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26.08.2020 | Halya Coynash
The right to a fair trial

Jailed 62-year-old Ukrainian charged with planning to force Russia out of Crimea with a Molotov cocktail

Oleh Prykhodko at his home Photo Crimean Human Rights Group
   

The trial is continuing in Rostov (Russia) of 62-year-old Crimean Oleh Prykhodko, the latest Ukrainian to be facing charges almost certainly linked with the Ukrainian flag flown proudly over his home and his unconcealed and vehement opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea.  The implausible charges based on obviously falsified material would be comical were the likely sentence against a man with numerous health problems not huge, and the chances of a fair trial effectively nil.

It is quite possible that the implausibility and falsification of evidence are deliberately brazen, sending a warning to others who express pro-Ukrainian views of what they can expect if they don’t leave Crimea. 

Prykhodko was arrested on 9 October 2019, a month after the first significant release Ukrainian political prisoners, including Volodymyr Balukh, whose case in many ways was a precursor to Prykhodko’s.  Both men openly expressed their position on Russian occupation and had a Ukrainian flag over their homes.  Both had experienced multiple forms of harassment before the FSB turned up and claimed to have ‘found’ either ammunition, in Balukh’s attic, or explosive devices, in Prykhodko’s garage.  All such previous harassment meant that the men would have needed to be suicidally reckless to have kept anything illegal in homes just waiting for the next FSB search. Prykhodko used the garage where the FSB allegedly found inflammatory substances (Molotov cocktails) as a workshop for metalwork and the soldering equipment, etc. meant that any such substances could have caused a serious fire.

It became clear during the hearing on 18 August that essentially all of the supposed ‘material evidence’ against Prykhodko was extremely suspect. 

During the first ‘search’ in October 2019, the officers allegedly found a memory stick hidden in the bottom of a flower pot inside the Prykhodko home.  Lyubov Prykhodko stated at the time, and confirmed in court, that the memory stick was neither hers, nor her husband’s, and noted how suspiciously clean it seemed and unharmed, which would have certainly been strange since she watered the plant every couple of days.

She was equally emphatic that a BQ mobile phone, allegedly found in a wardrobe, had not been there before.  As with regard to the supposed explosive substances, she also noted that since she was the one who dealt with all the couple’s finances, there was simply no way for the items to have appeared without her knowledge. The same applies to the bucket that the items were allegedly found in which she denies ever having seen before.  They don’t have any buckets, she says, and have always stored things in empty paint tins.  

Her testimony, as well as that of Prykhodko himself, about his extremely elementary computer and mobile telephone skills was confirmed in court on 18 August by two defence witnesses (Alexander Shishkin and Alexander Vinnychenko), both of whom often saw Prykhodko in a work and / or social capacity.  All are adamant that Prykhodko used the computer which their daughter had got them merely for reading the news, or for speaking on Skype.  He says himself that he constantly had to ring up his daughter to ask her which key to press, and would doubtless not have known how to connect a memory stick to the computer.

All of the witnesses agreed that Prykhodko used his Blackberry telephone that he’s had for years to make phone calls, and that he would have had no idea how to write or send text messages.

The men who came ‘to search’ Prykhodko’s garage brought their own ‘official witnesses’ with them. They also found the explosives suspiciously quickly and then rejected Prykhodko’s suggestion that they search his second garage.  Such a refusal makes sense solely if they knew that the only dangerous explosives were those that they themselves had planted.

Later that evening, while already in detention, a person claiming to be a doctor took a biological sample from Prykhodko’s mouth.  There are procedural requirements where taking DNA and the fact that Prykhodko was effectively tricked into providing it without a lawyer present suggests that the DNA was needed for falsifying evidence.

All of this has already been seen in other politically-motivated trials, such as that of Volodymyr Dudka and Oleksandr Bessarabov.

The charges against Prykhodko hinge entirely on those explosives, and on the contents of a memory stick and alleged activities with a telephone that the couple are adamant were not there before the officers arrived.  There is corroborating evidence for this as far as the phone is concerned in that no charger, nor packaging was found.

Prykhodko is charged under three articles of Russia’s illegally applied criminal code: Article 205 § 1 - planning terrorist acts – the Saki Administration in Crimea and Russian general consulate in Lviv; Article 223.1 (illegally preparing explosive substances) and 222.1 § 1 (purchasing or storing explosives).  The prosecution is claiming that Prykhodko was both a ‘Nazi’ and a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and that he planned such terrorist acts, one from a significant distance, out of the wish to force Russia (or “the authorities in Crimea”) to return the peninsula to Ukraine.  The absurdity of any such aspirations is not the only problem with this alleged motive and claims about Prykhodko’s ‘ideology’.  During the 18 August hearing, the prosecution read out a Wikipedia entry on the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) as ‘evidence’ in the case.  The court then rejected the entirely legitimate request from the defence that such ‘evidence’ be gleaned from Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and not from a Wikipedia page that essentially anybody can create.  While there may be some tenuous point to the mention of OUN, there is none in the claims about supposed ‘Nazism’ and its obsession with ‘racial purity’.  The enforcement officers who burst into the Prykhodko home also took away their Crimean Tatar flag, and the Crimean Tatar community have been active in their support for Prykhodko.

Russia’s claim that Prykhodko was planning to use the explosives to blow up the Saki city administration building seems to be based solely on the allegedly found explosives.  It was only after the defence were finally able to see the case material in January 2020 that a second, much more bizarre, charge emerged.  Prykhodko is accused of having planned to set fire to the Russian general consulate building in Lviv, Western Ukraine.

It is claimed that Prykhodkho decided to do this in October 2019 and that he found “an unidentified individual” in mainland Ukraine, phoned him and then corresponded by text messages.  All of this was on a telephone which the couple said from the beginning was not theirs and for which there was no charger.  And via text messages which Prykhodko has almost certainly never written or sent in his life, and with the FSB mysteriously unable to identify who the alleged conversations and correspondence were with.

The next hearing is on 27 August.

PLEASE WRITE TO OLEH PRYKHODKO!

Letters send an important message, telling him that he is not forgotten, while also showing Moscow that the ‘trial’ is being followed. Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that he can answer.

Sample letter

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 

The envelopes can be written in Russian or English as below.

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Приходько, Олегу Аркадьевичу, 1958 г.р.

 [In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Prykhodko, Oleg Arkadievych, b. 1958 ]


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