A Ukrainian Story Of A Woman In Need


We hear a great deal these days about women and their struggles.

Mogul Harvey Weinstein has brought the issue of sexual abuse and intimidation in the workplace and in Hollywood to the forefront. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s famous crusade against the “war on women” gave the Democrats a good ride against the GOP for a while. (That is, until people realized that the abuse was bad only if alleged victims were on the left. Those women in other countries, or those fighting Islamic misogyny, weren’t part of the package.)

Well, here’s a story of real abuse of a woman, the kind done in secret, away from the prying eyes of the press. The kind of abuse done in a cell for political prisoners, keeping a mother away from her disabled child for an extended period just because she is a pawn in a greater game.

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I’m speaking of Iryna Savytskaya, an accountant from Ukraine who is currently languishing in a Georgian jail in the Caucasus. Ms. Savytskaya traveled to Georgia on a business trip and was imprisoned apparently at the behest of the Ukrainian government. The detention appears to be a carefully pre-arranged operation between the Ukrainian and Georgian officials.

The problem is that Ms. Savytskaya works for a company tied to a member of the opposition party in Kiev. Her arrest seems to be designed to apply pressure on a member of the Ukrainian parliament embroiled in a dispute with a business tycoon with connections to former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was overthrown and fled to Russia after the 2014 revolution.

Ms. Savytskaya applied for political asylum in Georgia but her request was denied on September 1. Her request for bail was also denied, even though her attorneys supplied eight binders full of documents to the Georgian court to prove her innocence, and assured them she was not a flight risk. The judge refused to even look at the material.

While in Georgia, Ukraine tried unsuccessfully to have Ms. Savytskaya placed on Interpol’s wanted list. Georgian prosecutors showed an outsized interest in her arrest and detention. Yevgenii Enin, the first deputy prosecutor of Ukraine, traveled to Georgia, according to lawyers, “to maximize assistance in detention, arrest and extradition of Savytskaya to Ukraine.”

Ms. Savytskaya had been employed by S. Group, a Ukrainian food producer that distributes snacks to multiple countries. The owner of S. Group, Serhiy Rybalka, is embroiled in a dispute with the owner of the largest supermarket chain in Ukraine, Gennadiy Butkevich. The genesis of the vendetta appears to stem from a divorce between Mr. Butkevich’s daughter and Mr. Rybalka. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

“We suspect that Iryna was targeted because she is a single mother of a handicapped child, and it is easier to pressure her to provide false evidence,” explains Sergei Vesnin, her attorney.

“Iryna’s story is a tangled web of Third World political and business warfare involving torture, attempted murders and paid-for police raids,” writes Fred G. Lebed, a human rights advocate and government relations’ expert. “Georgian authorities allowed Ukrainian prosecutors to interrogate her in jail without the presence of lawyers, thereby exerting immense impact on her with threats of torture and indefinite separation from her child.”

Mr. Rybalka has been the subject of an attempted murder and his executives have also been attacked and threatened in Ukraine. But let’s keep the focus on Ms. Savytskaya.

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Corruption in Ukraine has been front and center as the IMF weighs whether to disburse further aid to the war-torn nation. Is Ukraine ready to have light shown on Ms. Savytskaya’s ordeal?

It is my hope in writing this column that others will take notice and raise the profile of her predicament. If those so-called feminists out there really care about women, this is a case they can sink their teeth into and do something about.

Originally posted at The Washington Times

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