24.05.2016 | Halya Coynash

Not Forgotten! Solidarity Campaign for ‘Crimean Four’ imprisoned in Russia


Ukrainian civic organizations are calling upon people throughout the world to take part from May 26 to June 4 in acts of solidarity with Crimean political prisoners: renowned filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko; Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksiy Chirniy. 

The four men – and many others – have been persecuted for their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.

The activists from #Letmypeoplego, Euromaidan SOS and the  call upon everyone who cares about rights, liberties and justice to join solidarity actions with “The Crimean Four”.

Organize a lecture; discussion; film viewing; charity auction; exhibition; concert; workshop; graffiti tour; public rally, flashmob or any other kind of event that can remind people about the plight of the Crimean Four

Please write to the men – show them and Moscow that they’re not forgotten.

Take photos of your events – the civic groups will try to send them to Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko; Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksiy Chirniy.

The four opponents of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea were arrested in May 2014.  All four men were held incommunicado, without access to lawyers in Simferopol, for up to 2 weeks before being taken by force to Moscow where on May 30 the FSB [Russian Security Service] claimed that they were members of a ‘Right Sector’ terrorist organization planning a series of terrorist attacks in Crimea. 

Both Sentsov and Kolchenko maintained their innocence from the outset.  Sentsov has described the torture he was subjected to in detail and says that he was told that if he did not provide the testimony demanded, including against Euromaidan and the new government in Kyiv, they would make him the ‘ringleader’ and he would rot in prison.  Sentsov (and Kolchenko) held firm, and Sentsov was indeed accused of having masterminded the supposed Right Sector ‘terrorist plot’. 

Afanasyev and Chirniy initially gave ‘confessions’ under torture, and agreed to ‘cooperate’ with the investigators.  Both received minimum 7-year sentences in separate trials.

There was enormously secrecy about the case with Sentsov and Kolchenko’s lawyers forced to sign agreements not to divulge any information. 

It became clear from the first day of the trial on July 20 that the only ‘evidence’ in the case was the testimony provided by Chirniy and Afanasyev. 

Chirniy appeared at the trial on July 30.  He refused to give evidence in court meaning that the defence could not question him, but did not retract his earlier testimony which was simply read out to the court. 

On July 31 Afanasyev was brought to the courtroom.  He stated that he was refusing to testify and that he retracted all previous testimony which had been given under duress.  It was only after this that Afanasyev first received a lawyer not provided by the investigators. 

Despite a trial, described by Russian human rights activist Zoya Svetova, as “absolutely Stalinist” and Afanasyev’s retraction of his testimony, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years, Kolchenko to 10. 

The longer sentences were effectively for their courage, and in court both men joined arms and sang the Ukrainian national anthem as the sentence was being read out. 

Afanasyev was subjected to reprisals over this act of courage and was for a long time held in the far-northern republic of Komi.  He was recently brought to Moscow, though it remains unclear why.

All four were sent to the farthest and harshest backwaters of the Russian Federation.  Sentsov is held in Yakutia, Kolchenko in Chelyabinsk, Chirniy in the Magadan oblast. 

Immediately after the sentences, prominent Russian human rights defenders, writers, political analysts and others demanded that the sentences against Sentsov and Kolchenko be revoked, and warned that “The country has again taken the road of political repression”. 

The fabricated trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko on charges of terrorism which ended in a monstrous sentence can only be compared to the political trials of the Soviet era. This trial was open and all the circumstances are known to the public. There was no crime, as in, no acts of terrorism. An arson attack on a door, the only specific action which the defendants were charged with (without sufficient grounds and proof) would, according to Russian legislation, be at very most treated as hooliganism.  The rights of all the defendants were seriously violated, with this even including beating and torture during and following their arrest. The main witness for the prosecution stated in court that he had been tortured and retracted his testimony given under torture.

What is this, if not ideologically motivated state terror?  The aim is to intimidate and suppress any peaceful resistance in Crimea from those who regard themselves as citizens of Ukraine and oppose Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”, the authors wrote.

Sentsov and Kolchenko first, and then Afanasyev also, have been recognized as political prisoners by the authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre. 

The release of all four has been demanded by all democratic countries and is required, as is that of all persons illegally held, under the Minsk Accord.

More details here and in the texts below:

Oppose Russian Occupation of Crimea & Face 20 Years for ’Terrorism’


Please write to the men  

If writing in Russian is a problem, the following would be fine.

Добрый день,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.   Держитесь!

Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  You are not forgotten.  [The last word is like ‘hang in there’)

Please cut and paste the addresses OR send letters to – this is a civic initiative helping to send letters to political prisoners

Oleg Sentsov

677004 г. Якутск, ул. Очиченко, д. 25.

Сенцову Олегу Геннадьевичу, 1976 г.р.

Oleksandr Kolchenko

(please enclose light-weight paper and an envelope, so that he can reply)

Россия 456612, Челябинская обл., Копейск, ул. Кемеровская, 20., Кольченко Александру Олександровичу, 1989 г.р.

Since it is not clear why Gennady Afanasyev is in Moscow, please write to him – and to Oleksiy Chirniy – using post.rosuznik[at]

Gennady Afanasyev 

Афанасьеву Геннадию Сергеевичу, 1990 г.р.

Oleksy Chirniy

Чирнию Алексею Владимировичу, 1981 г.р.  post.rozuznik[at]

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