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28.11.2014 | Halya Coynash

Persecution of activist probing soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine effectively confirmed

   

Over a month after 73-year-old Ludmila Bogatenkova needed to be hospitalized after a weekend in detention, the prosecutor of the Stavropol region has informed the Human Rights Council under the President that they have found no evidence of fraud by the rights activist.  The Council had approached the prosecutor, Yury Turygin on Oct 20 asking that he take the case under his personal control and inform of his findings.

While promising that the prosecutor has acknowledged the baselessness of the charges, it would, under the circumstances, be appropriate for him to undertake a full investigation into how an elderly woman with serious health issues should have been subjected to inhumane and potentially life-threatening treatment by the enforcement bodies and court.

As reported here, a major offensive was launched in October against Ludmila Bogatenkova, head of a regional Soldiers’ Mothers Committee in Buddyonovsk.  Both she and the committee have been actively investigating the deaths of Russian conscripts and other soldiers in Ukraine. 

On Oct 17, the Committee’s offices were searched.  Although nothing of any interest was found, the police turned up that evening at Bogatenkova’s home and arrested her on suspicion of ‘fraud on a particularly large scale’. 

The investigators claimed that the rights activist had taken 800 thousand roubles from somebody for legal aid, and then not provided the aid.  On the basis of this charge, a court on Oct 18 ordered that the 73-year-old who is in poor health, with a number of serious illnesses, and needs daily medication be remanded in custody. Although there is a SIZO or detention centre in Buddyonovsk, she was taken by car to the SIZO at Pyatygorsk, a city some 140 kilometres away.  The SIZO staff, however, refused to admit her because her condition was so life-threateningly bad.  Despite this, she was still held for two nights in a police holding facility in Buddyonovsk. 

She was only released on Monday with dangerously high blood pressure, and was hospitalized the following day, in a cardiology unit.  Her lawyer, Andrei Sabinin called the case unique given that on Saturday the court had remanded the elderly activist in custody on Saturday, then less than 2 days later, the investigators themselves took the decision to get her released.  They demanded instead that the 73-year-old who has difficulty walking without assistance and must receive medication on a daily basis should sign an undertaking not to leave the city.

Death of Russian soldiers in Ukraine

On Aug 28 Bogatenkova’s Committee drew up a list of around one hundred Russian soldiers whom they had reason to believe had been killed in eastern Ukraine as well as another three hundred injured.  Bogatenkova also sent the Human Rights Council information about the deaths of 9 contract soldiers.

Members of the Human Rights Council and NGOs are in no doubt that the charges against Bogatenkova are because of her active role in trying to uphold the rights of young Russian soldiers  - including the right to life.   It is likely that the widespread publicity over her arrest was instrumental in securing her release.  

The prosecutor’s findings have thus confirmed what we all knew.  Moscow is using all means to try to conceal the death of conscripts forced to fight in Ukraine, including measures against those who try to get to the truth. 

There are other cases as well.  Please see: Russian soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine: A web of lies and fake social network pages

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