Ukrainian political prisoner was told that he might not come out alive if he didn’t ‘cooperate’ with Russian FSB
Oleksandr Shumkov turned 30 on 19 September, his third birthday in Russian captivity. Although his four-year sentence is not as monstrously long as those imposed on many Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners, it is certainly shocking, given that the young Ukrainian serviceman was abducted from Ukraine to face surreal charges of involvement in a legal organization in Ukraine. The Russian prison authorities are now concocting pretexts to hold him virtually permanently in the appalling conditions of a Russian ‘punishment’ cell.
Shumkov’s aunt, Lyudmila Shumkova, has revealed more details about the treatment the young Ukrainian was subjected to immediately after his abduction and later. It was the FSB who provided him with a so-called ‘lawyer’, with Inna Ivatsova clearly there merely to put pressure on him to ‘confess’ and to ‘cooperate’ with the investigators. She told him “if you don’t agree to such collaboration, you may end up not coming out of this alive”.
He held out and refused to collaborate. His aunt says that he understood that his family would find him, but also that he was helped by his Ukrainian core, his belief in God and in justice.
Shumkov himself was well aware that he could face reprisals because of his firmly pro-Ukrainian position. This certainly appears to be the case. While being moved to the prison colony during March and April 2019, he was basically not given any food and lost 20 kilograms. This is particularly easy to achieve during such ‘transfers’ where prisoners are deprived of any access to the outside world and, therefore, especially vulnerable. By holding him almost permanently in punishment cells, the prison authorities are also able to increase his isolation from family and friends in Ukraine and to prevent his family from sending him parcels (with food, etc.) and money to spend in the prison shop.
He has also been subjected to physical violence. His lawyer, Roman Lyzlov visited Shumkov in Prison Colony No. 4 in Torzhok (Tver oblast) on 23 April, and learned that Shumkov told him that he had been beaten by staff, first at SIZO No. 1 in Tver and then at the Torzhok prison. According to Shumkov, the SIZO staff had inflicted at least 15 blows. Then at the prison, he was immediately beaten again by one of the staff. The latter used his baton to strike him at least five times on the legs, saying that this was for the Berkut special force officers killed during the last days of Euromaidan. It was only after the Ukrainian consul visited him, that his treatment changed, with lawyers and the consul now allowed access.
Shumkov was abducted in late August 2017 from the Kherson oblast and taken by force to Russia. He had been serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014 and, since he is a lawyer by profession, had been working as an investigator for the military prosecutor of the Kherson Garrison. It is believed that he set off for a meeting with an informer who was supposed to provide information about supplies of drugs smuggled from the Kremlin-backed ‘republics’ in Donbas to government-controlled oblasts. The car in which he was driving came under attack near the Russian-Ukrainian border, with a laser gun used against Shumkov, who was taken, unconscious, across the border into Russia.
The Russian authorities, of course, deny the abduction, It is, however, impossible that Shumkov would have crossed voluntarily into Russia. He had taken part in Euromaidan and in 2014 had been a guard for Dmytro Yarosh, the then leader of Right Sector and one of the people Russia most demonized as its aggression against Ukraine mounted. All of this, as well as his role in the military, meant that Shumkov could have been in no doubt of the danger he would face in Russia.
He was charged under Article 282.2 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code with taking part in Right Sector in Ukraine, this deemed ‘involvement in an extremist organization which has been banned by a [Russian] court’ . The report from Russia’s Investigative Committee did not mention that these ‘extremism’ charges were in connection with activities on Ukrainian, not Russian, territory which were in no way illegal in Ukraine.
The Bryansk Oblast Investigative Committee and the courts were equally unperturbed by the evidence that Shumkov had in fact left Right Sector a couple of months before the Russian court ruling in November 2014 that declared Right Sector illegal.
The investigators claimed that Shumkov “took an active part in the activities of the Ukrainian extremist organization ‘Right Sector’ directed against the interests of the Russian Federation and encroaching upon its territorial integrity”.
During his final address in December, Shumkov noted that he was accused of activities which he had never denied – involvement in Euromaidan and then in Ukraine’s operation against the militants in Donbas. By bringing criminal charges based on the assertion that such activities “threatened Russia’s interests”, he said, “the Russian Federation is acknowledging its presence on Ukrainian territory”. During the first ‘trial’, Shumkov also pointed out the absurdity of a situation whereby Russia’s Supreme Court ruling banning Right Sector in Russia was being treated as a carte blanche for imposing a ban on Right Sector in other countries.
“The question therefore arises: is Russia not taking too much upon itself by deciding which organizations are legal and which illegal on the territory of Ukraine?”
The so-called ‘witnesses for the prosecution’ mostly only confirmed what Shumkov had never denied, namely that he had, in 2014, been a member of Right Sector.
Even so, Russia still resorted, as it has in most political trials of Ukrainians, to ‘secret witnesses’, as well as to the testimony from a person who had a vested interest in saying what the prosecution wanted.
On 31 January 2019 three Bryansk Regional Court judges – Inessa Belova, Vladimir Zenichev and Olga Mazova upheld the original 4-year sentence passed on 4 December, 2018 by Viktor Rukhmakov, from the Sevsk District Court in the Bryansk oblast. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre had recognized Shumkov as a political prisoner back in April 2018, both because of his almost certain abduction and because the charges were legally nonsensical.
Please write to Oleksandr Shumkov!
Letters need to be in Russian and on ‘neutral subjects’. If this is difficult, the following can be cut and pasted.
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.
Address (the name is at the end, together with year of birth. There will be more chance of it getting through if the name is written in the Russian manner (Alexander)
Russian Federation, 172011, Tver oblast, Torzhok, 79 Staritskaya St, Prison Colony No. 4,
Shumkov, Alexander Sergeevich, b. 1989