flat in Chernigov lasting from 7 am to 11 pm. All papers, including personal correspondence (right down to greeting cards) were confiscated, even things not taken in previous searches. A body search was conducted of Lukyanenko himself and his wife Nadezhda Nikonovna. The search was carried out on the instruction of an investigator of the Chernigov KGB, Captain Polunin.


In response to Lukyanenko’s arrest, the Ukrainian Helsinki Group appealed on 18 December 1977 to the [CSCE] Conference in Belgrade.

Describing Lukyanenko’s tragic fate and recalling the severe sentences handed down on Rudenko and Tikhy, the Group members said that “only immediate actions in his defence, actions taken long before the trial, in the first instance by governments and public opinion in the countries which signed the Helsinki Agreements”, can save Lukyanenko from the ten years of special-regime camps and five years’ exile which now threaten him. The letter was signed by Oles Berdnik, Ivan Kandyba, Vitaly Kalinichenko, Oksana Meshko, Vasily Streltsov and Nina Strokata.

A special appeal concerning Lukyanenko’s arrest was sent to delegates at the Belgrade meeting by Oksana Meshko. She speaks of his human qualities, which endeared him to all those around him and especially to political prisoners :

“After his release, letters streamed into Chernigov for the lawyer-under-surveillance, through the obstacles of censorship and secret photographing…

“L. Lukyanenko unfailingly responded to the letters with legal advice and involved himself in the defence of victims of discrimination, because active concern for others is the essence of his nature.”

Meshko writes in particular of Lukyanenko’s activities in defence of B. Chuiko (CCE 47) and P. Ruban (CCE 45).

On 2 February 1978, the MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP spoke out in Lukyanenko’s defence. In its statement (document No. 31) Lukyanenko’s arrest is examined as part of the wave of persecution of the Helsinki Groups by the Soviet authorities which has been particularly severe in Ukraine.

Protests against Lukyanenko’s arrest have also been voiced by exiles (M. Landa, V. Stus) and political prisoners. In Perm Camp 36 in late February and early March political prisoners Abankin, Zdorovy, V. Zalmanson, Zukauskas, Kalynets, Kovalyov, Safronov, Sergiyenko, Mattik and Slobodyan sent statements to the Supreme Soviets and Procuracies of the USSR and the Ukraine. (See “In the Prisons and Camps” in this issue, CCE 48.10, for the statement by Igor Kalynets.)


On the day of Lukyanenko’s arrest, searches in connection with his case were carried out at the homes of his brother Alexander Lukyanenko (Chernigov), his parents (Khripovka village near Chernigov) and his sister (Gorodnyanka village, Chernigov Region), Group members, Pyotr Vins (Kiev), Ivan Kandyba (Pustomyty village near Lvov), Oles Berdnik (in R. Rudenko’s flat, where he and his family are now living) and Vitaly Kalinichenko (Vasilkov, Dnepropetrovsk Region).

Staff of the Lvov KGB searched Kandyba’s lodgings from 9 o’clock to 12.30 pm: they took away four letters, two of them from Lukyanenko; and a handwritten text of the [1948] Universal Declaration of Human Rights — this is the third time they have taken the Declaration away from Kandyba.

The search at Berdnik’s home lasted from 8 am until 8 pm: they even confiscated Soviet editions of Berdnik’s books with dedicatory inscriptions by Mykola Rudenko. KGB officers carried out a body search of Raisa Rudenko and Berdnik’s wife Valentina. After the search, they took Berdnik away for interrogation, but he said he was tired, and the interrogation was postponed until the next morning.

The search at the Vins’s home was carried out by 20 people (including witnesses) under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Chunikhin of the Chernigov KGB, Major Izorgin and Captain Musiiko. During the search, the following items were confiscated from P. Vins (he was doing 10 days’ detention at the time, see below): photographs of Solzhenitsyn and Orlov, and a synopsis of a work on social psychology. The following were confiscated from his mother, Nadezhda Ivanovna Vins: tape recordings of a religious character and Bibles. From Vins’s grandmother, Lydia Mikhailovna Vins they took 20 copies of the Bible published in the West, and documents of the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives.

