Russia’s Memorial demands release of tortured Ukrainian political prisoners
The Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared Ukrainians Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh political prisoners and victims of the unrelenting anti-Ukrainian campaign in the Russian state media and pronouncements from high-ranking Russian officials. One of the components of this campaign, the human rights defenders say, is to prosecute both Ukrainians, and those publicly expressing views about the events in Ukraine that differ from the official position.
Russia claims that 41-year-old Klykh and Karpyuk, who is 53, took part in fighting in Chechnya 20 years ago and that during battles in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995 they killed a number of Russian soldiers. Karpyuk is accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking’, made up of members of a Ukrainian nationalist organization UNA-UNSO. Klykh is charged with taking part in it.
Memorial HRC has already subjected the charges to a damning assessment, and its statement on Feb 17 was fairly brief.
It points out that the evidence in this case is based solely on testimony from Karpyuk and Klykh, as well as that from a Ukrainian national Oleksandr Malofeyev.
Memorial mentions only those charges against Malofeyev linked to this case. While he was indeed sentenced to 24 years for alleged involvement in the war in Chechnya as a member of the same nationalist organization, charges against him are as unconvincing as those against Karpyuk and Klykh. It is no accident that all three claimed in their testimony that well-known Ukrainian public figures like Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk took part in the fighting with them. Russia has even placed these public figures on the wanted list to the endless mirth of all those Internet users who had understandable difficulty envisaging Yatsenyuk in the role.
The fact that the men named were provably not in Chechnya did not stop the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin from publicly declaring that they had all been involved in effective war crimes.
Karpyuk and Klykh retracted their ‘confessions’ as soon as they received proper lawyers and have been totally consistent in describing the torture they were subjected to. The situation with Malofeyev is rather different. He is already serving a 23-year sentence for an armed robbery with two people killed in Russia where he had moved in 2005. Since he is HIV positive, has hepatitis B, C and tuberculosis, and is also addicted to opium, it would be easy to put pressure on him by simply threatening to withdraw his treatment.
Karpyuk was effectively abducted in March 2014, and then deprived of even a lawyer until the eve of the trial in October 2015. Klykh was seized while trying to visit a woman he’d met in August 2014, and was also held totally incommunicado for 10 months. Memorial points out that Russia had thus kept them hidden, deprived them of consular support and legal representation since the lawyers provided by the investigators were there to place their signature not to provide legal assistance. Both men used their very first meeting with a proper lawyer to explain that the testimony had been tortured out of them. Both have since lodged applications with the European Court of Human Rights and Klykh still bears the marks of the torture.
Memorial notes that its analysis in four parts found that the indictment contains fictitious crimes, a huge number of factual mistakes and is almost totally based on testimony which the men have said was tortured out of them.
“On the basis of this, one can with a great degree of certainty assert that Klykh and Karpyuk are innocent, and the investigators have no proof that they were ever in Chechnya. The Memorial HRC considers Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh to be political prisoners and demands their immediate and unconditional release”.
A Russian trial
Both men have alibis and Ukraine has provided documentary evidence and witness statements confirming that neither man was in Chechnya during the period in question (or at any other time!).
Of the 30 Russian soldiers whom Russia is claiming Karpyuk and Klykh killed, 18 died in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claims. As well as numerous such inaccuracies, Memorial has also accused the Russian investigators of cynical manipulation of the jury. It notes that the two men have not been charged with horrific acts of torture and murder despite the fact that both men ‘confessed’ to these. The confessions have, nonetheless, been included in the indictment. Memorial is convinced that this is precisely so that they can be read out and influence the jury, while not being charges which the defence can disprove. Confessions to crimes that simply never happened strengthen the already compelling grounds for believing that both men were tortured by Russian officials.
This trial is, in fact, now taking place without either defendant present after Klykh was removed from the court on Feb 8. He had demonstrated highly disturbed behaviour which could well be connected with the psychotropic drugs he has said were given to him. Karpyuk was earlier removed, essentially for demonstrating his comment for this “circus”.
Klykh and Karpyuk are among the “Ukrainians unjustly held in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea” whose release was recently demanded by the US mission to the OSCE and is required by the Minsk Agreement.
More details about the Memorial analysis here:
Please write to the men - even a single sentence or two will send an important message both to them, and to the Russian authorities, that they are not forgotten.
The addresses: Mykola Karpyuk (in Russian Nikolai)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Карпюку, Николаю (1964)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Клыху, Станиславу (1974)
Or send your letters to post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com, a civic initiative helping to get mail to Russian-held political prisoners They will deal with writing the envelope and sending it on. .
If you are unable to write in Russian, the following would be quite sufficient:
Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение.
(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).