Ukraine: TV-host Savik Shuster on hunger strike

by Kira Kirschbach
Journalist and TV-presenter Savik Shuster declared to be on hunger strike until Ukrainian authorities will allow him to work. Before, his work permission was annulled.

TV-host Savik Shuster (Photo:

The state employment agency had withdrawn the permission to work from regime-critical TV-host Shuster. The reason for this behaviour is an ongoing criminal proceeding because of tax avoidance, explained the authorities to local media in Kiev.

According to this announcement, Schuster tried to hide the investigations against him from the employment agency. He is charged for not having paid taxes for his production company “Savik Shuster Studio”, where the Ukrainian tax office carried out an investigation in 2015. He is accused of tax avoidance amounting to 13 million hryvnias.  

As Shuster does not have a Ukrainian citizenship, those accusations justify, according to the relevant authorities, the annulation of his work permission: According to a decision of the Ukrainian Cabinet, a foreigner’s permission to work in Ukraine can be withdrawn in case he is convicted or undergoing criminal proceedings.

„State is unable to bear criticism"

However, Shuster rejects all allegations – and sees the events as sign of political pressure: “State authorities are obviously unable to bear any criticism. The people are coming to us [Shuster’s TV broadcasting] to express their criticism. And the authorities are struggling with this mirror that is held up to them. They will break this mirror, they will break all mirrors [which display criticism], they will destroy all journalists telling the truth and what people think about those in power. This is a threat to all of us”, the 63-year-old journalist said in Tuesday.   

As consequence, he declared a hunger strike.

“I guess that those people who make such decisions will lead us to war and to bloodshed. I declare a hunger strike until I regain the right to work in a European country called Ukraine. I lived in Europe, there I got my education and I am ready to sacrifice much for the sake of the European values”,

Shuster explained his decision on 3S.TV.

Expulsion from Russia in 2004

He compared his situation to an event in Russia dating back to 2004. Back then, Moscow authorities annulled his residence permit which forced Shuster to leave. “But it is not easy to get rid of me”, the TV-presenter stressed.

Born in Vilnius and living with both a Canadian and Italian citizenship, Shuster gained popularity in Ukraine for his talk show “Swoboda Slowa” (freedom of opinion). Before, he worked for Radio Liberty, for example in Munich, and migrated in the early 1990s to Russia.
After the presidential election of Petro Poroshenko in 2014 he lost his contract with the state broadcaster and later also with private channels. In 2015 he founded the satellite TV channel 3s.TV, which never was able to receive a channel on cable TV.

Politicians and press freedom advocates are concerned

President Poroshenko announced his hope that the case can be solved as soon as possible. Also Vitali Klitschko, former professional boxer and mayor of Kiev suggested to broadcast Shusters talk show on a local capital city channel.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, expressed her concern about the events:

The circumstances of this case raise a number of concerns and questions,”

Mijatović said.

I urge the Ukrainian authorities to swiftly look into this matter, making sure that the journalist’s rights are safeguarded and that Shuster is allowed to continue performing his work in a free and safe manner.”