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18.06.2018 | Halya Coynash

Russia refuses access to Ukrainian political prisoners Oleg Sentsov & Mykola Karpyuk

Oleg Sentsov (left), Mykola Karpyuk
   

Russia has prevented Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman Ludmila Denisova from visiting two recognized political prisoners, first Oleg Sentsov, and then Mykola Karpyuk.  The excuse given in Sentsov’s case is particularly cynical and of major concern since the renowned Ukrainian filmmaker has now been on hunger strike for well over a month.  

Russia is claiming that Crimeans Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko ‘automatically became Russians’ back in 2014, and is using this internationally condemned claim as a means of denying the men consular support and their rights under international law. 

A month after illegally annexing Crimea, Russia demanded that Crimeans formally register their rejection of Russian citizenship.  As well as minimal information being provided, there was a very limited timeframe and only three or four offices throughout Crimea where you could do this.  It seems likely in any case that the men would have, on principle, refused to formally apply to keep the Ukrainian citizenship which was theirs by right. 

Both Sentsov and Kolchenko have totally rejected all attempts to foist Russian citizenship on them, and Kolchenko’s lawyer has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights. 

Sentsov’s response to this forced ‘Russification’ during a court hearing is worth repeating:

 “I also wish to protest against the attempts to deprive me of Ukrainian citizenship.  I have always been and remain a citizen of Ukraine.  I do not recognize the Russian Federation’s annexation and military seizure of the Crimea. I consider any agreements made by the illegitimate government of the Crimea with the Russian Federation invalid.  I am no serf to be passed over together with the land.  I have not written any applications to take on Russian citizenship and reject my Ukrainian citizenship. “ (his words can be heard here)

Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office was eventually forced to acknowledge that Sentsov and Kolchenko were Ukrainian citizens, but claimed that they also had Russian citizenship, and that this took precedence.  If this had been the case, there would be details of the men’s Russian passports on the documents regarding the prosecution and trial.  There is information only about their Ukrainian passports. Nothing else can be provided since neither man ever signed any piece of paper agreeing to Russian citizenship.   

Denisova’s Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova went so far as to claim that Denisova had been in the Arctic Circle region where Sentsov is imprisoned ‘illegally.  She also repeated the standard Russian lie that Sentsov “has passports of Russia and Ukraine”.   Nobody is issued a passport without a single signature, and Sentsov has given none, as Moskalkova is undoubtedly aware.

On the same day that the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman was denied access to her compatriot, Oleg Sentsov, Moskalkova publicly asserted that Sentsov had “gained two kilograms during his hunger strike”.  Sentsov is receiving vitamins, etc. through a drip, but the suggestion that he could have gained weight while rejecting any food at all is clearly aimed is absurd and a cynical attempt to present his hunger strike as simulation.  That Sentsov’s hunger strike is, on the contrary, placing his life in danger is effectively confirmed by the round-the-clock medical surveillance he is under, not to mention the measures taken to prevent access by the consul and Ombudsman. 

Sentsov has been on hunger strike now since 14 May.  He is demanding the release of all Ukrainians held illegally in Russia and occupied Crimea. 

A huge number of international bodies, NGOs, well-famous figures and democratic countries have demanded that Russia free Sentsov, Kolchenko and all Ukrainian political prisoners.  A European Parliament  resolution passed on 14 June stressed the lack of any grounds for the charges against Sentsov and Kolchenko and their 20- and 10-year sentences.  It pointed out that they “are in breach of international law and of elementary standards of justice”. 

More details and addresses here: Sentsov’s life on the line in defence of all Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners means no World Cup as usual

Ludmila Denisova tried on 16 June to visit Mykola Karpyuk in Vladimir, but was thwarted there as well.  It is likely that she will be allowed to see him, and that this was simply a delay tactic.

Mykola Karpyuk is one of the two victims of what has been called “Russia’s most monstrously falsified trial of Ukrainian citizens since it’s annexation of Crimea”.  Both he and Stanislav Klykh were effectively abducted after being tricked into coming to Russia and then held totally incommunicado, Karpyuk for 18 months, until the eve of the ‘trial’, Klykh for ten months. 

Karpyuk and Klykh were accused of having fought against the Russian federal forces 20 years earlier in Chechnya.  Neither man had ever been to Chechnya and the entire story was fictitious,.  It was also immensely hypocritical coming, as it did, at a time when Russia was manning, arming and funding military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia claimed that Klykh (b. 1974) and Karpyuk (b. 1964) had, together with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and other prominent Ukrainian politicians, taken part in battles in Chechnya in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995, carried out all kinds of atrocities and killed 30 Russian soldiers.   Karpyuk, who was the deputy head of Right Sector and member of the older Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian Peoples’ Self Defence (UNA UNSO)  was accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking’.  Klykh, who had once briefly been a member of UNA-UNSO while at university, was supposed to have taken part in it.

The case was entirely based on their ‘confessions’ extracted during the huge periods that the men were held totally incommunicado and without proper lawyers.  The lurid and wildly implausible ‘confessions; they signed to stop the torture were backed by provably wrong testimony provided by a third Ukrainian, Oleksandr Malofeyev.  The latter was already serving a 23-year sentence in Russia, and was highly susceptible to pressure as a drug addict with diseases which would be life-threatening without appropriate medication.

Both Klykh and Karpyuk retracted their ‘testimony’ after being allowed to see real lawyers and their shocking accounts of the torture used to obtain the confessions are part of applications to the European Court of Human Rights. 

There really is good cause for considering this case to be the “most monstrously falsified”, even given the competition which Russia’s political trials of Ukrainians has provided.  The two men were ‘convicted’ and received horrifically long sentences – Karpyuk 22.5 years; Klykh – 20, despite effective alibis and despite the historical facts which contradicted the charges against the men. 

More details and addresses here:  Tortured and sentenced to 20 years in Russia for being Ukrainian

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