Ostap Stakhiv, a failed Ukrainian politician and anti-vaxer, created a multi-thousand-strong anti-mobilization network. Its members block the work of the state bodies. Detailed analysis by Babel

Oleksandr Miasyshchev
Yuliana Skibitska
Ostap Stakhiv, a failed Ukrainian politician and anti-vaxer, created a multi-thousand-strong anti-mobilization network. Its members block the work of the state bodies. Detailed analysis by Babel

Поліна Семенова / «Бабель»

Until 2022, Lviv activist Ostap Stakhiv was a well-known leader of anti-vaccinators. During the pandemic, he proved that COVID does not exist, later said that 6G technology will allow light bulbs to use humans as a source of energy. And he also convinced that the UN has been trying to reduce the number of people on earth for a long time and for this purpose it is constantly inventing new ways. For "subversive activities during the pandemic" in November 2021, Stakhiv received suspicion note from the SBU and was sent to a pre-trial detention center. However, despite the suspicion of his ties to Russia, in January 2022 he was released and began a new phase — unleashing a war against the military commissariats and mobilization of soldiers in Ukraine. Stakhiv and his associates have created a network of thousands of followers, who with their requests actually block the work of state bodies and representatives of the military commissariates. They call the Ukrainian Armed Forces an agent of Russia and deny the very existence of Ukraine. Babel correspondent Oleksandr Myasishchev researched what is known about this network, what it does and what law enforcement officers should pay attention to.

An activist and a failed politician

Ostap Stakhiv is 38 years old, born in Lviv region. He started his career in politics in 2005, when he headed the branch of the Svoboda party in Zhydachiv, Lviv region. In 2007, he ran for the Verkhovna Rada on the partyʼs list, but was removed from registration as he didnʼt indicate the source of income. The very next year, Stakhiv left the party due to "some disagreements."

After that, he held rallies against illegal construction, blocked roads, organized events "for the rights of ordinary people" and again tried to get into politics — he headed the Lviv city branch of the Ukrainian Party, but for a short time. He was expelled from it — other party members suspected that Stakhiv was selling places on the party list. After that, he tried to become a part of Batkivshchyna party, but in the end, in 2012, he founded his main project — the public organization Idea of the Nation. Over the years of its existence, it will grow into a structure with branches in several regions of Ukraine.

Ostap Stakhiv


In 2013, Stakhiv ran for the Lviv Regional Council from the Ukrainian Republican Party, and in 2014 — for the parliament. Both times this brought no success. Even then, Stakhiv made many inappropriate and racist statements. He said that Petro Poroshenko and the government are vassals of Brussels and the USA. He spoke harshly against Muslims and migrants. He falsely claimed that they commit the majority of crimes in Ukraine, and in the EU in general, that almost all prisoners in prisons are Muslims. In 2015, Stakhiv ran for mayor of the town of Vynnyky near Lviv, but won only 3% of the vote. In 2019, as a self-nominee, Stakhiv again ran for parliamentary elections — and again failed.

All this time, he organized protest actions, often outrageous and on any topic. In 2014, together with his supporters, he brought a coffin under the walls of the Lviv court, demanding the release of businessman Roman Kurylias, who was accused of fraud. In 2016, Stakhiv and his Idea of the Nation set up a tent camp under the walls of the Strutyn distillery, protesting against smuggling. In 2019, Stakhiv organized actions against the privatization of land and opposed the building of new real estate in Lviv.

Protest in 2018 against the detention of Oleksiy Stanko, who was accused of extorting money.
Stakhiv and his associates set up tents near the prosecutorʼs office in Ternopil.

Protest in 2018 against the detention of Oleksiy Stanko, who was accused of extorting money. Stakhiv and his associates set up tents near the prosecutorʼs office in Ternopil.


To promote and publicize his "work" and views, Stakhiv created several media. In 2010, he published the newspaper Ukrainian Offensive, and now the newspaper Halytski Visti. Until 2019, Stakhiv was also actively involved in the YouTube channel Narodne Telebachennya, which covered his work. However, the channel never became popular — now it has only 575 subscribers. The real glory came to Stakhiv already with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fight against quarantine and the first popularity

In the spring of 2020, when quarantine was introduced in Ukraine due to the pandemic, Stakhiv immediately began to fight it. He recorded a video in which he said that the pandemic is fake and that masks are used to subjugate people. In December 2020, Stakhiv created the Human Rights movement, called himself the "peopleʼs mayor of Lviv" and quickly found supporters among anti-vaxers throughout Ukraine.

