26.02.2013 | Yevhen Zakharov

Investigation of high-profile criminal cases


These are much publicized crimes which high-ranking officials – the President, Head of the SBU [Security Service] or Interior Minister – take under their personal control and give urgent instructions to find the criminals. And since everybody knows that such orders need to be carried out, the criminals are found.  There remains a big question mark over whether those people actually committed the crime however they have already been designated the criminals – most often through forced confessions, for example, through the use of torture.

The presumption of innocence for Ukrainian officials regardless of their level does not appear to exist and the constitutional right to not testify against oneself is infringed every minute.  There remains a relentless system of criminal prosecution and in such cases any hope of justice is futile. In actual fact the guilt of those designated the culprits is often extremely doubtless. We would cite some of these cases.

The “sacristan case”

This is how they call the case over the bomb which exploded in the Svyato-Pokrovsk Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Zaporizhya on 28 July 2010.  During a television broadcast on 29 July the President sternly ordered that the culprits be found. The result was not long in coming: the culprits were designated two former sacristans and the brother of one of them. All of them wrote confessions.  Several since they were forced to change them as the result of significant discrepancies in these confessions.

However that did not help since the discrepancies remained, as did the undoubted alibi of all three accused, presented in the case material. Then the Prosecutor simply rewrote the indictment. They removed all that concerned the alibi – the actions they were charged with remained, but the time when they were carried out, was not indicated. They removed the discrepancies with the confessions, rejected the investigative experiment where the elder brother describes how he prepared the explosive which was totally at odds with the actual device.   They simply replaced this with another version, that he had supposedly bought the device from “an unidentified individual”.

The Makiyivka terrorists

Early on 20 January 2011 two explosions, 600 metres from each other, resounded in Makiyka.  The first was in the centre of the city, in the district of the administrative building of the state enterprise Makiyivuhillya [Makiyivka Coal], the second near a shopping centre Golden Plaza.  There were no injuries. Those responsible were supposed to have demanded 4.2 million EUR. On 15 February two young men, aged 23 and 24, were arrested after an armed attack on a taxi driver.  During the interrogation, they also confessed to the explosions.

At the beginning of April there were numerous reports citing a source in the Donetsk Regional SBU that those accused could not have carried out the explosions. “At the interrogations it transpired that they understand absolutely nothing about explosives. They’re talking complete nonsense. Their testimony is absolutely unrelated to what actually took place”.

Nonetheless, the accused asserted that they had carried out the explosions. They were sentenced to 15 and 18 years imprisonment with the sentences being upheld at both appeal and cassation levels.

You read the sentence. Everything seems well-ordered, logical. Yet where have you seen a kiosk selling shaurma (like doner kebab – translator) at 6 o’clock in the morning? And the explosive device? In order to cope with it, they obviously needed to have a university level knowledge of chemistry and considerable work experience in carrying out explosions. The men charged do not have a higher education, did not serve in the army and on top of that one of them has bad eyesight, and can hardly see anything. I find it difficult to believe therefore that those convicted really carried out the explosions.

The Dnipropetrovsk terrorists

In Dnipropetrovsk on 27 April 2012 four explosive devices left in rubbish bins in the centre of the city exploded within short intervals. 31 people were injured. The terrorists demanded money – 4.5 million dollars, saying that otherwise the explosions would continue. On 1 June 2012 the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka reported that the crime had been fully solved, and that they had enough evidence to arrest four suspects taken into custody the day before.

According to the investigators, two years earlier the same group of terrorists carried out explosions in Dnipropetrovsk; in the autumn of 2011 in Kharkiv and Zaporizhya, and then again in Dnipropetrovsk. Two of the accused confessed: Viktor Sukachov partially; Vitaly Fedoryak in full. The trial is presently underway.

But now comes the problem: two of the accused, Dmytro Reva and Lev Prosvirin – deny any guilt.  Reva has denied it since the beginning, Prosvirin first wrote a confession, then retracted it, and is not budging from his position. All of the indictment against Reva is based on the fact that on that day he left work and went to the centre of the city and received a text message from Sukachov whom he knows. He does not know Fedoryak at all. According to Reva’s lawyer, there is no proof of his guilt in the file material.

Prosvirin’s lawyer is also convinced that his client is innocent and puts forward serious arguments to back this. Prosvirin himself wrote an open appeal to President Yanukovych in which he states: “Instead of withdrawing the charges against me, the people in the SBU investigation unit and prosecutor’s office are actively falsifying evidence about my supposed involvement and putting pressure on me to get false information. Prosvirin wrote a statement to this effect on 29 August, i.e. before the criminal investigation had ended.  Not having received any response to this statement, on 16 October he wrote another statement to the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office. These statements have still not been checked.

Can we believe that the court will objectively study all the material of the case and in the absence of any proof find Reva and Prosvirin innocent when Ukraine’s top people have spoken to the entire country about four terrorists?  When awards have already been received, and when in the film “Pekelne peklo” on UTV-1 they have already been called criminals?  It’s hard to believe.

Treason in the form of spying for China

Young engineers, S., O and Professor V have been charged with spying for China over a Haus cannon, an electromagnetic mass accelerator. This invention is used in many games, and at present a new weapon based on this principle is being developed in the USA – a rail-gun  Google gives 44, 100 links if you type in this word.

Professor V. wrote a paper on the basis of several articles downloaded from the Internet. O had a memory stick with this paper taken away from him on the border with China. Although there are no investigations and development in the military sphere linked with the rail-gun, the information contained in the Professor’s text was post-factum found by an expert commission to be a state secret. This is how the state treason case appeared.

At present the trial is underway, and although the information downloaded through Google and not stored by a state body on any physical source can in no way constitute a state secret, I would not be prepared to predict an acquittal.

Killers who didn’t kill anybody?

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group is working on a fairly large number of cases where there are serious doubts as to whether murderers convicted by a court did in fact kill the victims. Higher courts have already revoked sentences of all internal courts in more than 10 such cases.

The general scenario is as follows: the accused is forced to confess to murder through the use of torture. If he can prove in the European Court of Human Rights that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention (the prohibition of torture) and of the right to a fair trial through the use of evidence obtained through unlawful means, then the only way of enforcing such a European Court judgement is to revoke the ruling based on illegally obtained evidence. This happens and then the murder investigation needs to begin again.

What next?

Next is one demand – the establishment of a strong independent judiciary. If it was such, then the cases described above would be impossible. It is equally difficult to imagine the imprisonment of Yury Lutsenko, Yulia Tymoshenko and tens of thousands of other people without a single legitimate region, shameful sentences against innocent people.

Saint Augustine back in the fourth century AD said that a state without an independent and fair justice system is not a state but a pack of bandits. This old truth is extremely relevant today.
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