Chillingly Stalinist: ‘Confessions’ in Crimea & Russia to back any charges
Natalya Poklonskaya, installed as Crimean prosecutor after Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, has claimed that several people facing charges over the so-called ‘Feb 26, 2014’ case have ‘confessed’ and made a deal with the prosecutor’s office. The case is a legal nonsense about an event over which Russia has no jurisdiction; the charges against Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz unwarranted, but beat confessions out of people, and you have a case. Russia appears to be using the same tactics in a number of its cases where Ukrainian nationals are illegally held on spurious charges.
Poklonskaya is clearly asserting that people have agreed to ‘confess’ and testify against the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly in exchange for a lighter sentence. It is quite likely that the claim is untrue and simply aimed at stirring up distrust within the Crimean Tatar community. There is, for the moment, no way of knowing, since she speaks of several people ‘accused’, but does not give their names, citing investigation secrecy.
Most chillingly, she asserts that those who have agreed to ‘cooperate’ “will assist not only in solving the crime, but in presenting information about other crimes, new circumstances or episodes.”
The charges are against Chiygoz and some other Crimean Tatars who gathered outside parliament in Simferopol on Feb 26, 2014 to stop pro-Russian activists from seizing control. There were around 10 thousand Crimean Tatars present, less pro-Russian activists, led by Sergei Aksyonov, the then marginal pro-Russian politician who was installed as leader after Russian soldiers seized control on Feb 27. There is ample video footage proving that all members of the Mejlis present tried to calm the crowd. Most crucially, however, Russian law clearly prohibits the very initiating of criminal proceedings over an event that took place on Ukrainian territory and under Ukrainian law (see: Crimean Tatar leader imprisoned without trial)
Poklonskaya’s behaviour over this case, the politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment of Maidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko, and others, indicates that she was not appointed prosecutor for her understanding of the law or professionalism.
She is not, unfortunately, an exception, at least with respect to Russian prosecutions of Ukrainian nationals.
Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko are facing ‘terrorist plot’ charges that are likely to result in 20-year sentences. There is no evidence against Sentsov at all, and the involvement Kolchenko had in a firebomb incident in no way constitutes ‘terrorism’. The case against them is entirely based on the evidence of two men arrested around the same time who ‘confessed’ and made a deal with the investigators for a shorter sentence.
At the trial on Friday July 31, Gennady Afanasyev refused to testify against Sentsov and Kolchenko and retracted previous testimony, stating that it had been given under duress. Oleksy Chirniy had, the day before, also refused to give testimony in court (more details here ).
Russia is holding other Ukrainians in detention, with at least one of them – Serhiy Litvinov – having ‘confessed’ to multiple crimes against unidentified individuals, supposedly as a fighter in the Dnipro Volunteer Battalion. Litvinov is a cowherd from a village on the border with Russia and was seized last August and tortured after he crossed into Russia for treatment of acute toothache. The charges are manifestly absurd, and most appear to have been quietly dropped since a lawyer was taken on, yet Litvinov remains in custody (more details here).
The testimony given by Yury Yatsenko after his release give every reason for concern about all Ukrainian nationals held in Russian detention, or in detention in Russian-occupied Crimea
And follow the trial of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko which was almost certainly intended as a show trial of Ukrainian opponents of Russia’s occupation of Crimea.