(Lydia M. Vins is 70. Three years ago, she was set free after serving a 3-year term of imprisonment under Article 187-1 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which corresponds to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code. In the spring of 1977, they summoned her to the Procuracy to deliver a “warning”: she did not go. Now they are threatening her with new criminal prosecutions for her activities on the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives.)

At the search of the Vins’s home Victor Lavrinenko, a friend of P. Vins who had dropped in for a visit, was detained. They took him off for interrogation at the KGB, where investigator Senior Lieutenant Ostapenko asked him to give an appraisal of the works of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn. Lavrinenko replied that he had not read them. The interrogation lasted three hours.

On 13 December, an acquaintance of the Lukyanenko family, Oksana Svitailo, was questioned in Chernigov in connection with Lukyanenko’s case.

In December or January Pyotr Ruban’s wife Lydia Ruban was questioned in Priluki (Chernigov Region).


In January 1978, Yevgeny Obertas, writer B.D. Antonenko-Davidovich and Nadezhda Svetlichnaya were interrogated in Kiev. All three were also questioned after the arrest of Rudenko and Tikhy — CCEs 45, 46. On 23 January, a search was conducted at Stefania Gulyk‘s [Ukr. Hulyk, CCE 26.9] home in Lvov. On 1 February they interrogated her.

On 27 January Ivan Kandyba was interrogated (the investigator was Captain Sanko).

On 30 January, Investigator Grazhdan (CCEs 37, 38) questioned A.V. Golumbievskaya in Odessa in connection with Lukyanenko’s case. She said she was not acquainted with Lukyanenko and had nothing to tell the investigator.

Former political prisoners are being questioned in the Lukyanenko case.

In January, a search was carried out at the home of I.I. Kravtsov in Kharkov. After the search he was interrogated. (In June 1977 Igor Ivanovich Kravtsov left Mordovian Camp 19, having served 5 years under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code. He was in the same case as A. Zdorovy.)

On 13 January 1978, Ma Khun (CCE 42), who was once in Vladimir Prison with Lukyanenko (CCE 36), was interrogated in the Khabarovsk Region. They also questioned Ma Khun’s wife Yekaterina Borovaya.

In February P.F. Kampov (CCEs 33, 42, 45, 47) was questioned in Uzhgorod.

On 3 February 1978, they interrogated V.V. Ovsiyenko (CCEs 44, 45, 47). Investigator Protasov (of the Zhitomir KGB) questioned him about some correspondence with Lukyanenko. Ovsiyenko refused to examine the letters that were presented to him (apparently taken during the search of Lukyanenko’s home), saying that he regarded the KGB’s interference with private correspondence as amoral. Threats followed.

(The same Protasov interrogated Ovsiyenko in the autumn of 1977 in the case of G. Snegiryov in connection with a greetings card which Ovsiyenko had sent Snegiryov.)

On 1 February 1978, the Rovno KGB interrogated Kuzma Matviyuk (CCEs 33, 42, 44-47). They showed him typed copies of letters from himself to Lukyanenko. On 24 February they questioned him again. The investigator alleged that a notebook belonging to Lukyanenko contained an entry to the effect that Matviyuk had sent off a certain document, and he asked what this document was. (On K. Matviyuk see “After Release” in this issue, CCE 48.13.)

On 2 February, Stefania Shabatura was interrogated in exile (see “In Exile” in this issue, CCE 48.11).

On 10 February 1978, a search was made at the home of Vasily Stus, who is serving a term of exile in the Kolyma Region (CCEs 45-47), The search lasted ten hours. They took away a copy of the indictment and extracts from his 1972 case; poems he had written; and letters from A. Bolonkin, M. Kotsyubinskaya, L. Popadyuk (mother of political prisoner Zoryan Popadyuk), M. Marinovich and I. Kandyba. They also confiscated typewritten extracts from the Final Act of the European [CSCE] Conference [Helsinki, August 1975]; an address book; and drafts of never posted letters to P.G. Grigorenko and to Rasul Gamzatov, as a fellow poet and member of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. After the search they interrogated Stus for three days in Ust-Omchug, the district centre. Stus refused to answer questions. He demanded that the items confiscated in the search, as well as materials from the Lukyanenko case of 1961 and the 1965 and 1972 trials in the Ukraine be sent to the [CSCE] Conference in Belgrade and to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.


