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Russia is continuing its torture of Sentsov, Kolchenko & Afanasyev

16.03.16 | Halya Coynash

While Russias response to a formal extradition request is awaited, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsovs whereabouts are once again unknown, and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko has been flung into a punishment cell on his arrival at a notorious Russian prison in Chelyabinsk.

According to the local supervisory committee which visits prisoners, the formal pretext for this speedy 15-day punishment was Kolchenkos use of slang expressions and the fact that he didnt have a badge on his clothes. It is hard to escape the conclusion that such a severe measure was planned from the outset and any pretext, or next to none, would do.

The same harsh treatment has been meted out to Gennady Afanasyev, another of the four opponents of Russian annexation of Crimea. In an emotional address on the Savik Shuster show, Afanasyevs mother Olha explained that the torture applied against her son, Sentsov and Kolchenko before their trials has not ended. If before they used physical methods, now they are seeking to break the men psychologically. They put them in a punishment cell immediately, fabricate all kinds of disciplinary penalties and deprive them of medical treatment. Olha Afanasyeva issues a plea to Ukraines government to join forces in order to help release them and Russias other Ukrainian hostages.

Ukraines Justice Ministry announced on March 10 that it has asked for the extradition of four Ukrainians: Gennady Afanasyev; Oleksandr Kolchenko; Oleg Sentsov and 73-year-old Yury Soloshenko. It has publicly called on Russia to put aside politics and return the men on humanitarian grounds to Ukraine.

The Justice Minister Pavlo Klimkin was speaking at a meeting with relatives of three of the prisoners, and openly called them political prisoners. The reference to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons may therefore be contentious, since this document refers to situations where prisoners are expected to serve out their sentences.

This is clearly inconceivable. Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for a non-existent terrorist plot. Kolchenko received a 10-year sentence and Afanasyev 7 years. There was no evidence against any of them, only testimony tortured out of Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirniy. Afanasyev demonstrated great courage by appearing at the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko and retracting his testimony. He has since faced constant reprisals.

Nobody really understands what the spying was that Yury Soloshenko was supposed to be guilty of. Even in his former capacity as director of a Poltava-based factory providing equipment for anti-aircraft warfare, the factory got its business from Russia and had no secrets. The factory has long been bankrupt, and Soloshenko retired. He is also in bad health and suffering from cancer.

Russias Justice Ministry has a month in which to respond. It may try to claim that Sentsov, Kolchenko and Afanasyev are Russian nationals. All three Crimeans who opposed Russias invasion and occupation of their homeland have consistently rejected Russias attempts to treat them as automatically Russian. Kolchenko has even lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights.

The men all remain Ukrainians and their treatment is being closely monitored. It is of real concern that Kolchenko should have faced such a severe punishment as soon as he was brought to the prison in Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk region. This prison has a very bad reputation (details here). It is also supposed to be for prisoners serving sentences for serious and extremely serious crimes, with half of them convicted of murder.

And recognized political prisoner Oleksandr Kolchenko.

Russia is seeking to hide Sentsov and Kolchenko away in prisons in the far east of Russia, while Afanasyev was sent just as the FSB officers threatened to the far north. A court in the Komi Republic city of Syktykvar has just found that Afanasyevs imprisonment 2, 700 kilometres from his family is in breach of the European Court of Human Rights. This is a very cheering demonstration of professionalism from a Russian judge but it remains to be seen whether it is upheld since it will almost certainly be appealed.

It should be stressed that the release of all four men is required under the Minsk Accords and has been repeatedly demanded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the US State Department and others.

Details about the case

Oppose Russian Occupation of Crimea & Face 20 Years for Terrorism

Please write postcards or letters to all four men. If you can write in Russian, do, but avoid any discussion of the case or politics. Since three addresses are either unknown, or in Afanasyevs case will hopefully change, please send your letters to

post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com, a civic initiative helping to get mail to Russian-held political prisoners (the numbers at the end, are year of birth which is normally required when writing to prisoners)

Gennady Afanasyev

, 1990 .. post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com

OleksandrKolchenko

, 1989 ..

OlegSentsov

, 1976 .. post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com

Yury Soloshenko

post.rozuznik[at]gmail.com

see also:
A Crimean Four Political Prisoner Placed in Notorious Serbsky Institute
Russia rejects appeal against Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsovs 20-year sentence
Not Forgotten! Solidarity Campaign for Crimean Four imprisoned in Russia
5 Russian Federal Agencies Pitched Against Courageous Crimean Political Prisoner
Extradition promises for show as Russia forces citizenship on Crimean political prisoner
Misleading headlines over extradition of Sentsov & other Ukrainian hostages
Russia forced to admit that political prisoners Sentsov & Kolchenko are Ukrainian citizens
Where is Russia hiding Crimean political prisoner Oleg Sentsov?
Crimean political prisoner told ’extremism’ is not liking the regime
Russian court orders Crimean political prisoner Afanasyev to be sent closer home
Oleg Sentsov hurriedly moved as calls mount for release of all Ukrainian hostages
Oleg Sentsov found in Chelyabinsk, travelling around Russian prisons
Russia intensifies reprisals against Crimean political prisoner Gennady Afanasyev
Sent to Siberia for Opposing Russias Annexation of Crimea
Oppose Russian Occupation of Crimea & Face 20 Years for Terrorism
Sentsov & Kolchenko Appeal Rejected in Predictably Farcical Court Hearing
Russias Ideologically Motivated State Terror and Its Ukrainian Victims
Illegally Held and In Danger: Gennady Afanasyev needs our help
Send Birthday Wishes to Russias Crimean Political Prisoners!