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18.12.2015 | Halya Coynash

Russia sends 73-year-old Ukrainian pensioner accused of ’spying’ to almost certain death

   

Yury Soloshenko, the 73-year-old Ukrainian pensioner with a heart condition whom Russia accuses of ‘spying’ has been sent away from Moscow to serve a 6-year sentence in a maximum security prison colony.  Russian human rights activist Zoya Svetova writes that he was moved on December 10 (Human Rights Day) to Nizhny Novgorod, supposedly with an accompanying doctor.  

She adds that a month ago Soloshenko wrote an appeal for a pardon to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  This was clearly ignored, and at present there is no information as to where the elderly Ukrainian is. 

Mark Feygin, one of the lawyers representing Nadiya Savchenko, writes that Soloshenko was clearly conned into ‘admitting guilt’ in return for being returned to Ukraine.   Deception was undoubtedly involved, however the situation was a little more complicated since Soloshenko was also illegally prevented from having the lawyer he and his family wanted – well-known human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov.

Svetova visited Soloshenko several times, and wrote back in April that in all her years of visiting remand prisoners, she had never seen such flagrant violation of Russia’s Constitution as in the case of Yury Soloshenko.  

In all her reports, it was clear that Soloshenko denied any ‘spying’ or illegal activities, and this would doubtless have been the position taken in court had he not illegally been deprived of proper legal defence.  Pavlov tried to visit him and to see the case material several times and was simply prevented.  Soloshenko, at the same time, was clearly under pressure to reject Pavlov and his team in favour of a state-appointed lawyer.  As in many other cases recently, the investigators have foisted such ‘lawyers’ whose role appears to be to encourage the person to ‘confess’.

The trial took place on Oct 14 this year behind closed doors, with the only information available from the state-appointed lawyer Gennady Blokhin.  He reported that Soloshenko had “confessed to spying for Ukraine”.  The prosecutor demanded a 10 year sentence for the 73-year-old from Poltava with no access to state secrets or Russian weapons.  This was the minimum sentence under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code – presumably as the ‘reward’ for confessing.  In fact, Judge Andrey Rasnovsky handed down a 6-year sentence, possibly because of an age limit on sentences.  It is unfortunately irrelevant since any such term can effectively be viewed as a death sentence, given Soloshenko’s state of health.

Blokhin stated after the trial that he would not be appealing, and suggested that Soloshenko could be extradited to Ukraine.  Svetova reported that Soloshenko had obviously been promised a suspended sentence.

Russia’s oldest Ukrainian hostage has been held in detention since August 2014, and was clearly fed lies about an exchange, suspended sentence or similar if he just ‘cooperated’. 

The FSB Press Service claimed  that Soloshenko had been arrested by the FSB in August 2014 in Moscow “when trying to illegally purchase secret components for S-300 surface to air missile systems. He was acting on behalf of the State enterprise “Generator Factory” and the “Skies of Ukraine” Corporation, and the items which were to be bought were intended for reinstating Ukraine’s air defence system”. 

Soloshenko’s son Vladislav earlier called the charges insane nonsense  He believes that his father who has long been retired was simply tricked into coming to Moscow.  A former colleague insisted on him coming for a business meeting connected with buying and selling equipment.  When he arrived on Aug 5, 2014, and went to the place arranged, he was immediately seized by FSB officers.

Soloshenko is the retired director of the long-bankrupt Poltava-based Znamya factory which once specialized in high-frequency electro vacuum lamps used in anti-aircraft warfare.  The factory had always depended for its survival on orders from Russia, meaning that there was nothing secret between the two countries, with it all a single system.  

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