Torture and Legal Thuggery against Maidan Activist
Convicted under Russian law of an alleged Euromaidan offence in Ukraine
Ukrainian national, on whom Russia is foisting Russian citizenship
Confession’ extracted through torture retracted as soon as Kostenko received a proper lawyer, yet the retraction was ignored
Refusal to investigate clear evidence of torture and of grave irregularities
Illegally held in a Russian prison
Recognized as a political prisoner by Memorial Human Rights Centre
Oleksandr Kostenko is a Ukrainian citizen sentenced by a Russian-occupied Crimean court to 4 years imprisonment over an alleged offence in Kyiv, before Russia invaded and annexed Crimea. The court ignored considerable evidence that his first ‘confession’ had been tortured out of him, and flagrant infringements of procedure from the moment of his arrest.
The Ukrainian Euromaidan activist was charged and convicted by a court in Russian-occupied Crimea of slightly injuring a Ukrainian Berkut riot police office in Kyiv on Feb 18, 2014.
The alleged offence was thus in Ukraine and under Ukrainian law. The court lacked any jurisdiction for such a prosecution, and the charges were not just unproven, but fundamentally unprovable.
Despite this, Kostenko was convicted of having deliberately aimed a cobble stone at V.V. Poliyenko, an officer of the Crimean Berkut special force unit. This had allegedly resulted in Poliyenko receiving an injury “in the form of a large haematoma on the left shoulder”.
Kostenko was supposed to have been motivated by “a feeling of ideological hatred and enmity to law enforcement officers”.
Since the Berkut officer had not been a Russian national at the time of the alleged incident, there was no possibility of keeping Kostenko in detention and then imprisoning him. Kostenko was therefore later also accused of ‘”unlawfully obtaining, keeping or carrying the main parts of a firearm”). The investigators claimed to have found a rifle barrel when searching his home.
Not one of the official witnesses of the search confirmed that weapons were found in Kostenko’s flat. The investigators claimed that Kostenko’s father, Fedir Kostenko had identified the gun barrel as belonging to his son. They also claim, however, that it was Kostenko Senior who gave permission for the search.
Fedir Kostenko disappeared shortly after this in circumstances which also arouse concern.
Kostenko is a former police officer, who took part in Euromaidan from December 2013. He asserts that he was abducted in Kyiv in February 2015, and taken by force to Russian-occupied Crimea.
He was officially detained on Feb 6, but he and witnesses assert that he was held by FSB [Russian Security Service[ officers in Simferopol from Feb 5, 2015.
During those 24 hours he received multiple injuries, including a broken arm. The only ‘lawyer’ present was one appointed by the investigators, and a ‘confession’ was obtained from Kostenko, as well as a statement that he had been beaten on the street by unidentified individuals.
Kostenko retracted all such ‘confessions’ as soon as he was able to see to a real lawyer, and Sotnikov has since repeatedly endeavoured to get criminal investigations initiated over both the initial torture, and ongoing ill-treatment of his client while he was held in detention. Appeal proceedings against the refusal to investigate evidence of torture were simply ‘terminated’.
Contempt for procedure, for Kostenko’s right to a fair trial
The court ignored Kostenko’s retraction of his initial ‘confessions’, despite the ample evidence of ill-treatment. Judge Mozhelyansky from the Kiyevsky District Court in Simferopol took only the original ‘confession’ and first interrogation into account and found Kostenko guilty of both charges, and sentenced him to four years imprisonment. The court of appeal upheld the conviction, but reduced the sentence to 3 years and 11 months.
Kostenko was taken to the Kirov oblast, without his lawyer or his mother who has recognized status as civic defender being informed.
There have also been unwarranted searches and interrogations of family and friends, and a questionable criminal investigation is currently underway against Kostenko’s brother, Yevhen.
Memorial HRC declared Kostenko a political prisoner in May 2015.
Please write to Oleksandr Kostenko
If you can write in Russian, then a few words about yourself would be appropriate, but please avoid politics or any mention of Kostenko’s case.
If Russian is not possible, then even a letter with the following will give an important message to both Oleksandr and the Russian authorities that he is not forgotten.
Добрый день, Олександр!
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним. Держитесь!
Hello, Oleksandr, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten. [The last word is like ‘hang in there’)
613049 Russia, Kirov oblast, Kirovo-Chepetsk, Prison Colony No. 5, Ovranzhnaya St, 16
(ФКУ ИК-5, ул. Овражная 16, г. Кирово-Чепецк, Кировская область, 613049 Россия)
Костенко Александру Федоровичу,