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21.05.2000 | Evgen Zakharov, Kharkov

Just a little mistake

   

A Nikolay Velichko from Velykiy Burluk (a district center in Kharkov region) phoned to Kharkov human rights protection Group and asked to release his son Oleg who was arrested by militiamen from Velykiy Burluk precinct for deserting his military unit in Alupka (Article 240a of the Penal Code of Ukraine)… seven years ago. Father said that this is a misunderstanding because his military book shows that he finished the military service. I asked father to bring the documents and phoned to lieutenant colonel Kostenko from Kharkov region recruiting committee, with whom we had had multiple contacts concerning deserters. Kostenko checked the necessary file and said that it was a kind of misunderstanding. Really, in 1991 Oleg Velichko deserted from his unit because of ‘dedovshchina’, but father immediately brought him to the commandant’s office, Oleg was transferred to another unit where he finished his service and was demobbed in 1993. Somehow nobody informed the first unit about the transfer, and the unit finally started the search. From Velykiy Burluk precinct I learned that the arrested Oleg was expecting the convoy for bringing him to Yalta preliminary prison.

I attempted to take the guy from behind the bars. Kostenko at once explained to me that to clear up the understanding is beyond his competence. The militia chief from Velykiy Burluk said that it was certainly a misunderstanding, but he had no right to disobey the order from Yalta. Yalta answered between the teeth that they had the order to find Velichko and they fulfilled the order. They disregarded my explanations and advised to contact the prosecutor of Simferopol garrison, who had given the warrant. The prosecutor appeared to be incommunicado.

The strategy was clear: to stop this irresponsible affair by a phone from the top. Through a chain of acquaintances I contacted big brass from the main martial prosecutor’s office. They phoned to Kharkov and asked to solve the problem. The case was handed to lieutenant colonel Sereda. The latter was polite, he confessed that a mistake had been made, but he had no right to release Oleg Velichko, it could be done only after receiving a teletype from the Crimea. But the Crimea was silent. The lieutenant colonel again phoned to the Crimea and to Kharkov region Directorate of Interior. All in all many people were contacted and all understood that a misunderstanding had happened. But nobody had enough competence to release the guy. In a couple of days the Crimea responded at last, and Oleg Velichko was released.

This is a very brief account of a long and cumbersome case. It testifies that the Soviet system is practically intact: to arrest one is easy, but to release is next to impossible. If I could not contact the top Kyivan brass, Oleg would be taken to Kharkov preliminary prison, where he would hang about a couple of months before the transfer to Yalta, and who knows how would finish the trial.

And today another father of another deserter has phoned.

P.S. All names of officials have been changed.

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