On 9 February 1978, a search was conducted at the home of Oksana Meshko in connection with the Lukyanenko case. The search lasted 20 hours, from 7.45 am on 9 February to 3.40 am on the 10th. The search brigade consisted of nine people (two women were witnesses). Without knocking they opened the house door with a key taken that same morning from Meshko’s lodger; he was at work and they had brought him together with his key to the search. As well as the living quarters, they searched outbuildings on the same land and dug up the snow in the garden. Part of what was confiscated was in fact found under the snow.

KGB officials seized a letter of I. Kandyba’s (on the surveillance of him and their 1961 case), a letter from Nadezhda Lukyanenko (written after her husband L. Lukyanenko’s arrest), a letter from Kuzma Matviyuk, many notes by O.Ya. Meshko herself, 64 sheets of unused carbon paper, and the almanac Twentieth Century [note 1]. The investigators were preparing to confiscate papers belonging to Meshko’s son A. [Oles] Sergiyenko (academic testimonials about his study at an institute, and other items) but the owner of the house resisted them. Meshko also tried to avoid giving up to the KGB officials Kandyba’s letter, by compressing it in her hand. They forced her to unclench her fist. During the search, a tape recording was made which they played back at the end of the proceedings. The recording turned out to include, amongst other things, the arguments and the skirmish between Meshko and the investigators.

During the search Oles Berdnik dropped in to visit Meshko. He was given a body search and then they took him off to Rudenko’s flat, where they also carried out a search (on a warrant in the name of Raisa Rudenko).

On 14 February Meshko was taken from a police-station to Investigator Sanko at the KGB for interrogation — she had refused to appear on a summons. The interrogation lasted four hours and concerned materials of the Helsinki Group as well as those that had been confiscated during the search of Lukyanenko’s home on 12 December. After questioning, Meshko was taken off to another room where Lieutenant-Colonel Ganchuk issued a warning to her “according to the Decree” [see CCE 32.14] on the basis of a selection of various documents shown to her which had been taken from her at searches, starting with the search in her son’s case in 1972.

Meshko refused to sign the interrogation record and the warning, stating that these actions of the investigator were contrary to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948] and the Final Act of the European [CSCE] Conference [Helsinki, August 1975]. She would, however, consent to sign the warning if they handed over to her copies of the documents on the basis of which they were cautioning her about criminal responsibility under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code. The entire ‘warning’ proceedings were also tape-recorded.

The Arrest of Pyotr Vins

On 8 December 1977 Pyotr Vins was detained at Kiev station as he was boarding a train to Moscow. Vins refused to submit to a search without being shown the appropriate documents. Right there in the station he was beaten up, after which they searched him and sent him to a police-station. They confiscated from Vins the Bible and the Gospels (three or four copies of each), two documents of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and other papers.

Vins was placed in detention for 15 days for “insubordination to the police”. Police officers themselves informed Vins’s mother that they had beaten him because he refused to submit voluntarily to a search. From the moment of his arrest Vins declared a hunger strike in protest at the illegal search and detention and therefore did not go out to work. Towards the end of the 15 days, they charged him with refusal to work and through a court extended the term of arrest by another 15 days. The judge said she knew nothing about Vins’s hunger strike. In spite of his extremely grave state of health, they did not force-feed him for a little over 20 days. He did not get out of bed; his pulse was 120, and for the whole duration of his detention Vins did not improve. Vins’s relatives feared for his life. In a conversation with Vins’s mother, the supervising Procurator said that criminal proceedings would be instituted against her son under Article 62 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code. Then the Procurator said: “Every day we call an ambulance and draw up a document on refusal to take food. If he dies it’ll be his own fault.”

