Statement by Roma and pro-Roma civil society

May 21, 2024 Officially

As members of Civil Society Organisations, we are deeply concerned by the statements made by the former advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Mr Viktor Andrusiv, during an interview on Rostislav Smirnov's YouTube channel on 2nd May 2024.

In his statement, Mr Andrusiv used offensive language that reinforces negative stereotypes and compared draft evaders to Roma, stating: "If you are a draft dodger, who consciously fled, then you do not have the right to call yourself a Ukrainian. You are a Gypsy." This comparison is not only incorrect but also highly offensive, especially considering that a significant number of Ukrainian Roma have pro-actively joined the defence of the country since the beginning of the war.

It is crucial to recognise that members of the Roma community are integral to Ukrainian society, including its defence forces, and are fighting at the frontlines, many as volunteers. Roma individuals have defended the country during times of conflict, demonstrating their commitment to Ukraine and their willingness to contribute to its security and stability. Any attempts to marginalise or discriminate against the Roma community not only undermine their rights but also disregard their valuable contributions to the nation. It is essential to acknowledge and honour the role of Roma individuals in Ukraine's defence and ensure that they are treated with the same dignity and respect as all citizens.

Mr Smirnov, in his capacity as an advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, did not interrupt his interlocutor or warn against using hate speech against Roma during the podcast.

The use of the word "Gypsy" in a negative context not only promotes hate speech but also exacerbates discrimination against Roma, which already exists in many areas of life. These statements violate the rights of the Roma community to equal treatment and protection from discrimination and hate speech, which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine and Ukraine's international obligations.

We urge the authorities to take the necessary measures to address this situation, including considering the possibility of proposing action against Mr Andrusiv and Mr Smirnov and facilitating the protection of the rights of Roma in Ukraine.

The racist statement contradicts the ambitions of Ukraine – which is defending European values such as freedom, equality, justice and inclusion at the front – to become a diverse and democratic country appreciating the contributions of communities such as Roma as expressed in the Government Programme Unity in Diversity and plays into the hands of Russian propaganda.

In addition to urging the authorities to take action against Mr Andrusiv and Mr Smirnov, we recommend the following measures to address this situation and protect the rights of the Roma community in Ukraine:

1. Public Apology: Mr Andrusiv and Mr Smirnov should issue a public apology to the Roma community for their offensive remarks. This apology should acknowledge the harm caused by their words and express a commitment to promoting tolerance and respect for all communities in Ukraine.

2. Awareness and Sensitivity Training: Conduct mandatory awareness and sensitivity training sessions for government officials, including advisors, to educate them about the harmful effects of hate speech and discrimination. These sessions should include specific modules on understanding and respecting the rights of minority communities, including the Roma.

3. Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms: Establish monitoring and reporting mechanisms to track incidents of hate speech and discrimination against the Roma community. These mechanisms will enable prompt intervention and follow-up actions by the authorities.

4. Legal Reforms: Advocate for legal reforms to strengthen laws against hate speech and discrimination, with specific provisions addressing offences targeting minority communities such as the Roma. Ensure that these laws are effectively enforced and that perpetrators are held accountable.

5. Promotion of Inclusive Language: Encourage using inclusive language in public discourse and media to avoid perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices against Roma and other minority groups. Promote positive representations of the Roma community in mainstream media and educational materials.

6. Support for Human rights and Roma inclusion: Increase support for programs and initiatives to promote inclusion and socio-economic empowerment of the Roma community. This includes access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and adequate housing. These programmes should be complemented by programmes aimed at preventing and combating antigypsyism.

7. Engagement with Roma Organisations: Collaborate with Roma organisations and community leaders to develop and implement strategies for combating discrimination and promoting Roma rights. Ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making processes that affect their lives.

By implementing these recommendations, the authorities can demonstrate a commitment to upholding human rights principles and creating an inclusive and respectful society where all individuals, regardless of ethnicity or background, can live free from discrimination and prejudice.


Organisations from Ukraine: 

Roma Women Fund Chiricli, Ukraine

ARCA, Youth Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture, Ukraine

International public organisation of Roma “Ketane”, Roma Council of Ukraine”; Ukraine

Charitable Foundation “New Generation”; Ukraine

Transcarpathian Regional Charitable Fund “Blago”; Ukraine

Public organisation Kharkiv National Cultural Society Roma; Ukraine

Public spiritual and educational organisation “CHACHIMO”; Ukraine

Cherkasy region public organization “ROMANI ROTA”; Ukraine

Voice of Romni, Ukraine

Kherson Regional Branch of the Sociological Association of Ukraine, Ukraine

MSO "Romano Than" TCPC

Other national and international organisations:

Vitsche, Ukraine/Germany

European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network, Belgium

Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany

The Society for Threatened Peoples,  Germany

Advancing Together, Kosovo

Voice of Roma, Askali, and Egyptians, Kosovo

Fundacja Jaw Dikh, Poland

Roma Women Platform “ROMNI” from Moldova

Roma advocacy and research centre, Slovakia

Autonomia Foundation, Hungary

Roma Active Albania

La voix des Rroms, France

RomanoNet, Czech Republic

Life Together, Czech Republic

Integro Association, Bulgaria

Regional Roma Educational Youth Association-RROMA, North Macedonia

Reporting and Information Centre on Antigypsyism-MIA e.V., Germany

Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians,  Kosovo

Roma Zentrum für interkulturellen Dialog e.V., Germany

Federació d’Associacions Gitanes de Catalunya, Spain

Amardo Drom e.V., Germany

European Roma Rights Centre, Belgium

Nevo Parudimos, Romania

Roma Support Group, England

Slovo 21z.s., Czech Republic

Minderheiten Initiativen- initiative für Roma, Austria

Центр прав людини ZMINA, Україна