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22.11.2019 | Halya Coynash

Russia continues its revenge on Maidan activists, while giving shelter to Berkut suspected killers

   

This sixth anniversary of the beginning of the Euromaidan protests is especially sombre as Ukraine’s President and parliamentarians appear unwilling to prevent the collapse of investigations into Maidan crimes. This could result in more suspects fleeing to Russia or occupied Crimea where a number of former Berkut officers suspected of involvement in the gunning down of protesters have already been given shelter and Russian citizenship. The anniversary must also be bitterly poignant for Andriy Kolomiyets, a young Ukrainian sentenced by a Russian-controlled court to 10 years’ imprisonment for being on Maidan in 2014.

There are two other Maidan activists – Mykola Shyptur and Valentin Vyhivsky – among the Kremlin’s Ukrainian political prisoners, however the case of Kolomiyets and that of another Ukrainian, Oleksandr Kostenko who was released in 2018 after serving his sentence, stand out for the openness of the reprisals against Maidan activists.

The ‘trials’ of Kolomiyets and Kostenko were not the first time that the Russian occupation ‘authorities’ in Crimea had fabricated charges against Ukrainians, including Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz, in connections with events over which Russia could have no jurisdiction.  These ‘Maidan trials’ were, nonetheless, especially surreal as the entirely unprovable charges pertained to protests in Kyiv that ended before Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

Kolomiyets, who is from Kyiv oblast, was living in the Northern Caucuses (Russia) with his partner (now wife) Galina and her four children, when he was arrested on 15 May 2015. 

Galina recalls that the first thing that the officers said was that Kolomiyets was a Maidan activist.  During the search, they ‘found’ a small package with some hashish in her ex-husband’s safe.  She understood not to touch the planted ‘evidence’ and the police were finally forced to leave without recording the hashish in the protocol, with this witnessed by a woman who was staying in their place. 

The prosecution then claimed that Kolomiyets, who was then 22, had been ‘released’ in Nalchik where he was supposed to have stayed the night at the station, then gone to some field by one taxi, gathered some hashish growing wild, 150 grams of which the officers then ‘found’ in another taxi that he was driving in. ‘

This wildly implausible story was used as the pretext for arresting the young Ukrainian, however it was no accident that the officer mentioned Maidan at the outset.  Kolomiyets was taken to Russian-occupied Crimea where he became the second Maidan activist to be charged on the basis of ‘testimony’ from former Ukrainian Berkut turncoats, now working for the Russian FSB. 

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’ and four for the supposed possession of hashish (Article 228). This was later confirmed at appeal level by ‘judge’ Halyna Redko from the de facto Crimean High Court who has already been involved in other political trials.

Both ‘courts’ had ignored the harrowing account given by Kolomiyets of the torture he had been subjected to, and there has never been any proper investigation.

The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared Kolomiyets a political prisoner, and all UN, European Parliament and other resolutions on the dire human rights situation in occupied Crimea demand his release, together with that of the Kremlin’s other political prisoners (please write to Andriy at the address given below).

Rewards for Maidan repression

Former Berkut officers, involved in trying to crush Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests, have been handed keys to state flats in occupied Crimea and / or received praise for their supposed ‘courage and heroism’.  Many are now working in Rosgvardia, the Russian ‘National Guard’ created by Russian President Vladimir Putin and widely viewed as a body created to crush mounting civic protest.  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.   

Two men, who held high-ranking posts in the Ukrainian enforcement bodies and who are suspected of serious crimes during Euromaidan, have been seen in Moscow, helping Putin’s regime violently disperse peaceful protesters.  

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.  These were the statistics before suspected Maidan killer Vitaly Honcharenko and three other Maidan crime suspects were left free to flee across the border into Russia.

As reported, in Ukraine Maidan investigations are now facing dangerous limbo or even suspension due to the transfer of investigations to the State Bureau of Investigations, without an appropriate department with continuity of investigators having been ensured. One consequence of any suspension is that those suspects currently under restraint measures will have all restrictions removed, leaving nothing to stop them also fleeing to Russia which is more likely to employ them in crushing protest than to return them to face a fair trial.

PLEASE WRITE TO ANDRIY KOLOMIYETS!

It is very important that he – and Moscow – know that he is not forgotten.

Address

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]

The address can be in either Russian or English, but unfortunately letters, which will be checked, need to be in Russian and on ‘safe’ subjects. .  If this is a problem, you could simply copy-paste the letter below, maybe with a photo or picture.

Добрый день,

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. 

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