On 15 December 1977, Olga Geiko (Matusevich), Lyubov Murzhenko, Galina Snegiryova, Yefim Pargamanik, Semyon Ginzburg, Vyacheslav Dubinets, Mark Belorusets, Oksana Meshko, Dmitry Mikheyev, Josif Markov, Vladimir Malinkovich, Valery Vovsi, Valery Nadyuk, Victor Lavrinenko, Igor Pomerantsev and Grigory Tokayuk sent a letter to the [CSCE] Conference in Belgrade calling for it to support their demand for Vins’s release.

On 21 December, officials of the Kiev KGB interviewed Semyon Ginzburg and his father. They were taken away from home, although the elder Ginzburg was ill. One of the KGB officers who introduced himself as “head of counter-intelligence” tried by means of threats to learn the whereabouts of a letter in defence of Pyotr Vins. The same officer said that a trial was being prepared for P. Vins, G. Snegiryov, M. Matusevich, M. Marinovich and others, and that S. Ginzburg “had been planned as a witness” at this trial but they would make him the defendant.

On 31 December 1977, the MOSCOW HELSINKI GROUP made public a statement in Vins’s defence (document No. 28):

“We know Pyotr Vins as an extremely tactful, calm and self-possessed man. We are certain that he is the victim of a provocation prepared in advance.

“Apparently, Vins’s arrest on 8 December was not by chance, since on 10 December there was a demonstration in Moscow to mark International Human Rights Day. In Moscow on 10 December many dissidents found themselves under house arrest…

“We demand the immediate release of Pyotr Vins — it is a matter of saving the health and possibly even the life of a man who is still very young, a noble and courageous man.”


On 3 January 1978, Andrei Sakharov sent a telegram to the Ukrainian MVD requesting them to allow the ill Vins’s relatives to meet with him and to assist in securing his release.

On 6 January 1978, one day before the expiry of his second 15-day term, P. Vins was released on the basis of a protest by the Procurator concerning only the second term. On 15 February 1978, they again arrested P. Vins, taking him from the street. On this occasion a criminal charge was brought against him under Article 214 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (leading a parasitic way of life’).

On 18 February Sakharov and Naum Meiman spoke out in defence of Pyotr Vins. They noted that Vins was the 18th Helsinki Group member to be arrested and the sixth arrested during the Belgrade Conference. The authors write:

“It has become known that Pyotr Vins has been charged under Article 214 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code…This Article of the Code… is itself legal nonsense, being in effect a law on forced labour which gives the authorities an opportunity for legal reprisals against any person. Its application in the case of P. Vins, who a year ago was sacked from his job as a lighting technician on the instructions of the authorities, is an example of such a reprisal; it is a reaction to his public activity within the Helsinki Group, to his support for his father [Georgy] who was condemned to 6 years of camps and exile, to his collaboration with Moscow dissenters and to his declared intention to leave the country.”

(Georgy Vins’s sentence is 5 years in camps and 5 years’ exile, Chronicle.)

In connection with the most recent arrest of P. Vins, ten people have appealed to the Canadian Premier Pierre Trudeau for help in securing Vins’s release and departure for Canada. They point out these circumstances: P. Vins and two of his sisters have received invitations from relatives in Canada; after his previous arrest Vins had managed to assemble all the documents necessary to make an application to emigrate; the invitations had been registered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs; at the moment of his arrest the documents were at Vins’s home and were taken from him by KGB officials.


We report two new members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, who joined in October 1977.

Vitaly Kalinichenko served ten years (1966-76) for an attempt to go abroad, which was defined as “betrayal of the Motherland” [Article 64]. Since his release he has been living under surveillance in the town of Vasilkov, Dnepropetrovsk Region, and working as an engineer. In October 1977 he declared he was renouncing his Soviet citizenship.

Vasily Streltsov was convicted in Stalin’s time at the age of 15 and was given ten years; he was later rehabilitated. V. Streltsov is a philologist and graduated from Chernovtsy University. Recently he was teaching English in a school. A year ago, they fired him after he applied to leave for England. Streltsov lives in the town of Dolina, Ivano-Frankovsk Region.



[1] Roy Medvedev edited a samizdat journal called Twentieth Century [Dvadtsaty vek], selections from which were published in London in Russian in 1976 and 1977.