Grave concerns for tortured Ukrainian hostage as Russia concocts new charges
Photo: Anton Naumlyuk
The 10 months in which Ukrainian Stanislav Klykh was illegally held and tortured by Russian investigators, with no access to lawyers or to his family, have left deep psychological, as well as physical scars on the 42-year-old historian. It is his clearly disturbed state which makes the new ‘investigation’ against him particularly cynical.
Klykh is now facing prosecution for “contempt of court” after a psychiatric assessment claimed nothing untoward about his mental state. Hearings had been adjourned and the assessment ordered in January because of Klykh’s obviously distressed state and inadequate behaviour in court.
There had been no earlier investigation into both men’s allegations of torture, including, in Klykh’s case, the application of psychotropic drugs, nor any independent psychiatric assessment. His lawyer Marina Dubrovina had sought a psychiatric investigation from the outset, but any checks carried out were totally perfunctory (details here). The ‘examination’ by the Russian prison service’s psychiatrists in January resulted in Klykh receiving an improbable clean state of health and then being forcibly administered unidentified drugs. These were probably heavy-duty tranquilizers, but his lawyer’s attempts to ascertain their nature were fruitless.
Dubrovina has told Radio Svoboda that the new investigation has commenced with Klykh being presented with a linguistic assessment of his words in court. These have been deemed ‘insulting’. Klykh reacted to attempts to interrogate him over this by denying that he had used the words, and citing his right to not testify against himself (under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution).
Meanwhile Dubrovina has applied for Klykh to receive a proper psychiatric assessment in hospital.
If found guilty of this new charge, Klykh would be fined, ordered to do compulsory work or imprisoned for up to four months. The same judge Vakhit Ismailov tried to bring such charges against the then still imprisoned Nadiya Savchenko’s sister, Vera. She was even initially declared on the ‘wanted list’. Ismailov has also initiated a serious attempt at reprisals against Dubrovina and Karpyuk’s lawyer Dokka Itslayev.
Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were recently sentenced to 20 and 22.5 years’ imprisonment, respectively, in what Zoya Svetova, a prominent rights activist, has called “one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea”.
There had been, Svetova wrote, “an unequivocal order to arrest Ukrainian nationalists” who were to describe alleged crimes committed by the then Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of the national Right Sector Dmytro Yarosh, and other high-ranking Ukrainians. “And this was done”.
Russia claimed that Klykh and 53-year-old Karpyuk had (together with Yatsenyuk, Yarosh, etc.) taken part in fighting in Chechnya 20 years ago and that during battles in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995 they had killed a number of Russian soldiers. Karpyuk was accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking’ and Klykh of taking part in it. The case was entirely based on their ‘confessions’ extracted during the 18 months that Karpyuk was held totally incommunicado and without proper lawyers, and 10 months in Klykh’s case. This is backed by provably wrong testimony provided by a Ukrainian national Oleksandr Malofeyev already serving a 23-year sentence and directly dependent on the Russian prison authorities for life-saving medication.
The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has followed both Russia’s wars in Chechnya and was therefore well-placed to assess the prosecution’s case. In a four-part analysis, it demolished the entire indictment and left no doubt about the methods that had been used to extract insane ‘confessions’ to heinous crimes supposedly committed together with Yatsenyuk & Co. The methods included threats to apply the same torture to Karpyuk’s wife and small child.
It was on the basis of this devastating assessment of the charges that in February 2016 Memorial declared both men political prisoners.
In its statement on Feb 17, Memorial rightly called the trial part of the unrelenting anti-Ukrainian campaign in the Russian state media and pronouncements from high-ranking Russian officials. One such official was Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee who repeated as fact the claims that the men had fought together with future prime minister Yatsenyuk, Yarosh and numerous other prominent Ukrainians. These were the kind of ‘confessions’ that did not worry the jury (see The Chilling side to Russia’s claims about Yatsenyuk as Chechnya fighter)
In its analysis, Memorial HRC demonstrated that the indictment contained fictitious crimes, a huge number of factual mistakes and was almost totally based on testimony which the men had retracted. Some of the lurid confessions were too heinous crimes which had simply never happened. These, Memorial was convinced, had been left in the indictment deliberately. Since there were no charges, the defence was not given the chance to demonstrate this, unlike the prosecutor who could read the nonsense out to influence the jury.
Of the 30 Russian soldiers who really did die, 18 were killed in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claimed. Only one man had died, as per the prosecution’s story, of gunfire, but not from the type of gun that the investigators claim was used.
The case is an especially damning indictment of Russia’s treatment of Ukrainians held hostage and willingness to extract any ‘confessions’ through the use of torture
More details about the Memorial analysis here:
Please write to the men - even a single sentence or two will send an important message both to them, and to the Russian authorities, that they are not forgotten.
The addresses: Mykola Karpyuk (in Russian Nikolai)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Карпюку, Николаю (1964)
364037, г. Грозный, Ленинский р-он, ул. Кунта-Хаджи Кишиева, 2. Следственный изолятор №1, Клыху, Станиславу (1974)
Or send your letters to post.rosuznik[at]gmail.com, a civic initiative helping to get mail to Russian-held political prisoners They will deal with writing the envelope and sending it on. .
If you are unable to write in Russian, the following would be quite sufficient:
Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение.
(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).