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Arrested in occupied Crimea to prove ‘threat from Ukraine’ on eve of illegal elections?

13.02.2018
Halya Coynash

Russia’s FSB [Security Service] has reported the arrest of another Ukrainian for alleged ‘spying’, with the only deviation of the FSB’s pattern being the claim that the ‘secret information’ supposedly passed to Ukraine’s Security Service was about the FSB itself.  Kostyantin Davydenko has now been illegally taken to Moscow and remanded in custody in the Lefortovo Prison.   

The FSB announced on February 12 that they had detained Davydenko, a citizen of Ukraine.  It is alleged that he “deliberately collected and passed to Ukraine’s Security  information constituting a state secret” about units within the so-called Russian National Guard, and about employees of the FSB.  This information, if passed “abroad”, could supposedly harm “the state’s security”.   A criminal investigation has been initiated under Article 276 of Russia’s criminal code (spying).

Krym.Realii has managed to contact Davydenko’s family.  The 31-year-old is originally from the Donetsk oblast and, together with his father, had been working as valuers of real estate and other forms of property.  His parents, however, have remained in the area now under the control of Russian-backed militants, while Kostyantin moved to Kharkiv, together with his wife and small son.

It seems that he is the head of a city branch of a firm which carries out orders both on territory under the control of the Ukrainian government, and that under militant control.

From his VKontakte page, it is clear that he has been in Crimea several times. His father explains that he was there on work trips, to assess property. That was doubtless the plan for his trip on 10 February.

The Russian-controlled website Krym Inform has posted an FSB operational video which claims to show the seizure of “a Ukrainian suspected of spying”.  Much later in the day, presumably after interrogation by the FSB in Moscow, the standard ‘confession’ video was broadcast by Russian state media.  While Davydenko does not look obviously ill-treated, in virtually all cases where the men arrested have later been allowed independent lawyers, they have retracted such ‘testimony’, saying it was tortured out of them.  

News of Davydenko’s arrest came shortly after Sergei Aksyonov, the Crimean installed as leader by Russian soldiers, spoke of measures of security against supposed ‘terrorist attacks’ from mainland Ukraine before Russia’s ‘presidential elections’ which are being illegally held in Crimea.

Human rights groups have long warned Ukrainians of the dangers of travelling to Russian-occupied Crimea and safety precautions if they must go.  In the prelude to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned ‘re-election’, it is clear that any visit could end in a prison cell, as Kostyantin Davydenko has learned to his cost.

The charge of ‘spying’ can carry from 10 to 20 years, which will doubtless be used to ‘persuade’ Davydenko to ‘cooperate with the investigators’.  In practice, this means solely that the imprisoned man admits to whatever charges are laid in exchange for a shorter sentence.  There have been many such arrests since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and they all follow the same pattern.  The brutal truth is that, even if the men do not perjure themselves in this way, their ‘trial’ will be held behind closed doors.  In general, the FSB puts heavy pressure on the men to reject independent lawyers, but even where such lawyers are engaged, they are forced to sign undertakings not to divulge any information about the case.

One of Russia’s first such abductions and ‘trials’ of Ukrainians was of Valentyn Vyhivsky who was seized while visiting Simferopol in September 2014.  He was later sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for supposed ‘spying’.  He had given a ‘confession’ under torture, and in the absence of a real lawyer (details here).   Viktor Shur is also held prisoner in Russia, with the charges of ‘spying’ in his case seemingly linked with a photograph of an abandoned aerodrome.

Among the 64 (now 65) Ukrainians whom Russia is known to be illegally holding prisoner, there are 12 people accused of ‘Ukrainian sabotage’ charges.  Several have already been ‘convicted and sentenced’ on charges that bore little or no resemblance to their ‘confessions’.  Others are still held in indefinite detention, with any trials likely to be held in secret.

Prisoners held on ‘sabotage’ or ‘spying’ charges in occupied Crimea

Yevhen PanovVolodymyr PrysichRedvan Suleymanov and Andriy Zakhtei)  

November 2016       Second ‘Crimean saboteur plot’

Dmytro ShtyblikovOleksiy BessarabovVolodymyr DudkaOleksiy StohniyHlib Shabliy 

Leonid Parkhomenko, a long-retired Black Sea Fleet captain, arrested on Nov 24, 2016.  

Hennady Lymeshko 

Anna Sykhonosova, Dmytry Dolgopolov

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