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Crimean ‘terrorist plot’ suspect in Russian psychiatric ward

19.08.2014

[photo: Wikipedia]

Alexei Chirny, one of the four Crimeans known for their opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and now facing extremely dubious ‘terrorist charges’ in Moscow, has written a letter seemingly from a psychiatric ward within the Butyrka pre-trial detention centre asking for the Ukrainian consul to come and see him.  Gordon.ua reports that a copy of the letter was passed to the NGO ‘Open Dialogue’.  The NGO has, together with Ukraine’s consul in Russia, Hennady Bryskalenko, had previously tried, without success, to find out where Chirny was being held. 

The letter asks for the consul to visit him and states that he is a Ukrainian national, having formally rejected Russian citizenship on April 18, 2014 in the Crimea.

As reported here, four Crimeans, all known for their non-violent opposition to Russia’s occupation of the Crimea, were arrested in May of this year, and soon afterwards taken to Moscow where they have been held ever since on charges which raise serious doubts. 

38-year-old Oleg Sentsov, renowned Ukrainian film director, solo father of two, EuroMaidan activist and staunch opponent of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea has been accused of master-minding an alleged ’Right Sector terrorist’ plot

The FSB is claiming that he, Alexander Kolchenko; Gennady Afanasyev and  Alexei Chirny are members of a Right Sector ‘diversionary terrorist group’.  Their main aim, or so the FSB version goes, was to carry out ‘diversionary-terrorist’ acts in Simferopol; Yalta and Sevastopol, and in the last of these to destroy a number of buildings, railway bridges and power lines.

The FSB claim that searches carried out in the homes of the suspects found: ‘explosive substances; firearms; ammunitions; canisters with inflammatory liquid; construction masks (similar to those used during the disturbances on Maidan); respirators; gas masks; aerosol cans with paint; nationalist symbols, etc.”

There has been international protest over Sentsov’s detention, and an Amnesty International urgent action calling for the release of Sentsov and Kolchenko.  The difficulty up till now with Afanasyev and Chirny was that they both appeared to have ‘confessed’, almost certainly under duress, and there was virtually no contact with their relatives and lawyers.   This is particular true of Chirny about whom almost nothing is known. 

It remains to be seen whether the Russian authorities will allow the consul to visit Chirny.  There are certainly some pressing questions, including why he is being held in a psychiatric ward, if this is the case.

[Halya Coynash]

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