In 2021, Stakhiv entered the infectious department of the hospital in the town of Irshava without a mask, demanded to be allowed to see patients with COVID-19 and clained that the coronavirus does not exist. In November 2021, he and his associates broke into a lyceum in Ivano-Frankivsk region, where a teacher was suspended for refusing to be vaccinated. They demanded that the management return her to work.

Stakhiv often held rallies against vaccination and quarantine. These rallies were attended by several hundred people, but their broadcasts received tens of thousands of views. At one of the rallies in Kyiv, Stakhiv met with another anti-vaccinator (and later collaborator with Russians) Kyrylo Stremousov.

Stakhiv's rally against land reform, 2021.
Protest against quarantine restrictions in Kyiv in 2021, co-organized by Stakhiv.

Stakhiv's rally against land reform, 2021. Protest against quarantine restrictions in Kyiv in 2021, co-organized by Stakhiv.


Stakhiv still doesnʼt give up conspiracy theories and fakes about the pandemic. But he also touches on other topics — for example, he says that modern LED bulbs transmit human data, and 6G technology will allow bulbs to use humans as a source of energy. Stakhiv also believes that the UN is doing everything to reduce the number of people on earth. One of the proofs is vaccination, which supposedly kills people.

Stakhiv calls Diia government services app an electronic banking concentration camp. For example, that Diia determines how much taxes to collect from a person, and that it will forcibly collect them if a person underpays something. Stakhiv also says that the "depersonalization of people" has begun in Ukraine due to the "electronic hryvnia", because instead of names or nationalities, numbers have started to be used. "Acquaintances called me and said that when they passed the medical examination, the nationality was written 804. Not Ukrainian, conventionally, not Polish or something else, but 804," Stakhiv says. This is an outright fake.

Stakhiv also claims that the "world government" already knows about the existence of disease "X", which will cause 20 times more deaths than COVID-19. He thinks that governments will create new concentration camps to further restrict freedom of speech and movement of people. In fact, disease "X" is a notional name for a potential infection that could cause a more severe pandemic than COVID-19. The world is now only discussing these risks in order to better prepare for them.

Stakhiv with his supporters.


Anti-vaccination and conspiracy activities made Stakhiv a well-known and popular blogger. In 2021, he already had more than 23 thousand subscribers on Telegram and 70 thousand subscribers on YouTube. Stakhivʼs channels are constantly blocked for questionable statements and violations of YouTube rules — but he opens new ones. In Telegram, Stakhivʼs main channel now has about 18,000 subscribers.

The full-scale war and actions against mobilization

Stakhiv has always spoken publicly against Russian aggression. In the first months of the full-scale war, he continued to publish videos about COVID-19. However, already in September 2022, Stakhiv and his "Human Rights" movements switched from the pandemic to mobilization. In his videos, he said that the military commissariats "kidnaps and tortures people" and (expectedly) builds concentration camps. One of the arguments is that MCs are not officially registered and there is supposedly a relevant decision of the Supreme Court about this. According to Stakhiv, subpoenas are also illegal. Like, they are incorrectly designed and use an unapproved coat of arms of Ukraine. Babel has already refuted some of these myths.

Stakhivʼs "Human Rights" movement has 7,000 followers on Viber. But the main thing is a large local network in all regions in Viber and Telegram. There are usually few people in Telegram groups, from several to 200. But there are more than 3,000 members in Viber groups in Odesa and Kyiv. In these chats, Stakhivʼs supporters spread his posts, as well as outright conspiracy theories. For example, that Zionists want to destroy Ukraine and Russia, the National Police is a foreign agent, the Ukrainian Armed Forces buy human organs (without specification of reasons for that), and activated carbon causes cancer.

Stakhivʼs structures also have a whole network of closed Viber chats, Yuriy Goncharenko, the founder of the research and analytical group InfoLight, tells Babel. He monitored the media activity of Stakhiv and other conspiracists from 2022.

