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18.12.2015 | Halya Coynash

Sentsov & Kolchenko are being moved to Russian prisons. Write to them!

   

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko have been moved to another remand prison in Rostov [Russia] and are likely to be sent to Russian maximum security prisons any day now. The two men are recognized by Memorial as political prisoners and their release, as required under the Minsk Agreement, has been repeatedly demanded by European structures and all democratic countries. Moscow has ignored all of this, as well as the protest over its claim that the two Crimeans ‘automatically’ became Russian nationals. 

Both men have remained steadfast in their courage and refusal to be broken, but the sentences (20 and 10 years) are monstrously long, and it is vital to show them that they are not forgotten. 

Please write to them!

Since we don’t have addresses as yet, you can write very easily, without even having to go to the post office, via the Russian civic initiative ‘RosUznik’  [“РосУзник”].   

The initiative arose after so many Russians were imprisoned over the anti-Putin protests on Bolotnaya Square in 2012.  There are many other political prisoners as well, including now a number of Ukrainians illegally held in Russia. 

It is extremely easy and your letters will mean a lot to Oleg and Oleksandr!

The RosUznik activists have gone all out to make letter-writing very easy. 

For Oleg Sentsov  Press   http://rosuznik.org/arrests/sentsov

Click  НАПИШИ ПИСЬМО

For Oleg Sentsov you’ll see three lines.  The first has Олег Сенцов [Oleg Sentsov], in the second, type in your name, the third your email (RosUznik will notify you if Oleg answers).  In the box in the middle, type in your message, then press the box at the bottom saying ОТПРАВИТЬ [SEND]

and the same for  Oleksandr Kolchenko   http://rosuznik.org/arrests/kolchenko

RosUznik will print out your letter and post it, meaning that it should arrive within two or three days.

If you can, please write in Russian (mistakes don’t matter!). 

If that’s a problem, then do please write in English, but try to avoid complicated or colloquial structures, since the RosUznik people will be translating the letter for you. 

If absolutely nothing comes to mind, then send them the following simple message. !

Добрый день,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.   Держитесь!

Hello, 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’)

Ukrainian political prisoners during Soviet times all stressed how important it had been to receive letters and know that they had not been abandoned. 

It is also important to show Russia that nobody believes in its parody of a trial and that they are under scrutiny. 

Please also bring the details below of this case to the attention of journalists and politicians in your country.  Pressure is vital to ensure the men’s release. 

Four opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea were arrested in May 2014, and held incommunicado for weeks before being taken to Russia, when on May 30 the FSB or Russian Security Service claimed that they had been involved in a ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’.  There was nothing to indicate any presence of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector in Crimea, and the idea that Kolchenko, who is a committed left-wing anarchist would have taken part in a far-right movement’s ‘plot’ was absurd. 

There was no evidence of ‘terrorism’ against any of the four Ukrainians;

There are serious grounds for believing that all were subjected to torture;

There was almost total secrecy about the case before the trial, with the men’s lawyers prohibited from saying anything about it;

All are Ukrainians and were illegally taken from Crimea to Russia with the latter claiming that they have ‘automatically’ become Russian nationals;

All international bodies and democratic countries have publicly demanded the release of two men – Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko as required by the Minsk Accords (and implicitly the other two when they speak of ‘all others illegally held”;

Sentsov, Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev have been recognized as political prisoners

Oleg Sentsov – world-renowned Ukrainian filmmaker and Euromaidan activist; 39-year-old father of two young children

Sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on charges of being the mastermind of a ‘ultranationalist Right Sector terrorist group’ and planning various ‘terrorist acts’.

He has, from the outset, given a detailed account of the torture he was subjected to, and the threat that if he did not provide the testimony demanded, the FSB would call him the organizer and he’s get a much worse sentence. 

No specific charges, nor anything directly incriminating him in any offence, terrorist or otherwise.

There is nothing to link him with Right Sector

The only ‘evidence’ was the testimony of two other Ukrainians arrested a day earlier, both of whom got minimum sentences (7 years) for ‘cooperating with the investigators’)

One – Gennady Afanasyev – refused to give testimony at the trial, and retracted all previously given testimony as given under torture.  The other – Oleksy Chirniy – refused to testify in court. 

Recognized as a political prisoner by the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and as subject to release under the Minsk Accords.

The court ignored all of the above and sentenced him to 20 years in a maximum security prison. 

Oleksandr Kolchenko –  26-year-old left-wing civic activist who was accused together with Sentsov of involvement in a ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’. 

There was no evidence of any such plot, nor, as mentioned, any likelihood, given how far Kolchenko’s views are from those of the right-wing and ultra-nationalist Right Sector.

Kolchenko was also accused of one specific offence – of taking part in an ‘arson attack’ on the office of the United Russia political party in Simferopol.  The said attack involved throwing one Molotov cocktail at the offices late in the evening when nobody would be there. 

Kolchenko has never denied his role in this, but does not agree that this was ‘terrorism’.  In this he is supported by, among others, Memorial HRC which points out that similar acts in Russia have not been called ‘terrorism’, and have received sentences many times less.

One of the applications before the European Court of Human Rights is over Russia’s claim that Kolchenko is a Russian citizen. 

Gennady Afanasyev

took part in the same firebomb incident as Kolchenko, and another similar one, seeing this as legitimate protest against organizations directly involved in Russia’s seizure of power in Crimea. 

He and Oleksy Chirniy both ‘confessed’ to being part of a ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’ and testified against Sentsov and Kolchenko. 

None of the men had had access to lawyers, nor their families, and Afanasyev has confirmed all that Sentsov and Kolchenko say about the torture used to extract those ‘confessions’. 

Due to the secrecy imposed on the case, all that was known about Afanasyev until July 31, 2015, was that he had been convicted of the ‘terrorist charges’ and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in a closed court hearing.  He had had no content with either a proper lawyer, nor with the Ukrainian consul.

Then on July 31 this year, he appeared at the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko and, instead of refusing only to testify, as he’d been instructed by the FSB, he also stated clearly that all his testimony had been obtained through torture. 

Memorial HRC declared Afanasyev a political prisoner and warned that he was in danger for his courageous stand.  

Afanasyev has, as was threatened, been sent to a prison colony in the far north of Russia [the Republic of Komi] with extremely harsh conditions.  In the space of just the first month, four punishments were imposed for fabricated misdemeanours and there are real grounds for concern that he may not survive such treatment for long. 

Little is known about Oleksy Chirniy, aside from what was revealed during the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko.  He can at most also be accused of trying to cause damage to a monument to Vladimir Lenin with a bomb, which he planned to explode during the night. 

Russian human rights defenders condemned the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko, calling it “ideologically-motivated state terror” against opponents of Russian occupation of Crimea. 

All four men are clearly victims of repression and as illegally held by Russia, a party to the Minsk Accords, must be released and returned to Ukraine. 

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