Restriction on the use of St George’s ribbon

Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences Concerning the Production and Propaganda of St George’s Ribbon”

May 16, 2017

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

June 15, 2017

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Prohibition of the production and public demonstration of the St George’s ribbon

The prohibition did not lead to any extensive persecution, while the trend of banning and sanctioning the use of this symbol has spread across the region.

Act’s description and legal basis

The act introduced changes to the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences by inserting new Article 173-3 that penalized public use, demonstration and wearing of St George’s ribbon or its images. The sanction for the offense is a fine between 850-2,550 UAH (around 22-57 EUR as of March 2023) and confiscation of the ribbon or objects containing its image. In case the person repeatedly commits this offense within a year after the previous violation, the sanction increases – the court may confiscate the ribbon or objects containing its image and impose a fine within a range of 850-5,100 UAH (around 57-129 EUR as of March 2023) or detain the offender for up to 15 days of administrative arrest. 

Exceptions relevant to depictions of Nazi and Communist symbols are mentioned in the respective legislation, being equally applicable in this case. They include the display of banned symbols in museums, exhibitions, works of art, on memorials located within graveyards or on graves of honor, in private collections and private archives, or in the antique trade, as well as the use of the ribbon or its images for educational and scientific purposes. 

Administrative commissions under the local councils are entrusted with deciding cases on the ban of St George’s ribbon under the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses. As a rule, members of local councils and local self-government representatives form the core of these bodies.    


News about the imposition of fines occasionally appeared, especially annually around 9 May (police reports here and here). Courts, though not empowered to review such cases, applied minimal fines (here, here, and here), and the strongest sanction was also a fine of 2,550 UAH (57 EUR as of March 2023). One of the cases relates to the refusal to allow entry into the country for two aliens from Moldova. 

Most cases under this provision are being considered by the administrative commissions under the local councils. These cases are neither published nor systemized elsewhere, making the assessment of the actual fines applied difficult. After the law entered into force, the police submitted some cases to courts, but the latter predominantly refused to deal with them on numerous occasions, citing the lack of powers vested by the legislation. In 2021 some MPs introduced a draft law aimed at fixing the problem, but eventually, it was revoked. Nevertheless, some courts still review submissions from the police even now, including the display of the ribbon on the Internet, and establish the breaches. Thus, the enforcement mechanism for this provision shall be improved and clarified.  

Other countries in the region started introducing  similar limitations, citing predominantly public safety concerns and the need to combat Russian totalitarian ideology. For instance, in the wake of the Russian full-scale military aggression in 2022, Moldova has adopted a law banning the use of certain symbols that could be associated with military aggression, including the St George ribbon. The Venice Commission recognized that this response was consistent with European human rights norms.

The introduction of certain scientific, educational, and artistic exceptions in the Moldovan law was deemed positive as making the definition of those measures as proportionate easier. Exception for public use of St George ribbons as part of the insignia, medals, or orders granted for participation in WWII is also a part of the legislative framework in Ukraine. 

The Venice Commission has also rightfully highlighted that in its current use, St George’s ribbon has predominantly become a symbol “of the military power of the contemporary Russian state” and the “support of the Putin regime” and its annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. When it comes to the other European states, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and some federal units of Germany have implemented similar laws, and some even had an opportunity to apply them.