Kiev accuses Rusyn leader of threatening Ukraine’s territorial integrity

Dmitry Sidor, chairman of the Association of Carpathian-Ruthenians, is accused by Ukrainian Security Service of separatist activities and could face a three-year prison sentence · Rusyn council declared formation of Republic of Carpathia-Ruthenia in October.

The leader of Ukraine's Rusyn community, a Slavic people divided between six different states, faces a prison sentence of up to three years for calling for a "peaceful split" from Ukraine on October 25 at the second congress of the Association of Carpathian-Ruthenians. His speech caused a major stir among Ukrainian parties and the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has now accused the leader of the Rusyn community of acting against Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Cited by Russia Today, Sidor condemns the "forced assimilation" of the Rusyn population, and says that they have no choice but to assert their right to self-government because Ukraine has ignored the Rusyns' persistent attempts since the collapse of the Soviet Union to negotiate their status. Sidor, an Orthodox priest, says that it is not a question of separatism since the Rusyns are "ready to live alongside Ukrainians, respect their money and language and be a part of their land, but with our own autonomy."

Pyotr Getsko, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic according to Russia Today, has also been accused of separatist activities by the SBU. Meanwhile, the ForUm news agency has reported that the Rusyns have already formed a new government, which met for the first time on December 2.

The Rusyns are officially recognized as an ethnic minority in Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Serbia, but they have no official status in Ukraine, except in the province of Transcarpathia, which formally recognized the community in 2007. Estimating the size of the Rusyn population is difficult because the state tends to consider Rusyns as Ukrainian. Kiev justifies its lack of action using census data from 2001, according to which only 10,000 people declared their ethnicity as "Rusyn" (although Rusyn ethnicity was not an option on the form). The Rusyn community itself claims to number over 700,000.

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