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13.11.2017 | Halya Coynash

Crimean savagely beaten for pro-Ukraine views faces jail on ‘extremism’ charges

Ihor Movenko, attack - Movenko and his wife
   

The FSB in Russian-occupied Sevastopol have formally charged Ukrainian activist Ihor Movenko over a comment they allege he posted on a social media page in 2016 and which they ’noticed’ only after he persistently demanded an investigation into the brutal and unprovoked attack by a police officer that left him hospitalized.  He is accused of ‘public calls to carry out extremist activities’ and could face a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment.   

The FSB claim that Movenko wrote  on the VKontakte ‘Crimea is Ukraine’ page that there needed to be violent action against those who had taken part in the occupation of Crimea.  The Crimean Human Rights Group notes that the comment is being viewed not in terms of any danger to the public, but from the point of view of alleged enmity to Russia and to its occupation of Crimea.  The fact that the post expressed strong opposition to Russia’s occupation gives grounds for believing the prosecution to be politically motivated, CHRG says.  So too does the selective nature of the FSB’s application of Russia’s so-called extremism charges.  The charges against Movenko were brought only after he tried to get the brutal attack he was subjected to by a former Berkut riot police officer investigated, although the post had been much earlier.

Movenko was attacked on Sept 7, 2016 after he stopped to get money out of a cash machine outside a Sevastopol shopping centre, and then returned to his bike.  Movenko had stickers on the bike, both of the Ukrainian trident and from the ‘Azov Battalion’ which is now on Russia’s huge list of banned organizations.  The man who brutally assaulted him said he was from the police, though he did not show any ID.  The assailant has since been identified as Volodymyr Sukhodolsky, who was a Ukrainian officer in a Berkut special force unit before betraying his oath in 2014.  He is now serves in the Russian police force. 

It was only Movenko who sustained injuries and they were serious.  He was hospitalized  with the doctors finding an open head injury, concussion, a skull fracture, a broken jaw, broken nose, eye injury and more. 

It was quite evident that he had been attacked, yet it was Movenko who had his hands bound after the police appeared.  It was clear from the surreal video here, that the police who arrived were on the best of terms with the assailant.  The officers even tried to stop Valentina Movenko, who had come as soon as somebody phoned her, from giving her husband some water as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and in obvious need of medical treatment. 

It became clear at the time that Movenko was to be charged with ‘extremism’ over the Azov sticker, but it was asserted that criminal proceedings would be initiated over the assault. 

The de facto authorities in occupied Crimea were swift to take Movenko to court.  He was fined 2 thousand roubles over the ‘Azov’ Battalion sticker. 

No criminal investigation was initiated against Movenko’s assailant, despite repeated applications from the victim. 

His demands for action over the attack resulted only in a police visitation on December 16, 2016.  The FSB arrived at Movenko’s work and took him away, beating him in the car on the way to his home.  They removed all computers and other technology.

He was finally released after long interrogation, however it became clear in April 2017 that new charges were brewing.  Against Movenko, of course, not his police attacker.

 

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