On May 28, Oleg Zhivotov, a lawyer for a former senior army official earlier charged with high treason claimed a state's commission of experts appointed by the Prosecutor General’s Office for his client's case concluded that the Ukrainian military’s actions in eastern Ukraine are illegal.
"The experts found that, according to Article 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of Ukraine cannot be involved in any conflict within the country. They are intended only to repel external aggression," Zhivotov said, according to Polygraph.info.
Russian media seized on Zhivotov's comments.
Zhivotov’s claim, however, is false, journalists stress citing experts.
Dmytro Koval, Associate Professor and Program and Legal officer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, said it was "impossible to verify" Zhivotov's reading of the conclusion without seeing the commission’s report.
However, he told Polygraph.info that any interpretation of Article 17 of Ukraine's constitution claiming the military can only be used to "repel external aggression" is incorrect.
"[Article 17 of the Constitution of Ukrainian] simply doesn't say a word about expelling external aggression," Koval said.
Bogdan Bondarenko, an expert on constitutional law, legislature and elections at the Center of Policy and Legal Reform, a Ukrainian non-governmental think tank, said in the case of war, the armed forces can be used on the territory of Ukraine.
Bondarenko said Article 17 is intended to keep the military from being used against the citizens or for overthrowing the government.
"Cases of use of armed forces in peacetime are regulated by special legislation. In the context of the war on the territory of Ukraine, there are many legislative problems, but this is a bit of a different problem," Bondarenko said.
He added that problem was "partly solved" on January 18, 2018, when the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law describing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as "temporarily occupied" by Russia, which is designated as an "aggressor country."
The bill is intended to help Ukraine reestablish control over those regions, while Moscow said it amounted to "preparation for war."
Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta research center, an independent Kyiv-based think-tank, told the Associated Press that bill was primarily intended to defend Ukraine's interests in international courts.
As posited in that legislation, Ukrainian military forces in eastern Ukraine are being used to repel external aggression, as the Russian military has been deployed there, despite the Kremlin's claims to the contrary.
As Polygraph.info previously noted, in spite of numerous denials, the evidence of Moscow's involvement in the Donbas war is overwhelming and has been confirmed by numerous open-source investigations, journalistic investigations by international and Russian media outlets, and even, at times, by Russian officials.
Polygraph.info therefore says the claim that Article 17 of the Ukrainian constitution bans the use of the armed forces within the country is false.