• Topics / Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea
Ukrainian tortured by FSB into "confessing" to sabotage plot jailed on different charge
There is no proof that Oleksiy Stohniy was tortured by the FSB in November 2016, yet how else do you explain why he ‘confessed’ to being part of a Ukrainian Crimea sabotage plot for Russia state television and the fact that he has now been sentenced to three and a half years' imprisonment on different charges? It is equally difficult to explain why he was shown, with clear signs of having been beaten, on a video that purported to show his daytime arrest near Sevastopol, when he was, in fact, seized during the night at the crossing between Crimea and mainland Ukraine.
Stohniy’s ‘trial’ was held, behind closed doors, on July 17, 2017 in the Russian-controlled Kievsky District Court in occupied Simferopol. The Crimean Human Rights Group has learned that Stohniy, who is from Sevastopol, was charged under two articles of the Russian criminal code: Article 222 § 1 - illegally obtaining, selling, possessing, transporting, etc. a weapon, or part of a weapon; and Article 223 § 1 – illegal production, adaptation or repair of a firearm and ammunition.
Stohniy is the third Ukrainian whose ‘confessions’ to involvement in a Ukrainian Crimean saboteur plot have been widely shown on Russian television, with the actual charges at trial stage quite different. The other two are Redvan Suleymanov and Volodymyr Prysich.
Stohniy is one of five (or six) men arrested as part of the FSB’s second attempt at a ‘Ukrainian Crimean saboteur plot’ in November 2016.
On Nov 9, two well-known academics - Dmytro Shtyblikov and Oleksiy Bessarabov - were arrested in Sevastopol together with a retired Ukrainian military officer Volodymyr Dudka. The FSB claimed that they were “members of a sabotage – terrorist group of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Central Intelligence Department” who were planning acts of sabotage on military and other infrastructure”.
Two younger men - Oleksiy Stohniy and Hlib Shabliy were arrested, or so the FSB claimed, 10 days later, with this followed on Nov 24 by the arrest of Leonid Parkhomenko, a long-retired Black Sea Fleet captain.
In all cases, the only material came from FSB videos widely shown on Russia TV. While supposedly the men’s ‘confessions’, the videos were in total breach of criminal procedure. The person questioning them is not visible, nor a lawyer, and most often they have clearly been cut and pasted together.
The news of Stohniy and Shabliy’s arrest came on Nov 20, from a feature on Rossiya 24, entitled ‘The latest failure by Ukrainian intelligence: saboteurs failed to harm Crimea” Stohniy is claimed to be an officer of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence [HUR], while Shabliy is referred to as a Ukrainian officer, a Rank 2 captain in the Ukrainian Fleet. Stohniy is said to work in a shop selling toys and office supplies, and Shabliy is also described as a businessman, with it claimed that in both cases the men’s jobs were ‘cover’ for their actual activities working for Ukrainian intelligence.
The video in Stohniy’s case purported to show his arrest and also presented him supposedly confessing to spying on behalf of Ukraine.
Stohniy shows clear signs of having been very roughly treated, and the presenter (propaganda spin doctor Dmitry Kiselyov) asserts that he had been prepared for trouble and had taken a pistol (shown) and “therefore the special unit detained him very roughly”.
This was the second such show around alleged ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’. One of the problems with the first show was that the four detained men all ‘confessed’ to spying but never named each other (unsurprisingly, since they were complete strangers). Here, during the ‘confession’, Stohniy mentions the supposed ringleader Shtyblikov.
He still looks very much the worse for wear and gives the impression of reciting what is demanded of him.
Back in May this year, Oksana Stohniy explained at a press conference in Kyiv what had, in fact, taken place. She and her husband have two daughters, one of whom is already studying in Kyiv. The younger had serious medical issues and this was the reason why Stohniy resigned from the Ukrainian military back in 1997, and the family moved back to Sevastopol for a better climate for their daughter and to be close to his parents. He opened a shop selling computer technology (not toys) and stationery and also played a very active part in looking after the younger daughter.
It was for that reason, since Oksana needed to be at work, that her husband left late in the evening for Kyiv, for their elder daughter’s birthday. He was seized at night at the crossing point, meaning that the supposed ‘arrest’ shown on Russian television was a stunt.
FSB, bringing their own ‘witnesses’ and masked men, turned up at their home, that of his parents, and his work the following day. This was supposedly an ‘inspection’, not a search, and was quite illegal. Importantly, it also produced nothing, and the only things taken away were computers.
Stohniy was remanded in custody for two months on Nov 17, by ‘judge’ Viktor Mozhelyansky who is regularly involved in politically motivated detentions and trials.
As in Russia’s first aborted Crimea Saboteur plot, the entire story appears to be for Russian propaganda purposes, with Russian television calling the men ‘saboteurs’ and Russian President Vladimir Putin also publicly referring to the alleged ‘sabotage’.
Olha Skripnyk, the head of the Crimean Human Rights Group, is in no doubt that all of this is aimed at creating the impression in people’s minds that there really are ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ in Crimea. In fact there are flagrantly fabricated cases involving torture and other grave rights abuses.