10.06.2016 | Halya Coynash

Ukrainian Gets 10-Year Sentence in Russia’s Revenge for Maidan


A Crimean court under Russian occupation has passed a sentence of extraordinary lawlessness sending a chilling message to all Ukrainians in Crimea, as well as any visiting or living in Russia.  22-year-old Ukrainian Andriy Kolomiyets has been sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison with the main ‘offence’ something which almost certainly never happened, but over which no Russian court could have any jurisdiction. 

Kolomiyets’ lawyer Mikhail Kushlel reports that the court in Simferopol on June 10 ignored all the evidence that the alleged offences were fictitious and provided exactly the sentences sought by the prosecution on Thursday. 

The de facto prosecutor had demanded a 6-year sentence for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at two Ukrainian Berkut riot police officers in Kyiv during Euromaidan in January 2014, and four years on a highly dubious charge of possession of marijuana.

During the court hearing on Thursday, Kolomiyets’ lawyer presented documents from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General which pointed out that Kolomiyets is not facing any charges over Euromaidan in mainland Ukraine.  Most significantly, the documents confirm that while 33 Berkut officers were injured during the Euromaidan protests, neither of the two alleged ‘victims’ ever reported any injuries and neither is on Ukraine’s list of victims, though both were at the time Ukrainian nationals serving in a Ukrainian Berkut unit. 

The two former Berkut officers claim to have ‘suffered pain’.  This was presumably memorable enough for them to claim after two and a half years to recognize the young man. 

Kolomiyets was certainly on Maidan, but denies having taken part in any violence.  This, however, is not really the point since the very charge is a legal nonsense and in breach of Russia’s own Criminal Code (Article 12 § 3) which prohibits the prosecution of nationals who commit an offence on the territory of another country under Russian law unless “the crime was directed against the interests of the Russian Federation or a citizen of the Russian Federation.”   None of this is the case, yet one other UkrainianOleksandr Kostenko is already serving a sentence on equally insane charges, while Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy have been in detention for well over a year charged over a pre-annexation demonstration. 

It should be stressed that the de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya has already threatened to instigate a large number of such surreal prosecutions.  They are in part a ‘reward’ to those former Berkut officers who betrayed their oath to Ukraine and helped Russia seize control in Crimea.  Poklonskaya initially claimed there could be up to 50 such ‘trials’.

Kolomiyets himself has given shocking details of the torture he says was used to force ‘confessions’ from him.  He alleges that a senior officer from the Russian ‘Counter-Extremism’ department S. Borovik and other employees put a bag over his head and attached his fingers to a wire.  A damp rag was then placed under his fingers and an electric current switched on. Kolomiyets is in no doubt that he would recognize the men who did this, but the court has shown no interest in his allegations.  Nor did the earlier ‘lawyers’ provided by the investigators whose role was clearly only to persuade Kolomiyets to ‘confess’. 

All Ukrainians travelling or living in Russia would be well-advised to consider this case since there is nothing even linking Kolomiyets with Crimea.  The young man who is from Kyiv oblast was arrested in the Northern Caucuses of Russia on May 15, 2015, where he was living with his partner Galina Zalikhanova and her four children. 

Like with the arrest and trial of Oleksandr Kostenko, another charge was included, one that almost certainly involved items being planted on the two men.

The first sign of looming trouble was at the beginning of May 2015 when Zalikhanova received a call from the ‘Centre for countering extremism’, saying that she should come in together with Kolomiyets.  This was supposedly because his registration was coming to an end.  They did not go to the Centre.

When officers turned up on May 15, the first thing they said to her was that Kolomiyets was a Maidan activist.  During the search, they found a small package with some marihuana in her ex-husband’s safe.  New testimony was presented at the last court hearing which confirms that Kolomiyets did not have access to that safe. 

The story with the ‘drugs’ that Kolomiyets is accused of possessing is quite absurdly implausible.  Zalikhanova says that she had seen enough films to know that she shouldn’t touch the package.  Although the officers were put out and threatened to take her children away from her, she refused to handle the package and they did finally leave without recording the marihuana in the protocol.  All of this was seen and has been confirmed by a woman who was staying in their place. 

The prosecution now claims that Kolomiyets was ‘released’ in Nalchik where he is supposed to have stayed the night at the station, then gone to some field by one taxi, gathered some marihuana growing wild, 150 grams of which the officers then ‘found’ in another taxi that he was driving in.  Even if one could believe for a second that the officers had released him, there was no reason for Kolomiyets to have stayed the night at the station, since Galina has three sisters living in Nalchik who would have happily put him up.  She believes that in all of this the same packet found in her ex-husband’s safe has been used.

The charges over Maidan were laid shortly after those for “possession of drugs in a large quantity”.  He has now received a 4-year sentence for the latter.

The investigators claimed that he was a member of the ‘Ukrainian Insurgent Army’ [UPA], an organization banned in Russia, and “shared its extremist ideology”.  He is supposed to have gone to Maidan on Jan 20 “in order to show armed resistance to law enforcement officers”.  There he allegedly caused the ‘physical pain’ that has been turned into ‘attempted murder’ of the then Berkut officers M. Kozakov and A. Havrylenko.

The only element of truth in this entire case appears to have been that Kolomiyets is Ukrainian and was on Maidan.

That, in Russian-occupied Crimea, is considered enough to imprison a person for many years. 

Russia has long been using tactics of terror and intimidation against Crimean Tatars and all other Ukrainians who do not support Russian occupation, and the trials now underway will certainly make many wonder if they could be next. 

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