04.02.2016 | Halya Coynash

Ukrainian hostage demands Russia try him for ‘war crimes’


Just months after Russia’s Investigative Committee was forced to withdraw insane war crimes charges against Serhiy Litvinov and came up with a robbery charge instead, Litvinov has applied for this supposed ‘robbery’ to also be tried as a war crime.  According to his lawyer, Viktor Parshutkin, this will entitle him to trial by jury.  Since a jury will not simply dismiss proof of innocence as a normal court would,  that will make it much easier to prove the lack of any substance to the charges. 

This is especially important in the current case given the extraordinary claims initially made by Russia’s Investigative Committee [IC]. 

Litvinov, a 33-year-old cowherd with learning difficulties, has been in Russian custody since Aug 22, 2014.  His village is close to the border which he crossed (as was once quite normal to do) in search of hospital treatment for an inflamed tooth.  He was seized and savagely tortured, until he confessed to multiple war crimes which he was supposed to have committed as a member of the Dnipro volunteer battalion. 

The Investigative Committee’s announcement of the charges against Litvinov, on Oct 1 2014 followed claims from the same IC that Ukraine was committing ‘genocide against the Russian-speaking population in Donbas”.  This was reiterated in the report on Litvinov’s arrest, with Vladimir Markin claiming that Ukraine was trying to kill the population of Donbas, with the victims’ fault allegedly lying “merely in the fact that they spoke Russian and did not want to descend into nationalist hysteria and allow fascist ideology in their native land”.  “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.”  In his public statement, Markov even claimed, again citing Litvinov,  that the crimes had been carried out for money from the then Dnipropetrovsk governor Ihor Kolomoisky,

Litvinov had ‘confessed’ under torture to personally carrying out murders of civilians, including women and children on the basis solely of anonymous denunciations.

Thankfully a proper lawyer was finally taken on and Viktor Parshutkin managed to prove that the alleged victims and addresses where the crimes were supposed to have taken place did not exist.  A prosecutor’s investigation confirmed that the ‘crimes’ had never happened.  

In order to save face after holding Litvinov – who had never even done military service on medical grounds – for well over a year, the IC fabricated charges regarding robbery committed together with two unidentified soldiers   

Litvinov is now accused, together with two anonymous soldiers, of stealing two old cars, one a pile of scrap metal, from a Russian national called Andrei Lysenko – and all of this on Ukrainian territory.   

The court is due to determine by Feb 4 whether, as sought by Litvinov and his lawyer, the case will be sent back to the prosecutor’s office with the charge reclassified to the more serious “use of prohibited means and methods of waging war” (article 356 § 1).   

Russia has already subjected Litvinov to horrific torture and held him in custody for 18 months.  It is indeed time to acquit him of all absurd charges and allow him to return to his wife and teenage daughter.  

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