Russia rewards Berkut officers who tried to crush Euromaidan, while revenging itself on Maidan political prisoner Kolomiyets
Former Ukrainian Berkut officers, involved in trying to crush Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests, have been given awards in Russian-occupied Sevastopol ‘for courage and heroism’, with two of the spetsnaz men also receiving apartments. Russia has, meanwhile, ensured the harshest of prison conditions for Ukrainian political prisoner Andriy Kolomiyets, sentenced by a Russian-controlled court to 10 years’ imprisonment for being on Maidan in 2014.
It is possibly of relevance that the two former Berkut officers who were ceremoniously handed keys to new apartments this month are now working in Rosgvardia, the Russian ‘National Guard’ created by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is known that the two Rosgvardia officers who caused the death of 83-year-old Crimean Tatar veteran activist Vedzhie Kashka were Berkut officers.
One of the two recipients was the former commander of Sevastopol Berkut Serhiy Kolbin. It is likely that he was one of the ex-Berkut men who received the letters praising them for their ‘courage and heroism’ on 22 February. The event was timed to coincide with ceremonies around 23 February which is now in occupied Crimea treated, as in Russia, as the ‘Day of the defender of the fatherland’.
A number of Berkut officers followed in the wake of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his people in fleeing to Russia after the gunning down of activists on Maidan. Ten of the 23 ex-Berkut officers suspected of involvement in the killings are known to have received Russian citizenship, while a further two men have been given ’refugee’ status. Two other men wanted by Ukraine for crimes against Maidan activists have been spotted in Moscow helping Putin’s regime crush protest at home.
Russia has imprisoned several Ukrainians who took part in Euromaidan on politically-motivated charges. The prosecutions and imprisonment of Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets were of quite surreal illegality. In flagrant violation of Russia’s own legislation and of fundamental principles of law, the two men were charged with unprovable crimes allegedly committed by Ukrainian citizens against Ukrainian Berkut officers in the capital of Ukraine. Kostenko was released in July 2018 after having served to the very last day a 3.5 year prison sentence that Russia had had no conceivable right to impose.
Kolomiyets remains imprisoned in Russian Krasnodar with the conditions, according to Ukrainian Consul General Taras Malyshevsky, the harshest of all Russian prison colonies where Ukrainian political prisoners are being held. Malyshevsky noted that during his meeting with Kolomiyets, 3-4 Russian officers were observing and videoing. Since Kolomiyets is completely under their control, this clearly prevented him from speaking openly and Malyshevsky notes that it is only from Galina, Kolomiyets’ wife, that there is any chance of learning about the real state of affairs.
Kolomiyets was just 22 and living in the Northern Caucuses with Galina and her four children when arrested by local police, effectively abducted and taken to occupied Crimea.
When officers turned up on May 15, the first thing they said to Galina was that Kolomiyets was a Maidan activist. During the search, they ‘found’ a small package with some hashish in her ex-husband’s safe. Whether or not the hashish was there before the officers arrived, testimony was presented to the court which confirmed that Kolomiyets had not had any access to the safe. A new story, as implausible as the first, was concocted as the pretext for arresting Kolomiyets, however it was clearly the link with Maidan that prompted his prosecution. Kolomiyets was taken to Russian-occupied Crimea where he became the second Maidan activist to be charged on the basis of ‘testimony’ from ex-Berkut officers.
It was claimed that Kolomiyets had thrown a Molotov cocktail at two Berkut officers, with this having allegedly ‘caused them pain’. Enough ‘pain’ to allow them in court to claim that they remembered Kolomiyets, though not enough for them to have reported it to anybody at the time. The prosecution was under Article 30 § 3 and 105 § 2 of the Russian Criminal Code, namely “attempted murder of 2 or more people in connection with their official activities … out of motives of political and ideological hatred”.
Despite the absurdity of the charges, he was sentenced by a Russian-controlled court in Simferopol on 10 June 2016 to 10 years’ imprisonment: six years for the alleged ‘attack’ on the two ex-Berkut turncoats (Article 105 of the Russian criminal code), and four for the supposed possession of hashish (Article 228).
The sentence was upheld on October 27 by the de facto Crimean High Court under ‘judge’ Halyna Redko who had already taken part in at least one other politically-motivated trial since betraying her oath to Ukraine.
Kolomiyets has given harrowing, though unfortunately, familiar, details of the torture he was subjected to, including electric shocks and asphyxiation, to force him to ‘confess’ to invented crimes. He had provided such information from the outset, but the ‘lawyers’ provided by the supposed investigators during the first months did not want to know.
The renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre declared Kolomiyets a political prisoner on 17 July 2016. It demolished the narcotics charges against the young man, while stating simply that the main indictment was grotesque since a court under Russian legislation could have no jurisdiction over events allegedly taking place between Ukrainian nationals in Ukraine.
Please write to Andriy Kolomiyets! It is important for him to know that he is not forgotten and also sends a warning to Moscow that it is being watched.
350039 Russia, Krasnodar Krai, Krasnodar, 58 Kalinin St, Prison Colony No. 14
Kolomiyets, Andrei Vladimirovych, born 1993
[In Russian: ФКУ ИК-14, 350039 Россия, Краснодарский край, г.Краснодар, ул. Калинина, 58, Коломийцу, Андрею Владимировичу, г.р. 1993]
Letters need to be in Russian. If this is a problem, you could simply copy-paste the letter below, maybe with a photo or picture.
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним.
[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.