war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Moscow court finds the arrest of abducted asylum seeker Leonid Razvozzaev legal

Halya Coynash
Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted in Kyiv while applying for political asylum and forcibly taken to Moscow, yet the response within Ukraine has been dangerously muted


A Moscow court on Wednesday upheld the remand in custody of the Left Front activist who was brought to Moscow by force after being abducted outside the UNHCR offices in Kyiv. Mr Razvozzhaev was in the process of applying for political asylum.  He was abducted in broad daylight, thrust into a car with Ukrainian number plates and would seem to have immediately been taken by car to Moscow where, two days later, a court remanded him in custody for at least two months. The charges against him – of organizing mass riots - are based on allegations made during an anti-opposition programme shown by the pro-Kremlin NTV channel. reports that the court’s ruling on Wednesday was met with shouts of “Shame!” from those present. Lawyer Anna Stavitskaya says that the court ruling came as no surprise and that it was needed in order to now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

During the court hearing, Razvozzhaev stated for the first time publicly that he had been abducted, subjected to torture and pressure. He said that he had written the “confession” as dictated to him. “The beat the confession out of me, forced me to testify against leaders of the opposition – Navalny, Udaltsov, Ponomaryov, they threatened members of my family and children”.

“I ask for protection for my family, ” Leonid Razvozzhaev stated, “they threatened to kill them, including my children. It’s better they go abroad”.

Anna Stavitskaya said that if the court accepts his “confession”, it should release him since he has voluntarily stated that he did not commit a crime. If it does not accept the confession, then it should release him since there are no other grounds for holding him in custody.

Leonid Razvozzaev stressed that in Ukraine he had stayed within the framework of the law and that he had approached a body with which Russia has an international agreement.

Ukraine too is bound by the same international agreement yet the authorities continue denying any responsibility and effectively refusing to investigate further.

The words below have already been said, in most cases not just once.  They are stubbornly repeated since the conclusion seems unavoidable that the authorities are all saying nothing, assuming that the media, and with them the public, will forget.  The assumption is all too often correct.

So as reported, Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted from the centre of Kyiv on 17 October, and remanded in custody by a Moscow court two days later.

The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service has refused to provide the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda with information about where Razvozzhaev crossed the border on 19 October.  It claims that it has not been “authorized” by Leonid Razvozzhaev to disclose the information. 

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry provided staggering commentary with Ministry spokesperson Volodymyr Polishchuk informing journalists that although the investigation by the Ministry into Razvozzhaev’s abduction was due to continue until 29 October, they were already able on 24 October to say that no criminal investigation could be initiated over the abduction. A foreign national, he said, had been abducted by a foreign security service and such bodies could not be expected to exchange information regarding such activities.

The fact that this official remains in his post after making such a statement leads one to suspect that the authorities were at very least aware of the planned abduction. It is hard to imagine that they were only passively aware since Razvozzhaev needed to be taken – against his will – across Ukraine’s state border. 

A member of staff in the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Secretariat said that Ms Lutkovska had sent information requests to the relevant departments.  Since then, however, there has been no response from the Ombudsperson as to what, if any, answer has been received. 

Nor has there been any action.

This is despite the fact that Mr Razvozzaev is the second Russian national to have sought international protection in Ukraine and been returned by force to Russia, almost certainly with the connivance of the Ukrainian authorities.

Such failure to act sends a clear – and highly dangerous – message to those in Ukraine with authority in such cases that fundamental principles of international law can be breached with impunity. The consequences of this are all too clear.

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