Russia forced to withdraw insane charges against Ukrainian hostage
02.12.15 | Halya Coynash
Serhiy Litvinov, one of the Ukrainians held in Russian detention for well over a year could soon be free. His lawyer Viktor Parshutkin reports that he has received the formal decision from Russia’s Investigative Committee to terminate proceedings against the cowherd from the Luhansk oblast of taking part in “punitive operations against civilians in Donbas, as part of the Dnipro militarized battalion”. Litvinov had been accused of mass murder and / or rape of no less than 30 men, 8 women and a 12-year-old girl.
Litvinov’s prosecution has been terminated due to his lack of involvement in the alleged crimes, and “he is granted the right to compensation for the damage caused by the unlawful and unwarranted charge”
The battle is not over yet, since the Investigative Committee earlier added an equally unwarranted charge of ‘robbery’. According to Maria Tomak from Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties, Russia will be forced to terminate the proceedings on that charge and release Litvinov since 18 months is the maximum period of pre-trial imprisonment and there is no case to pass to the court.
Even if in February the Investigative Committee stops tormenting Litvinov, ‘compensation’ should, but will undoubtedly not, take into account the torture he was subjected to. The war crimes charges brought against Litvinov were based entirely on ‘confessions’ which he gave to stop unendurable torture.
With Tomak’s help, Litvinov’s lawyer set to disproving the Investigative Committee’s claims. Formal requests for information to the relevant authorities showed that none of the people named were registered in the area where the supposed crimes had been committed, and the addresses given were also fictitious.
The Luhansk regional prosecutor’s office carried out its own investigation and concluded that the alleged crimes had not taken place. Ukraine’s Defence and Interior Ministries also confirmed that Litvinov was not and had not been in the army or the Dnipro Battalion.
As reported, 32-year-old Litvinov crossed into Russia on August 22, 2014 quite literally because of an inflamed tooth. The cowherd who has learning difficulties lives in a Luhansk oblast village near the border with Russia. It was common in emergencies for people to cross to the nearest hospital which was in Russia.
After receiving treatment for the inflammation, Litvinov was placed in a ward with wounded Kremlin-backed militants from the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. They got it into their head that he was a Ukrainian volunteer and presumably ‘reported’ him. Three men in camouflage gear and masks turned up at the hospital and took Litvinov away. He alleges that they suspended him from a tree and connected an electric current to his arms and legs; fired shots next to his ear; and slashed his thigh with a knife, as well as hitting him in the chest, stomach and around the head. Under such torture, he was willing to ‘confess’ to however many rapes and killings they demanded.
Litvinov has been in custody ever since and for a long time, as has been the case with almost all Russia’s Ukrainian hostages, he was held incommunicado.
It became clear at the end of September 2014 that he was being charged as part of the huge ‘Ukrainian file’ together with Nadiya Savchenko, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov; the then Dnipropetrovsk Governor Igor Kolomoisky and others.
ICRF had originally announced that it was ‘investigating’ alleged genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Donbas’. A few days later, ICRF spokesperson Vladimir Markin pushed this claim , asserting that “the character and style of the murders carried out by the National Guard and Right Sector resemble other similar crimes which the Dnipro Battalion Private Serhiy Litvinov describes in detail in his testimony.”
Not the only such case
Litvinov is not the only Ukrainian who has been tortured into ‘confessing’ to crimes that quite simply never happened.
Last week Russia’s Supreme Court upheld 20-year and 10-year sentences against Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. There was no evidence at all, only the confessions of two other opponents of Russia’s occupation of Crimea. One of them, Gennady Afanasyev retracted his testimony in court on July 31, stating clearly that it had been tortured out of him. The ‘court’ simply ignored this.
Another trial is now underway in Grozny with the Investigative Committee, via its head Alexander Bastrykin playing a major role. Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were both held incommunicado without a lawyer for over a year. Both retracted the lurid and bizarre ‘confessions’ given under torture of atrocities supposedly committed while fighting against Russian federal forces in Chechnya in 1994-1995.
Neither man had set foot in Crimea and the reputable Memorial Human Rights Centre has demonstrated that the crimes they ‘confessed’ to did not take place.
The trial is, nonetheless, continuing.
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