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Ukrainian political prisoner: “I didn’t come to Moscow on a tank. You came to me in Crimea”

24.11.2020
Halya Coynash

Russia’s FSB have accused 63-year-old Oleh Prykhodko of planning serious terrorist attacks, yet they stopped searching his two garages after ‘finding’ a bucket with a small amount of explosives in the first garage.  The phone, which the defence believe was also planted, has the wrong dates and is registered in somebody else’s name, but this too the FSB saw no need to investigate.

During the 13th hearing in Rostov (Russia) on 18 November, the defence asked a huge number of technical questions about the phone, its location and registration, which Prykhodko was clearly not following.  His daughter and friends have all confirmed in court that the 63-year-old’s technical skills stretch far enough to enable him to make calls and use Skype, but absolutely not send text messages and use a memory drive, both of which form part of the surreal charges against him.

The defence applied for the person (Sergei Zavyalov) in whose name the phone (or its sim-card) was registered to be summoned for questioning.  Since the provider has provided information showing that during the critical period (from 14 September 2019 to 6 April 2020) when Prykhodko is supposed to have corresponded, via text messages, with ‘an unidentified individual’ in Lviv, the phone was registered to Zavyalov, the latter’s testimony is evidently important. Prosecutor Sergei Aidinov objected, claiming that the sim-card had been registered in the name of a non-existent person and that this would simply draw out the trial. He claimed that the investigators had established that Zavyalov did not exist.  One of Prykhodko’s lawyers, Nazim Sheikhmambetov pointed out that they had been demonstrating from the beginning that the entire prosecution is the result of FSB falsification.  The FSB document asserting that Zavyalov never existed arouses serious doubts given that there is nothing at all in the material of the case to indicate that any measures were taken to establish whether the person was real or merely a name.  This is particularly suspicious since the purchase of a sim-card on the basis of a fictitious document does actually constitute a crime.  

Cheeringly, despite the prosecutor’s opposition, presiding judge Aleksei Magomadov allowed both of the defence’s applications – to summon ‘Mr Zavyalov’ and to ask for the documents from MTC which would establish the physical location of the phone at the relevant time. 

Prykhodko was arrested on 9 October 2019, a month after the first significant release of Ukrainian political prisoners, including Volodymyr Balukh, whose case in many ways was a precursor to Prykhodko’s.  Both men openly expressed their position on Russian occupation and had a Ukrainian flag over their homes.  Both had experienced multiple forms of harassment before the FSB turned up and claimed to have ‘found’ either ammunition, in Balukh’s attic, or explosive devices, in Prykhodko’s garage.  All such previous harassment meant that the men would have needed to be suicidally reckless to have kept anything illegal in homes just waiting for the next FSB search. Prykhodko also used the garage where the FSB allegedly found inflammatory substances (Molotov cocktails) as a workshop for metalwork and the soldering equipment, etc. meant that any such substances could have caused a serious fire. As mentioned, it is also telling that the FSB left after allegedly finding explosives in the first garage, without searching the second.  There seems only one possible explanation for such behaviour, namely that they knew there were no grounds to search the second garage, as the explosives had been planted in the first.  The men who came ‘to search’ Prykhodko’s garage brought their own ‘official witnesses’ with them.

Later that evening, while already in detention, a person claiming to be a doctor took a biological sample from Prykhodko’s mouth.  There are procedural requirements where taking DNA and the fact that Prykhodko was effectively tricked into providing it without a lawyer present suggests that the DNA was needed for falsifying evidence.

Russia’s claim that Prykhodko was planning to use the explosives to blow up the Saki city administration building seems to be based solely on the allegedly found explosives.  It was only after the defence were finally able to see the case material in January 2020 that a second, truly bizarre, charge emerged.  Prykhodko is accused of having planned to set fire to the Russian general consulate building in Lviv, Western Ukraine, with the alleged ‘proof’ of this lying in the disputed phone.

Prykhodko is charged under three articles of Russia’s illegally applied criminal code: Article 205 § 1 (planning terrorist acts – the Saki Administration in Crimea and Russian general consulate in Lviv; Article 223.1 (illegally preparing explosive substances) and 222.1 § 1 (purchasing or storing explosives).  The prosecution is claiming that Prykhodko was both a ‘Nazi’ and a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and that he planned such terrorist acts, one from a significant distance, out of the wish to force Russia (or “the authorities in Crimea”) to return the peninsula to Ukraine. 

PLEASE WRITE TO OLEH PRYKHODKO!

Letters send an important message, telling him that he is not forgotten, while also showing Moscow that the ‘trial’ is being followed. Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that he can answer.

Sample letter

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 

The envelopes can be written in Russian or English as below.

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Приходько, Олегу Аркадьевичу, 1958 г.р.

 [In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Prykhodko, Oleg Arkadievych, b. 1958 ]

Krym.Realii has produced a video about Prykhodko for his 63rd birthday on 21 November 2020.  In it, he explains that he is convinced the persecution is because of his pro-Ukrainian position, and notes: “I didn’t come to Moscow on a tank. You came to me in Crimea”

 

 

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