Ivashchenko: I know how a repressive machine can destroy health, then life itself


Valery Ivashchenko now and during his almost two years in detention

In this interview, Valery Ivashchenko refutes the Ukrainian Foreign Minister’s claim that he didn’t receive political asylum in Denmark and says that he was effectively offered freedom if he or his relatives would testify against Tymoshenko

Former Acting Minister of Defence in Yulia Tymoshenko’s government, Valery Ivashchenko has spoken with Deutsche Welle about his asylum in Denmark and his fears in Ukraine. His description of the documents he has received from the Danish authorities are of relevance given attempts by Ukrainian officials to say that he only received leave to remain in Denmark.

As reported here (more than once!) Ivashchenko’s case was one of those most often mentioned in connection with concerns about selective justice under the new regime in Ukraine.   He was convicted on 12 April 2012 of “abuse of position”  in November 2009 while Acting Minister of Defence by signing a plan to sell the Feodosia Marine Engineering Works  His 5 year sentence, including the 2 years that he had spent in custody was overturned in August 2012.  He was freed from serving the sentence with a probation period of one year.

Asked about his status in Denmark

“I received an official document from the Danish Migration Service dated 31 January 2013.  This states: “You have received asylum in Denmark as a refugee in accordance with the Law on Foreigners, Paragraph 7, Item 1 and the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees from 1951”.

What prompted you to decide to seek asylum abroad?

I was convicted on charges which I consider trumped up, falsified and commissioned. The Court of Appeal last year only softened the sentence to the extent that I am convicted, but on a suspended sentence for a year, yet even with that the Prosecutor General’s Office disagreed. They lodged a cassation appeal in order to revoke the Court of Appeal ruling and return me to prison for the whole 5 years. In the cassation appeal they made up absurd charges. If in the beginning they’d accused me of taking part in the sale of property, then began fantasizing in the indictment about how I’d supposedly undermined the fighting capacity of the armed forces and the authority of the Defence Ministry, in the cassation appeal they write that I undermined the democratic foundations of state institutions, that I’m a particularly dangerous person. And this was after the Court of Appeal ruling that freed me!

Knowing very well what the relations are like between courts of all levels and the Prosecutor’s Office, I understand that my cassation appeal against the revoking of the court verdict and my acquittal, and the cassation appeal of the Prosecutor General to return me to prison in the eyes of any court have totally different weighting.  I had all grounds to believe there was real danger of the court acceding to the Prosecutor General’s demands, revoking the Court of Appeal ruling and putting me behind bars again.

Asked why specifically Denmark, Ivashchenko spoke of his generally positive attitude to the country and its high democratic standards.  He also mentioned that the Danish Helsinki Committee had been one of the first to respond and send experts who investigated his case, and those of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko  and gave an objective and professional report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 

PACE found the prosecutions of all three to be in breach of the law. “And all that began with activists from the Danish Helsinki Committee. I’m very grateful to those people”.

He says that he is planning to prove his case in the European Court of Human Rights and believes he will win.  After two years of animal existence in detention, he believes they expected him to be grateful to be released and keep his head low.  Since he was unable to work, “and if I did anything different from what the Prosecutor General and the regime wanted, they’d have immediately changed the suspended sentence into real imprisonment. I was therefore forced to leave the country”.

“When I was arrested, both I and my relatives were repeatedly given to understand that if I say that I was carrying out Tymoshenko or Turchynov’s orders, then they’ll view my situation in a better light, and maybe terminate the case. I couldn’t allow that, I’ve been brought up as a man of honour. I therefore rejected this and forbade my relatives from holding any talks on that subject.”

He was asked about the new charges against Tymoshenko and criminal cases against other former government officials, and the conditions behind bars.

“This is done not only to discredit a certain politician, for example, Yulia Tymoshenko, but to eliminate the threat of possible failure and being forced to hand over power to more decent people. They’re therefore trying to do everything to destroy those who have authority, abilities and the possibility of overcoming those who now hold power, and socially isolate them from the public, and physically.  I experience that myself and know how this repressive machine can first destroy your health, and then life” 

He says that he’s a former sportsman, yet was brought to virtual invalid state in SIZO [the remand prison]/  He could only move about using a stick and constantly endured sharp pain.

Asked about relations between Ukraine and the EU, Ivashchenko says that the country and the regime must not be equated. The regime will disappear whether in a year, two or ten.  He therefore thinks that the EU – Association Agreement should be signed – for the sake of young people.  As far as the clique now in power, he believes that harsh sanctions should be imposed..  Not just refusing Deputy Prosecutor General Kuzmin a visa, but real sanctions against those engaged in repression in Ukraine, in the countries where they have assets, property etc.

He hopes to return to Ukraine and will do so when the law enforcement system changes, when those who use their powers in lawless ways are punished. However for this, the regime must change.

From the interview here

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