"Conspirology, esotericism, mysticism, prayers, court decisions on the illegality of military commissariats were spread in closed chat rooms. These chats were needed to unite the participants and set them on the same wave," says Goncharenko. Later, access to the chats was strictly limited — participants were checked more thoroughly.

Stakhiv himself publicly conflicts with the military commissariats. On December 19, 2023, he was "illegally approached by the MC" in Lviv, among whom was a participant in hostilities. Stakhiv proved to them that legally the MC and martial law are worthless, because war has not been declared in Ukraine. For example, a state of war is introduced when a country is attacked, or when there is a threat of attack. It is not true. Stakhiv considered the appeal from the MC illegal and called the police. Already 25 minutes later, Stakhiv was accompanied by his "journalist", who began to demand documents from the police and representatives of the MC and claimed that the MC did not belong to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Later, three more associates of the blogger approached. Together, they began to bombard the law enforcement officers and the military with questions. They demanded their documents, filmed them, and then doubted that the policemanʼs documents were genuine. Meanwhile, Stakhiv claimed that the MC does not exist at all. The scandal ended in nothing — the parties wrote each otherʼs statements to the police and went their separate ways.

"Union of Human Rights Defenders"

In March 2023, Stakhiv created a new NGO — the "Union of Human Rights Defenders of Ukraine" and is actively recruiting new members. He teaches them to "protect their rights and freedoms." Members of the association pay an entry fee of UAH 2,500 and monthly installments of UAH 100. Stakhiv issues them "international credentials of human rights defenders", which have no legal force. But, according to the blogger, the certificates "protect" members of the NGO from the police, MC and other authorities. It is not known exactly how many members this association has, but there are 4,000 people in its Telegram group.

This is what the certificates issued to members of the "Union of Human Rights Defenders of Ukraine" look like.


In the social networks of the "Union" there are the same theses about illegal MCs and subpoenas. MC workers there are called "unknown people in the form of fishermen" and are called to call the police as soon as they appear on the horizon. The association also has a network of closed local groups in various messengers in many cities and villages. They were created so that members of NGOs help each other in conflicts with the police, MC and other structures. According to the rules of the community, if a member of the NGO is approached on the street by MC employees, other participants must come to his aid. Together, they start the online video stream, read their rights to the military and prove that the actions of the MC representatives are illegal. And so everyone files complaints together with the police, the prosecutorʼs office, or the State Bureau of Investigations.

The co-chairman of the "Union of Human Rights Defenders of Ukraine" is Oleg Gerych. He openly does not recognize Ukrainian citizenship and considers himself a citizen of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. He calls Ukraine and Russia corporations, not states, and the war is a "conflict of private military formations of corporations." Gerych also believes that his passport of a citizen of Ukraine is a forgery of a genuine Soviet passport. Because of this, in January 2024, he submitted a corresponding statement to the prosecutorʼs office and the police. Gerych urged his followers to do the same through social networks — his post on Facebook received almost a thousand reposts.

In April 2023, Stakhiv and Gerych opened paid courses for "journalists". The cost is different — from 2,500 to 7,500 hryvnias. Stakhiv bluntly stated: these courses are not for future work in the media, but for the "protection" of the participantsʼ rights. For example, they teach how to deal with the police and what articles to tell them in order to defend oneself. The courses are conducted online, the first series lasted for about a month, and the last ones for five days. Among the practical tasks there are: generate and send as many requests and complaints as possible to various state structures, or create TikTok accounts with the note "peopleʼs journalist". One of the stated goals of the courses is to hold police and MC employees accountable.

Ostap Stakhiv and Oleg Gerych.


"The introductory webinar of the course was free, Gerych talked about how massively issued complaints and actually blocked the work of various state bodies," said Alyona Romanyuk, media expert and founder of the NotaYenota anti-fake project.

On February 27, 2024, the "Union" boasted: each participant of the last course of journalists sent from 200 to 500 requests for public information. One of them is about the total number of MC employees in Ukraine.

Oleh Gerych himself described the nature of the courses comprehensively when he talked about one of the lectures. On it, he and his "students" spent four hours discussing the Cabinet of Ministersʼ resolution on MC and social support centers. Gerych claimed: MC is a subdivision of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. That is, this body actually recruits for the "army of Russia, RSFSR". Therefore, Gerych says, all employees of the MC are agents of Russia and are controlled by the Crimean TCC.

