Russia makes its law retroactive in order to jail abducted Ukrainian soldier
Three Russian judges have confirmed the four-year sentence passed on Oleksandr Shumkov, ignoring not only compelling evidence that he was abducted to Russia, but also at least two basic legal principles. The 29-year-old Ukrainian was charged in connection with activities carried out in Ukraine and with involvement in the Ukrainian nationalist movement Right Sector, although this involvement ended before Russia declared the movement illegal.
Shumkov openly demonstrated his contempt for those involved in these court proceedings, calling them Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s lackeys”. He promised that his ‘final words’ would come when he returned to Ukraine, and that he would do all he could in order that Ukraine becomes “able to shut the mouth of any aggressor who takes it upon themselves to decide what Ukrainians can and can’t do in their own country.”
On 31 January 2019 three Bryansk Regional Court judges – Inessa Belova, Vladimir Zenichev and Olga Mazova upheld the original 4-year sentence passed on 4 December, 2018 by Viktor Rukhmakov, from the Sevsk District Court in the Bryansk oblast. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre had recognized Shumkov as a political prisoner back in April 2018, both because of his almost certain abduction and because the charges were legally nonsensical.
Shumkov was abducted in late August 2017 from the Kherson oblast and taken by force to Russia. He had been serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014 and, since he is a lawyer by profession, had been working as an investigator for the military prosecutor of the Kherson Garrison. It is believed that he set off for a meeting with an informer who was supposed to provide information about supplies of drugs smuggled from the Kremlin-backed ‘republics’ in Donbas to government-controlled oblasts. The car in which he was driving came under attack near the Russian-Ukrainian border, with a laser gun used against Shumkov, who was taken, unconscious, across the border into Russia.
The Russian authorities, of course, deny the abduction, It is, however, impossible that Shumkov would have crossed voluntarily into Russia. He had taken part in Euromaidan and in 2014 had been a guard for Dmytro Yarosh, the then leader of Right Sector and one of the people Russia most demonized as its aggression against Ukraine mounted. All of this, as well as his role in the military, meant that Shumkov could have been in no doubt of the danger he would face in Russia.
He was charged under Article 282.2 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code with taking part in Right Sector in Ukraine, this deemed ‘involvement in an extremist organization which has been banned by a [Russian] court’ . The report from Russia’s Investigative Committee did not mention that these ‘extremism’ charges were in connection with activities on Ukrainian, not Russian, territory which were in no way illegal in Ukraine.
The Bryansk Oblast Investigative Committee and the courts were equally unperturbed by the evidence that Shumkov had in fact left Right Sector a couple of months before the Russian court ruling in November 2014 that declared Right Sector illegal.
The investigators claimed that Shumkov “took an active part in the activities of the Ukrainian extremist organization ‘Right Sector’ directed against the interests of the Russian Federation and encroaching upon its territorial integrity”.
During his final address in December, Shumkov noted that he was accused of activities which he had never denied – involvement in Euromaidan and then in Ukraine’s operation against the militants in Donbas. By bringing criminal charges based on the assertion that such activities “threatened Russia’s interests”, he said, “the Russian Federation is acknowledging its presence on Ukrainian territory”.
The so-called ‘witnesses for the prosecution’ mostly only confirmed what Shumkov had never denied, namely that he had, in 2014, been a member of Right Sector.
Even so, Russia still resorted, as it has in most political trials of Ukrainians, to ‘secret witnesses’, as well as to the testimony from a person who had a vested interest in saying what the prosecution wanted.
One of the ‘secret witnesses’ had claimed to have seen Shumkov at the Chonhar checkpoint on the administrative border with Crimea during the Crimea Blockade in September 2015, and that Shumkov had been giving instructions to 7-10 people. It transpired that he had not heard these instructions, but claimed to know that this was what Shumkov had been doing because he was told this by an SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] officer who had infiltrated Right Sector. How the latter was supposed to have known was not revealed.
The nearest this ‘witness’s account came to evidence was when he claimed that Shumkov had been surrounded by people with Right Sector symbols on their clothes. Although the written testimony claimed that Shumkov had been in military gear with a Right Sector chevron, in court Ivanov said he didn’t know whether Shumkov had had such a symbol.
The prosecution’s ‘key witness’ was a Ukrainian from Kherson called Mykhailo Allanazarov who claimed that Shumkov had taken part in Right Sector protests (around five) in the Kherson oblast right up untill 2017. Allanazarov is a deserter facing criminal charges in Ukraine for trading in weapons and drugs, and had a clear motive for providing the testimony demanded of him.
During the first ‘trial’, Shumkov also pointed out the absurdity of a situation whereby Russia’s Supreme Court ruling banning Right Sector in Russia was being treated as a carte blanche for imposing a ban on Right Sector in other countries.
“The question therefore arises: is Russia not taking too much upon itself by deciding which organizations are legal and which illegal on the territory of Ukraine?”
Please write to Oleksandr Shumkov!
Now that the appeal has been rejected, he is likely to be moved, however this will not be immediately and it is important for him to know that he is not forgotten. Our letters also send an important message to Moscow that Russia’s politically motivated abductions and imprisonment of Ukrainians cannot be covered up.
Letters need to be in Russian and on ‘neutral subjects’. If this is difficult, the following can be cut and pasted.
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним.
[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.
Address (the name is at the end, together with year of birth. There will be more chance of it getting through if the name is written in the Russian manner (Alexander)
241050 РФ, г. Брянск, ул. Советская, д. 2, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Брянской области, Шумкову Александру Сергеевичу 1989 г. р.
241050 Russian Federation, Bryansk, 2 Sovyetskaya St., SIZO-1,
Shumkov, Alexander Sergeevich, b. 1989