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14.11.2014 | Halya Coynash

G20 Putin Pack: Russia’s Crimean Political Prisoners

   

How do you formulate questions about a ‘terrorist plot’ trial with no terrorist acts and absurdly miscast suspects?

Why would Oleg Sentsov, a 38-year-old world-known film director, bringing up two young children by himself become the master-mind behind a ‘Right Sector’ terrorist plot?

Why would Oleksandr Kolchenko, a left-wing activist who totally rejected Right Sector right-wing ideology become involved in such a ‘plot’?  Not to mention why the ‘mastermind’ who was himself not known for supporting ‘Right Sector’ would have cast him for the role.

How can a Ukrainian held prisoner in Russia ‘automatically become’ a Russian citizen?

Four Crimean Ukrainian nationals united only in their active peaceful opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea were all arrested after Victory Day on May 9, but are accused of having plotted major diversionary-terrorist acts in Simferopol, Yalta and Sevastopol on that day.  In Sevastopol they were allegedly planning to destroy a number of buildings, railway bridges and power lines.  None of this happened.

On May 30 Russia’s FSB announced that the men were charged with involvement in a ‘Right Sector’ plot .  This was the first mention of Right Sector in connection with the arrests. It came 5 days after the Right Sector presidential candidate and chief ‘villain’ in Moscow’s narrative about a Kyiv ‘fascist junta’ gained less than 1% of the votes in the presidential elections.

The European Court of Human Rights has already accepted one application over this case and is likely to receive more.  It will certainly have its own questions since there is no crime, and the entire case is based on two ‘confessions’.

Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirniy were, like Sentsov and Kolchenko, first held in detention and interrogated in Simferopol before being taken to Moscow.  Both Sentsov and Kolchenko allege that they were beaten and ill-treated.  Sentsov has repeatedly accused the FSB of having tried to extract testimony out of him against EuroMaidan which he supported and the new Kyiv government.  He was told that if he refused they would pin heavier charges on him, accusing him of masterminding the ‘plot’. 

Afanasyev and Chirniy ‘confessed’, with their testimony accusing Sentsov of being in charge of the alleged ‘plot’.  There is no evidence besides these statements given when the men were held in detention with no access to lawyers or family.

In July Sentsov was denied consular services from Ukraine on the grounds that he had been ‘automatically’ granted Russian citizenship.  Russia asserts that this was legitimate since Sentsov had not formally signed a statement rejecting Russian citizenship.  The formal procedure for this required his presence at one of four places in the Crimea which was entirely impossible since he has been imprisoned since May 10.  Sentsov has repeatedly stated that he remains a citizen of Ukraine and rejects Russia’s occupation of the Crimea.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognized Sentsov and Kolchenko as political prisoners, and Amnesty International has called on Russian authorities to investigate Sentsov’s allegations of ill-treatment and to return the Ukrainian detainees to Crimea.  A number of prominent European film directors, including Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodovar have also interceded on Sentsov’s behalf.

More details here: Ukrainian Citizens and Russia’s Political Prisoners  and at the links below.

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