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.

FSB "expert" finds UN & OSCE guilty of calls to violate Russian territorial integrity

Halya Coynash

Russia’s security service [FSB] has clearly become accustomed to using a combination of puppet ‘lawyers’ and torture to obtain ‘confessions’ before most of its extremism cases hit the court.  This is not working in Crimea under Russian occupation, with defendants like journalist Mykola Semena, Crimean Tatar leaders Ilmi Umerov, Akhtem Chiygoz and their defence lawyers pointing to staggering depths of shoddy incompetence. 

The same Russian FSB ‘expert’ who found separatism in a language (Crimean Tatar) that she doesn’t know, has also detected ‘calls to violate Russia’s territorial integrity’ in an article by Ukrainian journalist Mykola Semena.  The problem with the FSB guidelines Olga Ivanova cited during the court hearing on July 7 is that, following her logic, the FSB should also be charging UN and OSCE representatives of most countries with calls encroaching upon its territory. 

Semena is accused under Article 280.1 of Russia’s Criminal Code of having made ‘public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity’  The ‘calls’ were supposedly found in an article entitled “The Blockade – a necessary first step to the liberation of Crimea”.  The text was written in September 2015, and posted on Krym.Realii as an opinion piece, a response to the concerns expressed in a first op-ed about hardships that the civic blockade, initiated with detailed human rights demands, could cause. 

 “The Blockade must be full, systematic and designed so that it is followed by liberation”, Semena wrote. “Yes, Ukraine will never bring war to Crimea, that’s true.  Because it [war] was brought there by Russia.  The fact that in Crimea there is no military action now, is to the credit of Ukraine, not of Russia.  Ukraine handed Crimea over when it was not able defend it, but that doesn’t mean for ever.”

Ivanova has already demonstrated her willingness to provide whatever ‘expert ‘assessment’ that her FSB employers demand.  It is her assessment that finds the same ‘public calls to violate Russia’s territorial integrity’ in an interview given by Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov in Crimean Tatar which she does not understand.  Since she never mentions that she was reading a poor translation, not the original, it seems likely she was well aware of the flagrant breaches of procedure in her behaviour.

At the hearing into the charges against Semena, she says that she carried out her ‘assessment’ from May 16 to 19, 2016 on the article posted on Krym.Realii. In fact, she appears to have been sent screenshots of the text as it was being written.  There are screenshots in the file dated September 9, 2015, although a court order was provided only the following day.  Semena has said that he had felt under surveillance for some time, and there was clearly somebody in the FSB literally following every move he made on his computer.

Ivanova claimed that such ‘public calls’ were directed at an addressee to spur him/her to specific action.  What was in question, she said, was the return of Crimea to Ukraine, with this found in the words “It [Russia] must return Crimea”.

Linguist Ivanova’s ‘expert assessment’ was based on four method guidelines, all from the FSB.  Asked by Semena’s lawyer Alexander Popkov why there were no scholarly works, she claimed these were not required.

Perhaps not required by her paymasters, but it might have saved her text from the gross grammatical mistakes which Popkov pointed out.  It became clear from the questioning that this FSB-employed linguist had simply copy-pasted from the FSB guidelines, mistakes and all.

According to Russian legislation, a ‘public call to action’ needs an addressee.  Ivanova had different ideas.  In response to Popkov’s question about the addressee in the sentence “the blockade should be intensified”, Ivanova claimed that the modal of obligation (should be) constituted such a call.

Pushed on this, she was, however, forced to acknowledge that there was no specific addressee in the phrase “the blockade should be”, that this “follows from the context” and, eventually, that the supposed ‘public calls’ had been indirect, with the audience also just as vague.

In a correct, yet somewhat unexpected move, the judge allowed the defence’s application to include in the case material the UN General Assembly’s Resolution from March 27, 2014, 68/282 on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, as well as excerpts from the UN Charter on the principle of territorial integrity.

It should be noted that the said UN Resolution, as well as resolutions from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and many other such documents are teeming with statements which Ivanova should also consider to be ‘public calls aimed at violating Russian territorial integrity’.  Take, for example, the quite unequivocal position from the UN General Assembly which “calls upon all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”

Just as little to Russia’s liking must be the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution adopted on July 7, 2017 which “condemns Russia’s “unilateral and unjustified assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In a recent interview, 67-year-old Semena asked why on earth a country in the XXI century thought it needed “such degradation, resorting to the politically-motivated persecution of entirely law-abiding people”.  Neither Semena nor his lawyers expect a just verdict in this surreal case, but it is Russia that is irrevocably burying its reputation through such ‘trials’. 



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