"Accordingly, all people who went to fight, having signed an agreement with the MC, are agents and military personnel of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine," Gerych said and added: he will tear up his military ID, refusing to "participate in a fratricidal war."

In order to receive the certificate of "journalist and human rights defender" from Stakhiv and Gerych, people had to pass a practical exam, says Yurii Goncharenko from InfoLight. Namely, approach MC employees on the street, prove that their actions are illegal, bombard them with a list of articles of the Constitution and "force them to retreat."

"At first, they publicly attacked MC workers on the streets in order to incite hatred and radicalize them. As a result, some MC employees began to act inappropriately. And now Stakhiv and his supporters are spreading these episodes as much as possible," Goncharenko explains.

Currently, there are more than 400 users in the Telegram training group. "Graduates" of the courses receive certificates of "journalists and human rights defenders" or "human rights defenders" from Stakhiv and Gerych. Certificates with the inscription "Press" are also worn by the "teachers" themselves. "Journalists" also work in Stakhivʼs media and receive a salary. Stakhiv himself says that he receives money from "supporters".

The activity of Stakhiv and his team is not limited to the Internet. In January-February 2024, they actively traveled around the villages, gathered local people and "liberated people from the captivity of the MC." At the end of January 2024, Stakhivʼs group came to Berezne, Rivne region, to "free the local resident Vasyl Pleskach from the captivity of the MC". According to the latter, MC employees issued him a summons, and then detained him for several days and beat him. Later, the man was released, but Stakhivʼs team began to write statements to the police and gather locals in the village. All together, they went to the police with questions and forcibly broke into the SBI.

Stakhiv and his supporters in Berezne, where they provoked a scandal at a meeting about mobilization.


After the scandal with Pleskach, on January 30, the Berezne city authorities held a meeting between the community and the MC — as was the case in the village of Kosmach, where locals beat a woman and child who "incited the MC." At a meeting in Berezny, Stakhivʼs people provoked a scandal.

Stakhiv and Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)

In November 2021, Stakhiv received a suspicion from the SBU for "subversive activities during the pandemic" and was sent to a pre-trial detention center. He faced 5 to 10 years in prison.

Future collaborator Kyrylo Stremousov came to support Stakhiv at the courts. The SBU claimed that Stakhiv tried to destabilize the situation in Ukraine and seize power with anti-vaccination slogans. He and other anti-vaccinators allegedly planned to create their communities on the territory of Ukraine and were even looking for weapons for this. The SBU assumed that this network was overseen and financed by Russia. Stakhiv himself denies this.

In January 2022, Stakhiv was released from the pre-trial detention center — allegedly, supporters collected almost 1 million hryvnias for his bail. The Galician District Court in Lviv drew up an indictment against Stakhiv back in 2022, but there is still no verdict. In 2023, the courts decided who should deal with the case of the anti-vaccinator — Lviv or Pechersk Court of Kyiv. The Supreme Court decided that the case should remain in Lviv, to which Stakhivʼs lawyer filed an appeal. And on February 21, 2024, the cassation of the Supreme Court finally confirmed that the case should be considered by the Halytskyi District Court.

The Security Service says they are aware of Stakhivʼs current activities and are monitoring them — in particular, when he opened his training sessions. No new suspicions were given to him. Babel sent a request to the service about whether it knows about the activities of Stakhivʼs team in the matter of mobilization and MC. At the time of publication, we havenʼt received a response.

Stakhiv in one of Stremousovʼs videos. Before the full-scale war, they were allies.


Meanwhile, the SBU is already dealing with two of Stakhivʼs associates — Andriy Rachyk and Yaroslav Zhur. They regularly record streams with Stakhiv and go to events with him. In 2020, Andriy Rachyk overthrew Hanukkah in Kyiv and received suspicion from the police. In February 2024, Rachyk was charged with anti-Semitism and justifying Russian aggression. Stakhiv publicly supported Rachyk and called the case against him "repression by Satanists."

In November 2023, the SBU searched another associate of Stakhiv, Yaroslav Zhur. He is also suspected of inciting national enmity, including anti-Semitism.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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