A controversial Ukrainian politician known for his pro-Russian sympathies could be removed from an influential committee next week, Kyiv Post has been told.
Nestor Shufrych – a people’s deputy from the Platform for Life and Peace parliamentary group – is currently chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech, but a source in the leadership of the Servant of the People party said he could be removed in the coming days.
“We will consider this issue next week,” the source said.
Shufrych was given the position back in 2019 at the suggestion of the Servant of the People party, when they decided to hand this committee to the opposition.
The decision was controversial at the time as Shufrych’s party spread Russian narratives in parliament and through controlled media channels until Feb. 24, 2022.
During a TV appearance on Feb. 18, 2022, Shufrych was physically assaulted and put into a headlock by journalist Yuriy Butusov after Shufrych refused to condemn Vladimir Putin’s actions in Donbas and Crimea.
Hailing from the Zakarpattia region, on the border with Hungary, Shufrych has long had a reputation as a western Ukrainian politician extremely well connected with pro-Russian figures.
Most notoriously, he has been linked to Putin’s close friend Viktor Medvedchuk, who was arrested and swapped along with 55 other Russians for 205 Ukrainian POWs in September of last year.
After the full-scale invasion, the authorities were repeatedly criticized for keeping a pro-Russian politician in a leadership position.
After Shufrych’s removal, the Committee on Freedom of Speech will be subsumed into the Committee on Human Rights, De-occupation and Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, the source told Kyiv Post.
They added that the decision has already been agreed and now a vote is expected in the Verkhovna Rada.
“We will solve this issue in a civilized manner,” the source said.
Another government source who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Kyiv Post the decision to liquidate the Committee on Freedom of Speech was not final, adding: “It’s better to replace Shufrych with another deputy at the head of the committee. Otherwise, European Solidarity [the party of Ukraine’s fifth president, Petro Poroshenko] will say that we are destroying freedom of speech.”
Kyiv Post approached Nestor Shufrych, as well as Andriy Zadorozhny, head of the human rights committee, for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.
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