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Send Birthday Wishes to Russias Crimean Political Prisoners!

04.11.15 | Halya Coynash

Left to right: Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev, Oleg Sentsov


Those calling for normalization of relations with Russia should spare a thought for Crimean Ukrainians whose lives have been torn apart by Russias annexation of their native Crimea. Two of the ever increasing number of Russias Crimean political prisoners - Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksandr Kolchenko - will be spending their second birthday in Russian detention this month. Our birthday greetings will show both them and Moscow that their cases are not forgotten.

Kolchenko and Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov are currently held in the Rostov SIZO or remand prison, awaiting appeals against Sentsovs 20-year and Kolchenkos 10-year sentences which prominent Russian human rights defenders called ideologically motivated state terror.

Gennady Afanasyev will be spending his 25th birthday on November 8 entirely alone, in the maximum security part of Prison Colony No. 25 in Syktyvkar [Republic of Komi]. His mother, Olga, has just returned from the gruelling journey over several days to visit him.

As reported, Afanasyev was taken from the Rostov prison at the beginning of September and for almost a month neither his mother nor lawyer Alexander Popkov had any idea of his whereabouts. The move to the maximum security section comes after he was placed in a punishment cell for 15 days. The razor that the prison administration claimed to have found was almost certainly planted.

Sentsov, Kolchenko and Afanasyev were all involved in peaceful protest against Russian annexation and in measures to help Ukrainian soldiers who were effectively held prisoner in their barracks after Russian soldiers seized control of the peninsula.

They and historian Oleksy Chirniy, all Ukrainian nationals, were arrested in May 2014, and held incommunicado for weeks before being taken, against their will, to Russia. On May 30 last year the FSB [Russian Security Service] accused all four men of involvement in a Right Sector terrorist plot, and pro-Kremlin television showed confessions from Chirniy and Afanasyev.

It was clear from the first day of the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko that the prosecutionhad absolutely nothing against the men, especially Sentsov who was charged with masterminding the plot. The Memorial Human Rights Centre issued a statement in whichit condemned the trial and recognized Sentsov and Kolchenko political prisoners.

The case entirely hinged on the two confessions. For (initially) agreeing to cooperate with the investigators, both Afanasyev and Chirniy were tried separately and received the minimum sentence for terrorism. It should be stressed, and Memorial has, that none of the charges against any of the four constitute terrorism, and even the 7-year sentences are unwarranted.

On July 31, Afanasyev appeared in court and instead of refusing to testify, as the FSB had insisted he do, while standing by previously given testimony, he stated that everything he had said before was a lie, and given under torture.

He later described the earlier torture and the pressure he had been put under before appearing in the courtroom. See:Tortured for testimony against Sentsov-Kolchenko in Russias Crimean terrorist plot trial

One FSB officervisited him and hit him very hard, and he was known to be facing immense pressure to claim that his retraction was given under pressure. They threatened that if he did not cooperate, something bad could happen to his mother.

In astatementon Aug 19, the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre recognized Afanasyev as a political prisoner and specifically warned that he was in danger following his retraction of testimony.

There is now an official investigation underway into Afanasyevs allegations of torture. Given the consistent refusal to consider analogous allegations made from the outset by Sentsov and Kolchenko, there are no grounds for optimism.

Afanasyev was probably forced into agreeing to Russian citizenship and has been sentenced by a Russian court. The circumstances described above make it quite clear that his trial and sentence cannot be considered lawful and he should be released, together with Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko. The same, in fact, applies to Oleksy Chirniy who is also a victim in this case.

Please send birthday wishes to Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksandr Kolchenko (who turns 26 on Nov 26)!

LETTERS to all three men are much needed! Messages in Russian are most likely to get through, though short messages in simple English may also. Whatever language, please avoid any comments about the mens case or about politics!

The following birthday wishes would be fine.

! , . .

(Happy Birthday! Wishing you health, courage and happiness, and that you will soon be released.)

ANY words of support will be appreciated and in Gennady Afanasyevs case, they will give a crucial message to the prison administration and FSB that Gennady Afanasyev is not forgotten and that their behaviour is under scrutiny.


Gennady Afanasyev

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Oleg Sentsov

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Please try to alert the media to this case and also ask your government to express its concern for Afanasyevs safety and to demand that he, Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko are released.

see also:
Wish Crimean Political Prisoner Sasha Kolchenko Happy Birthday!
Sentsov & Kolchenko Appeal Rejected in Predictably Farcical Court Hearing
Russias Ideologically Motivated State Terror and Its Ukrainian Victims
Illegally Held and In Danger: Gennady Afanasyev needs our help
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov sues Russias FSB for defamation
Prominent Russians warn of mounting political terror, demand release of Sentsov & Kolchenko
Oleg Sentsov sues Russian TV channels for defamation
Make Russias Sentsov & Kolchenko Trial a Warning to the Perpetrators
Sentsov and Kolchenko sing Ukrainian anthem as Russian court passes expected sentences
Russian filmmakers join calls in defence of Oleg Sentsov
Russias Sentsov Kolchenko case - "an absolutely Stalinist trial"
Gennady Afanasyev declared a political prisoner, with Sentsov & Kolchenko
Afanasyev beaten after retracting testimony in Russias show trial of Oleg Sentsov
Russias Crimean Show Trial: No illusions about Sentsov & Kolchenko acquittal