Ukrainian could face 3-year sentence for daubing paint on monument to Russian invaders of Crimea
Maxim Sokurenko has been remanded in custody in occupied Crimea and could face a three-year prison sentence for hurling a bit of paint at a monument to the Russian soldiers without insignia who seized control of Crimea five years ago. Even according to the Russian legislation illegally applied in Crimea, the young man should have faced, at most, an administrative penalty, and there has clearly been a political decision to bring serious criminal charges.
It was in fact originally reported that the monument in the centre of Simferopol had been daubed with red paint during the early hours of 28 January 2019 by a person in a state of inebriation. The police report said that a protocol had been drawn up over an administrative offence (being inebriated in a public place – Article 20.21 of Russia’s code of administrative offences). The report did, however, say that they were considering bringing criminal charges under the article on vandalism.
It seems likely that the charges were so heavily increased once it was established that 36-year-old Sokurenko is from Kyiv. On 29 January he was remanded in custody by ‘judge’ Evelina Fedorenko from the Russian-controlled Central District Court in Simferopol. The criminal charge is under Article 214 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code (vandalism motivated by political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity, or animosity towards a particular social group. This would carry a sentence of mandatory labour for up to three years to imprisonment for the same period. Grani.ru points out that Russian legislation does not, in theory, allow for detention where the sentence is not over three years. That, however, has not impeded the occupation regime before and it would likely be claimed that as a Ukrainian citizen, he could leave Crimea.
The Crimean Human Rights Group which first found details of the ‘court’ hearing, considers Sokurenko’s detention to be politically motivated, and warns that it leaves virtually no chance of his receiving a fair trial. While the likelihood of a proper trial would be minimal in any case, it is now difficult to discover whether he really has ‘confessed’ and ‘has no complaints’, as Russian Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova claims. There will almost certainly be strong pressure on him to reject an independent lawyer, and those provided by the prosecution are generally there to sign papers and ensure that the person detained ‘confesses’ to the charges laid.
The very fact that Moskalkova should have made pronouncements on this subject also confirms the political motivation. She is quoted by Interfax.ru as saying that Sokurenko “does not conceal the fact that he is unhappy with the situation in Crimea, the position of people. He wants to give some kind of political publicity, therefore there is a certain element of provocation here”.
The words are garbled, however the motive for bringing serious charges is fairly clear. It may genuinely be that Sokurenko is from Kyiv, however disgruntlement is mounting in occupied Crimea, and Russia doubtless wants to deter Crimeans from carrying out similar acts of protest.
Russia calls the monument in question to ‘polite people’, a highly inappropriate euphemism for the heavily armed Russian soldiers without insignia who seized control of the Crimean parliament, airports and other strategic locations in Crimea on 27 February 2014. While it was the Russian and pro-Russian armed paramilitaries who are believed to have been behind the horrific torture and killing of Reshat Ametov, the abductions and likely killing of other activists, as well as countless cases of torture and beating, the Russian soldiers were as an invading army and communicated via their rifles.
Russia has been assiduously trying to rewrite the story of those days, especially the chronology of events, so that the Russian soldiers are viewed as having been there to simply ‘protect’ people during the so-called ‘referendum’. That pseudo referendum was called by the marginal pro-Russian Sergei Aksyonov and his people who were installed at gunpoint by the Russian soldiers. The ‘voting’ also took place at gunpoint, although, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Human Rights Council, still failed to achieve a real majority.
The statues of a soldier and a little girl is used for propaganda photos with foreign guests, usually also from far-right and / or pro-Russian parties (see, for example, French Collaborators Kiss Monument to Russian Invaders of Crimea )