No Defence, No Mercy for Russia’s Oldest Ukrainian Hostage
03.05.16 | Halya Coynash
Show Yury Soloshenko that he’s not forgotten on his 74th birthday and help put pressure on Russia to free him (and all the other Ukrainians it’s illegally imprisoning) The address and a suggested greeting are given at the bottom. Any letters, cards, and images of Spring will mean a lot to him!
Russia has rejected a pardon application from 73-year-old Yury Soloshenko, who was deprived of legal defence in Russia and then tricked into pleading guilty to ‘spying’ he could not have committed.
It is Russian President Vladimir Putin who has the sole right to pardon prisoners. According to Zoya Svetova, it is a right who has used very little, but in this case there was a direct recommendation from the outgoing Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson. Ella Panfilova, in her last, 2015, report recommended that in view of Soloshenko’s age, his state of health and his ‘confession’, that the President pardon him.
The procedure from application is long, and passed first to the Nizhny Novgorod pardoning committee. There it stopped, since despite Soloshenko’s age and numerous health issues, including recently diagnosed cancer, the commission rejected the application.
Yury Soloshenko, as earlier reported, first wrote directly to Putin at the President’s Administration. It was returned, supposedly because the procedure had been infringed. It seems that the application was never before rejected as such, it was simply sent here and there. Svetova reports that it finally reached the commission in Nizhny Novgorod who on April 20 found no grounds for a pardon.
Svetova has published Soloshenko’s letter to the President on Open Russia, saying that perhaps in this way, it will reach Putin. The letter is now a little out of date, since, as well as a serious heart condition, Soloshenko also has cancer, though the prison nonetheless returned him from the prison hospital to a normal cell where the conditions would be difficult for a man half his age and in good health.
Soloshenko is, at least in theory, included in extradition procedure which Russia has claimed to have initiated with respect to his application and that of recognized political prisoners Nadiya Savchenko; Oleg Sentsov; Oleksandr Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev. It is just possible that the procedure has been initiated to enable a face-saving exchange in the near future. If the extradition procedure goes ahead at normal pace, it could take many months before the documents are before the court which, according to the Russian justice ministry, is supposed to have the final say.
Nobody is under any illusion as to who will really decide whether Russia’s Ukrainian hostages are returned to Ukraine.
For Yury Soloshenko, in particular, time is critical. He wants nothing more than to return to Ukraine, to his wife who is in poor health and needs him, and to his grandchildren – and a great-grandchild born while he was in captivity.
As reported here, Svetova has huge experience of visiting prisoners held in Russia, including many political prisoners. 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 was this lawyer, Gennady Blokhin who encouraged him to ‘confess’, promising that he would be returned to Ukraine.
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, however, claimed and a Russian court accepted that Soloshenko had been in August 2014 in Moscow “when trying to illegally purchase secret components for S-300 surface to air missile systems which were supposed to reinstate Ukraine’s air defence system.
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.
PLEASE SEND A BREATH OF SPRING TO YURY SOLOSHENKO ON HIS BIRTHDAY!
Yury Soloshenko is turning 74 on May 6. In an earlier letter, he wrote of how much he loves Spring:
“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”.
Please send cards and photos with images of Spring and / or letters to Yury Danylovych (this is his name and patronymic which is good as a form of address).
Letters in Russian are much more likely to get through. If that is a problem, even the following message would be appreciated.
Ñ äí¸ì ðîæäåíèÿ! Æåëàþ Âàì êðåïêîãî çäîðîâüÿ è òåðïåíèÿ. Íàäåþñü, ÷òî Âû î÷åíü ñêîðî âåðíåòåñü äîìîé, â Óêðàèíó, ãäå Âàñ î÷åíü æäóò.
(Happy Birthday! I wish you good health and patience and hope that you will soon be back home, in Ukraine, where you are much missed!)
The address can be in either Russian or English
603950 ã. Íèæíèé Íîâãîðîä, óë. Ðàêåòíàÿ, 2 Ä, ÈÊ-5.
Ñîëîøåíêî Þðèé Äàíèëîâè÷, 1942 ã.ð.
Russian Federation, 603950 Nizhny Novgorod, Raketnaya St, 2D, Colony-5
Soloshenko, Yury Danylovych, b. 1942
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