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18.03.2016 | Halya Coynash

Putin’s Death Sentence for Russia’s Oldest Ukrainian Hostage

   

Yury Soloshenko, the 73-year-old Ukrainian pensioner, sentenced to 6 years in Russia on mystery ‘spying’ charges has cancer.  This is the latest blow for the elderly Ukrainian who has not seen his grandchildren since August 2014.  He wrote in a letter just received, but unfortunately not dated, that he was in hospital and that the following week it would be decided whether he is to receive treatment or to be returned to prison conditions.   Ukraine has formally requested Soloshenko’s extradition, together with that of Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev, all recognized as political prisoners by the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre.

Soloshenko has a heart condition and is generally in ill health. It was clear both to him and to Zoya Svetova, the human rights activist who visited him in Moscow that the 6-year prison term was a death sentence.  That was doubtless no less plain to Russian President Vladimir Putin when he turned down his application for a pardon last November. 

It is worth noting that Svetova has been visiting Russia’s prisons and its many political prisoners for at least a decade.  She wrote in April 2015 that in those years, she had never seen such flagrant violation of Russia’s Constitution as in Soloshenko’s case.   The most cynical abuse of his rights was seen in the situation with his lawyer.  He and his family had asked well-known human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov to represent him, yet, in total breach of the law, Pavlov was prevented from seeing him.  While all Pavlov’s efforts failed, Soloshenko was himself put under immense pressure to accept a ‘lawyer’ provided by the investigators. It seems clear that this lawyer, Gennady Blokhin encouraged him to ‘confess’, promising that he would be returned to Ukraine.

At a closed trial on Oct 14, the 73-year-old with no access to state secrets or Russian weapons, but also with no access to a proper lawyer, ‘confessed’ to the bizarre spying charges and was sentenced to 6 years maximum security prison.  The reason for a sentence much shorter than that demanded by the prosecution lay solely in Soloshenko’s age. 

Blokhin continued to talk about how Soloshenko would be extradited after the court trial, probably to ensure that Soloshenko did not appeal against the conviction. 

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.  

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.

PLEASE WRITE TO YURY DANYLOVYCH!

We reported earlier a very moving letter Yury Soloshenko wrote to one of the people who had written to him.  In it, he wrote of his longing for his Ukrainian homeland, his love of every blade of grass, every leaf, and his horror at a Russian justice system which is lavish with long prison sentences, with many, like him, totally innocent. 

In the letter just received, Yury Danylovych writes that the letters he receives are a great help.  They fill him with hope and help him to endure "this monstrous injustice".  He was responding to words about Spring, which he says was always his favourite season perhaps because he was born in May.  “I look at the bright Spring sun through the window grating and feel an aching pain that I am spending yet another Spring in prison when so few in any case remain”. 

He passes on greetings to Nadiya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov and others, thanking Nadiya for her postcard, and sympathising with Oleg Sentsov who is currently being moved to Yakutia, as far east as Moscow could send him. 

If writing in Russian is a problem, write in simple English – hopefully the volunteers at the civic initiative RosUznik will be able to translate before sending your letter on to Yury Danylovych (his name and patronymic are good as a form of address). 

Just cut and paste his name as follows and send your letter to the email address

Солошенко Юрию Даниловичу  post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com

    

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