Ukrainian political prisoner gets year in Russian punishment cell for refusing to collaborate
Crimean activist and political prisoner Yevhen Karakashev has been placed for a year in a punishment cell in part because he refused to collaborate with the Russian prison staff. His lawyer, Alexei Ladin is planning to appeal against this latest act of lawlessness.
Karakashev is already illegally imprisoned in Russia, far from his home in Yevpatoria (occupied Crimea), and the harsher conditions mean that he will only be able to receive one parcel (with vital food and other items) and have one short visit in six months.
Ladin explains that in the first two months after Karakashev arrived at the prison in the Northern Caucuses, he was twice thrown in a punishment cell. On the first occasion, the head of the prison colony gave Karakashev ‘a choice’: either he agrees to collaborate with the prison administration or they claim an infringement with his clothing and he gets sent to a solitary confinement punishment cell. Karakashev refused to collaborate.
The second time was because he was without his cap which had been washed and was wet. Ladin explains that he was released from the punishment cell on 1 November, and that same day a ‘commission’ met and sentenced him to a year in a prison-type cell. There were clearly no adequate grounds, but that in no way increases the chances of the appeal being successful.
41-year-old Karakashev is an anarchist activist who had taken part in pickets calling for the release of Oleksandr Kolchenko, Oleg Sentsov and Moscow’s other Ukrainian political prisoners. He was arrested hours before public hearings into a controversial land development which he had vocally opposed. The development went ahead, and Karakashev has been imprisoned ever since. Plain-clothes officers burst into home on 1 February 2018, forced him to the floor, with his arms behind his back in handcuffs. There was a long period in police custody before he was able to phone a friend and ask for a lawyer to be contacted, and it seems likely that the multiple abrasions and other injuries were sustained during that period. The Russian-controlled police, however, have refused to initiate proceedings over his injuries in custody.
The charges laid against him pertained solely to very old posts on the VKontakte social network. Russia’s FSB claimed that the posts fell under Article 205.2 of Russia’s criminal code which punishes for something called ‘public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism’.
One of Karakashev’s very old (re)posts had been a video of the last interview given by the so-called Prymorsky Partisans . The ‘partisans’ in question were six vigilantes who waged a bloody war against the Russian police. In the video, they explained that they had declared war on the police because of the brutality and corruption entrenched in the Russian police force. The video was declared ‘extremist’ by a court in Russia, and copies of the interview posted on social media before the court ruling and forgotten, are used, when the FSB cannot find another pretext, for questionable prosecutions.
It was also claimed that at the end of 2014, Karakashev had made a pronouncement during a social media chat with other Crimean anarchists which “contained linguistic and psychological signs of incitement to carry out violent, destructive actions (blowing up cars, buildings, state authorities)”.
In fact, Karakashev had simply asked the other participants in the chat whether they thought the actions of the Prymorsky Partisans made sense. There were no calls to repeat them, nor was there any praise of their methods, and this was merely an invitation to dialogue.
It is likely that the main witness against Karakashev, Sergei Vasylenko, gave his testimony under duress. Vasylenko was prosecuted and imprisoned for 10 days in November 2016 after calling on people to boycott Russia’s illegal elections. Just before this, he posted an appeal on YouTube in which he spoke of attempts to bring criminal proceedings against him for supposed incitement to enmity.
After an extremely flawed trial held in the same district military court in Rostov-on-Don that has sentenced many Ukrainian political prisoners, Karakashev was sentenced on 19 April 2019 to six years’ imprisonment, with a further ban on administering Internet websites for two years.
That sentence was upheld on 15 August 2019 by Russia’s Supreme Court.
Ladin has, from the outset, condemned this case, pointing out that there was no element of a crime in the charges against the activist. He stresses that Russia is not just in violation of international law through its prosecution of Crimeans under Russian law, but of international conventions on human rights, since it is a direct attack on freedom of speech.
Although the Memorial Human Rights Centre has not yet formally declared Karakashev to be a political prisoner, it has added him to its list of likely victims of political persecution. There is a strong likelihood, Memorial HRC states, that “the criminal proceedings against Yevhen Karakashev were initiated in the context of his opposition civic and political activities as a frequent participant in protests in Crimea.” They view this as part of a mounting attack on left-wing activists and anti-fascists since January 2018.
Please write to Yevhen Karakashev!
Even just a few words will tell him and Russia that he is not forgotten. Letters need to be in Russian, and any political subjects or reference to his case should be avoided. If possible, include an envelope and some thin paper as he may well try to reply.
If Russian is a problem, the following would be fine, maybe with a photo or card
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 (use either English or Russian, it is only the letters themselves that need to be in Russian)
361423 Russian Federation, Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, Kamenka, 1 D.A. Miziev St, Prison Colony No. 3
Karakashev, Yevgeny Vitalievich
361423 РФ, Кабардино-Балкарская республика, Чегемский район, Поселок Каменка, Улица Д.А. Мизиева, 1, ФКУ Исправительная колония №3 УФСИН России по Кабардино-Балкарской Республике,
Каракашеву, Евгению Витальевичу