It has been exactly 3 years since Daria Morozova assumed office as Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic. “Pravda DNR” congratulated the Ombudsman and the true defender of human rights, energetic and elegant Daria Morozova told us about her intensive work, details of negotiations with the Ukrainian side, the exchange of prisoners, documenting crimes and about her personal life.
– Looking three years back, has the format of the work changed much?
– Absolutely. By the way, I remember the day when I took this position. I was very worried. I was learning the oath by heart all the time. Despite having a very good memory, I was so nervous that I kept forgetting it. It was a plenary session of the parliament, and the post of the Ombudsman was elected by secret ballot. I really wanted to be believed in. I was elected, but I began to worry even more, and I took the oath. There was no Ombudsman’s Office then, but the Committee for Refugees. When I became an Ombudsman, I had the opportunity to create the Ombudsman’s Office. We started small: in the beginning we kept record of refugees and prisoners of war. We began to study carefully how this work is done in other states, how Ombudsmen of Russia and Ukraine work, what are their duties, and gradually began to build our own work. But now it is completely different! More than that, the work will get even more complicated. For example, now I try to direct the work of my legal department to international legislation in order to find out how we can act on the international scene, what other levers we can use to protect our citizens.
– You always document crimes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ukrainian side against Donbass people. This is an arduous process, isn’t it? How do you manage to get maximum accurate figures documenting deaths and damages?
– This was the first thing we started doing and we keep doing it. We publish reports in Russian, English and Ukrainian languages. Our reports are used not only in the DPR and Ukraine, but also by people from Europe, by many Russian citizens, including officials. We have the most recent and the most accurate figures. Of course, it was very difficult in the beginning. Sometimes the figures did not add up, but now every district administration sends us their data, and we process them. In case our statistics differ from those of other agencies, we can explain what each figure stands for. And then I can say “Look, you missed this district, the correct figure is such and such”.
– Negotiations is a delicate matter. How do you manage to achieve results in the dialogue with Ukraine?
– In the beginning it was very difficult. I saw fighting with my own eyes, there were many dead people. I saw things that were psychologically difficult to overcome. It’s hard to realize that our children are dying, and people on the other side are so cynical about it. But if I failed to overcome this psychological barrier, I would not be able to hold this office. I began to channel my energy to achieving results, I said to myself: “There are people who stand behind me, I must throw off my personal feelings.” Now I try not to be guided by the emotional state. For example, we cooperate with the Ombudsman of Ukraine. Valeria Lutkovskaya protects her citizens, I protect mine. One way or another, there are people on both sides. For example, if a person needs a certificate from the Pension Fund, I send a request to Valeria Lutkovskaya, and she never ignores it. Neither do we. As regards the exchange of prisoners, the Ukrainian side refused to cooperate with our Ministry of Justice, so we suggested working with the Ombudsman. But this work is carried out within the framework of the international legislation. The Office of the Prosecutor-General prepares case files before the exchange, and we hand over a person and his/her file, full record of the proceeding. We hope that Ukraine will hand over our prisoners in the same way.
Many people ask me “Why do we observe all commitments and they don’t?! Let’s act like they do!” If we act as dishonorably as they do, here comes a question: why do we do all this? We must play honestly. Anyway, the truth will prevail. I am the kind of person who cannot lie. I have a strong sense of justice. I don’t really need to lie in my situation. I know that I’m right, and it gives me much strength.
How much has the world public opinion changed lately with regard to the situation in Donbass?
– At first they were ambivalent in this regard, there was a lot of mistrust on their part. But now the heads of international organizations to talk to me in a different manner. After three years of cooperation they’ve already seen that everything I say is true, no matter how many checks you do. We definitely earned the trust. So, it is very difficult for international organizations to maintain neutrality. But now everything is reflected in their reports, and this is great, we are grateful to them. And I can challenge the report if there is something that does not correspond to reality. We have a good reputation, a significant voice, and this is the most important thing.
– The exchange of POWs is the most pressing issue. You looked very upset after the conference yesterday. Is there any chance that the exchange will take place soon?
– It’s so cynical and unfair, it was really frustrating! Maybe it wasn’t appropriate, but I said the following to Mrs. Gerashchenko: “You are a woman, a mother of three children. What are you doing?! There are also mothers who wait for their sons to come back, on both sides”. It’s been a year since we started to discuss the exchange, we could do this a year ago. But, due to the fault of the Ukrainian side people have spent a year in prison. We cannot do this because of some flimsy pretexts! The Ukrainian side decided to divide people into categories, but our position is not to make categories. That is, we don’t have “ATO” and “particularly serious crimes” categories. They all are our people and we demand to release them. Last year Ukraine released 15 persons from the list “particularly serious crimes”. And now they allegedly cannot release people from this category due to restrictions in legislation. Why then they did it last year? I don’t understand it. It turns out that it was not a problem to transfer people to the contact line for verification a year ago, and now they consider it a violation of human rights! But how can that be? This is not even cynicism, this is a mean trick. Unfortunately, Mr. Medvedchuck was absent at the meeting yesterday, he always acts in a clear way. As I said before, we repeatedly asked Ukraine to send us its official position with regard to 306 persons whom they propose to exchange, but the Ukrainian side refused to do so. Moreover, they started to look for excuses and asked us to send a list of 74 persons whom the Republics are going to release. We asked them whether they were going to send us the list of 306 persons. They replied with an ultimatum: “When you send us the list of 74 persons, whom the Republics are going to release, we will do so!” Actually, the list of 74 persons has been compiled by them. I hope everything will be resolved, at least at the higher level, and the exchange will take place.
– It would be interesting to know your family’s attitude to your job.
It’s difficult to take mind off things. When I come home in the evening, I’m full of negative emotions. But I have learned to take my mind off. My husband and I talk about work very seldom. What is really sad is that I cannot devote enough time to my children. My elder child, a six-years-old daughter, misses me very much. I also have a breastfed child. Yesterday I came home and kept kissing him for an hour.
Interviewer: Maxim Gazizov
Photo: Marina Korneeva
Source: Pravda DNR