Russia abducts one Ukrainian political prisoner, now INTERPOL is helping to arrest his friend
INTERPOL has added a 20-year-old Ukrainian to the international wanted list despite ample grounds for suspecting Russia’s motives in seeking to prosecute him. Stefan Kapinos shared the same social media account as Pavlo Hryb, the Ukrainian student whom Russia illegally kidnapped from Belarus in August 2017 and has held prisoner ever since.
INTERPOL states on its site that the charges cited as given as provided by the country making the request. Perhaps so, however it seems unlikely that they would not have corrected the English, had they carried out any proper check before issuing the Red Notice with respect to the young Ukrainian. Their site states that Kapinos is wanted to face charges of “assistance in the persuasion of other person to perpetrate the terrorist attack”.
Despite the misleading English, there was no terrorist attack, and there is also no real evidence that one was ever planned.
Russia’s FSB claim that Hryb encouraged his 17-year-old Russian girlfriend, whom he’d met on the Internet, to plant a self-made explosive device in a school on June 30, 2017. He is supposed to have suggested this by Skype between March 27 and April 13, 2017.
The FSB have not provided the original Ukrainian for the alleged suggestions, giving only what they claim to be a translation into Russian. There does not appear to be independent proof of those conversations, and there is certainly nothing to suggest that they went beyond remarks in response to the young girl Tatyana Yershova’s complaints about the school where she was very unhappy. Other correspondence between the two shows that from a month after the alleged mention of a plan to commit an act of terrorism, there is not one word about it. Nothing before the alleged date chosen for the bomb, not on the day, nor afterwards. Since nothing at all happened, the only justification for the FSB’s abduction of Hryb and this prosecution lies in some Skype messages which the FSB are not providing in the original language.
This is particularly suspect given that the FSB also did nothing, though they had presumably learned of the alleged ‘plan’. It was on July 4, that they burst in to and searched Yershova’s flat, apparently after having launched a criminal investigation. By July 28, the FSB had designated Hryb as the ‘accused’ in this story, and they then set about intimidating the young girl into persuading Hryb, who was just 19, to meet her in Belarus. It was immediately after that meeting, that Hryb was seized and taken by force to Russia.
Yershova told Ukrainian journalists shortly after it became clear that Hryb had been abducted, that she had been threatened with prosecution herself by the FSB unless she ‘cooperated’. This, unfortunately, meant first helping them to abduct the young Ukrainian from another country, and now, seemingly, to give the testimony they demand of her.
Interestingly, her best friend recently gave testimony in court which was entirely in Hryb’s favour. She also stated that she had not made some of the assertions that the ‘investigators’ claimed in her earlier questioning.
It only transpired that there was a third person in this case at the first attempt to begin Hryb’s trial on 23 July 2018, when the prosecutor read out the indictment. This claimed that Hryb had been complicit with a Ukrainian national identifying himself as Stefab Augustinovich Kapinos. At that stage the prosecution was clearly not sure whether this was the person’s real name, or only the name used on the Internet.
The prosecution asserts that Hryb and Kapinos met back in 2013 (when they would each have been around 15) and Kapinos told Pavlo that he “knew about methods of preparing explosive devices, homemade explosive devices and the methods of detonating them with the use of an explosion”. They claim also that Kapinos incited Yershova together with Hryb.
Hryb’s lawyer, Marina Dubrovina explains that the two young men had a shared VKontakte account. She even assumed back in July that the two might not have known each other in real time, though Hryb’s father says that he once met with Kapinos, and had earlier spoken on the phone with both him and his mother. They had lost contact, however. Kapinos is reportedly now studying in Switzerland.
It is to be hoped that the Swiss authorities will immediately understand the lack of any grounds for complying with INTERPOL’s Red Notice against the young man.
Had there been any substance to the charges, Russia’s FSB would not have kidnapped a teenager, but used the correct procedure.
Hryb and Yershova unfortunately arranged to meet on Ukraine’s Independence Day, 24 August 2017 in Gomel, Belarus. Ihor Hryb understood swiftly that something was wrong when his son failed to return or get in touch and set off for Belarus in search of him. The coach driver confirmed that Pavlo had entered Belarus without any problem. This is of major importance since Ihor Hryb saw on a tablet screen, while talking to the Belarusian border guards, something suggesting that his son was on a ‘wanted list’.
Had he been on an international wanted list, then he would have been stopped on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, with the Ukrainian authorities informed. Instead he passed into Belarus with no difficulty, and was, he later told his lawyer, seized by unidentified individuals who pushed him into a car.
Pavlo Hryb could not have been taken from Belarus into Russia without the Belarusian side being at least aware what was happening. There is simply no possibility that the young man, who has openly expressed his views about Russian aggression and whose father was working for the Chaplain Service of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, would have voluntarily entered Russia.
It was only on September 13, 2017 that Russia officially admitted that Hryb was in their custody, although it later transpired that a court in Krasnodar had issued an arrest warrant back on August 17.
Russia is now claiming that Pavlo was ‘arrested’ in Russia’s Smolensk on August 25.
It is likely that the delay in revealing his whereabouts was so that the FSB could try to force a ‘confession’ out of the young man to the quite incredible charge of incitement to commit a terrorist act, under Article 205 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.
Russia has continued to flout the order from the European Court of Human Rights to allow Hryb to be examined by Ukrainian doctors, including the specialist who has treated Pavlo since early childhood.
It is quite possible that the FSB did not know about Pavlo’s state of health when they illicitly reading the correspondence of two infatuated teenagers. They do now, yet are ignoring the grave risk to his life they are posing by holding him in a stuffy cell and preventing him from receiving vital medication. It is effectively falsifying the medical records in order to not acknowledge the seriousness of Hryb’s condition and the real danger to his life that his imprisonment is posing.
Please write to Pavlo!
It is very important to show him – and Moscow – that he is not forgotten. Please use the Russian version of his name (Pavel) in any letters and avoid either politics or mention of the ‘case’. Letters need to be in Russian. If this is a problem, you could copy the letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo.
[In Russian] РФ 344082, Ростовская обл, Ростов-на-Дону, улица Большая Садовая, 31, ФКУ СИЗО-4 ФСИН РОССИИ
Грибу, Павлу Игоревичу, 1988 г.
[In English] Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO 4
Hryb, Pavel Igorevich (b. 1998)
Желаю Тебе здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь, что очень скоро вернешься домой. Извини меня, что так мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Тебе помним.
[Hi. I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon return home. I’m sorry that this letter is so short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but we’re all thinking about you. ]