war crimes in Ukraine

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Russia accuses Ukraine of Trying to Sabotage Crimean Electricity with a Handsaw

Halya Coynash
The FSB have seized another Ukrainian in Russian-occupied Crimea and claimed that he was carrying out acts of sabotage for the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service.

The FSB have seized another Ukrainian in Russian-occupied Crimea and claimed that he was carrying out acts of sabotage for the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service.  The only ‘proof’ is in Hennady Lymeshko’s own ‘confession’ which has been broadcast one year after the FSB’s seizure of other supposed ‘Ukrainian Crimea saboteurs’ and weeks after the arrested men were jailed on charges unrelated to their confessions.  These FSB videoed ‘confessions’ are widely shown on Russian television, though they very clearly breach all procedural norms regarding the interrogation of detainees. 

The FSB claim he was arrested on August 12, having arrived in Crimea on August 9, and that through their arrest they have “prevented several acts of sabotage against infrastructure and vital services in Crimea”

There is no dispute as to when Lymeshko entered Crimea.  Ukrainian border guards confirm that he passed into Crimea and say that he was not carrying anything illegal (like the explosive devices or grenade the FSB claims to have found on him.

Even if one were to believe that the Ukrainian border guards are colluding with the SBU, why did the Russian guards not find his handsaw, explosives and grenade then? 

The FSB calls Lymeshko  “an agent of the SBU in the Kherson oblast, sent to Crimea to carry out acts of sabotage”.   The 24-year-old is from the Kharkiv oblast, and is claimed to have worked as a senior reconnaissance officer in the Ukrainian armed forces in the ATO zone (the fighting in Donbas).

Ukraine’s Armed Forces have confirmed that Lymeshko was a contract serviceman from November 2016 through May 2017, but say that he was dismissed as unsuited to the job, and has no ties to the military.

As has been the case in all such FSB reports, which began with the arrest in May 2014 of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and three other opponents of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the list of alleged sabotage plans is considerable.  Unlike the ‘arsenal’ he allegedly used: a hand saw and a few homemade explosive devices. 

The FSB assert that he was supposed to bring down the electricity supply from Sudak to Novyy Svet, with this affecting up to 50 thousand people, to set fire to forest  in the Sudak – Rybachye – Alushta area and one other act of arson, and to cause a rock avalance that would block the Sudak – Novyy Svet highway,

He was allegedly arrested while trying to damage the above-mentioned electricity lines with this handsaw.

Everything about this new ‘Crimea saboteur’ plot is similar to other such plots, including the alleged ‘find’ of materials to be used, two trotyl (TNT) blocks,  one grenade, the above-mentioned handsaw and a terribly incriminating digital camera (so that he could report on his ‘sabotage’ to the SBU).

All of this was broadcast on Russian television, together with Lymeshko’s confession, to having been in a sabotage group since the autumn of 2015.

A worryingly new element, which the FSB appears to be coordinating with the Kremlin-backed militants of the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’ [DNR, LNR] is that Lymeshko mentions plans to carry out sabotage in DNR, Crimea and in Russia.

Lymeshko looks as though he has been beaten and is clearly trying to provide answers required of him.  It is also evident that the video is not continuous, but made up of separate parts pasted together.

Russia is unable to provide electricity and water to the Crimean peninsula, and there have been electricity outages over recent weeks.  Since the FSB are also claiming to have prevented the acts of ‘sabotage’, little is explained by trumpeting another ‘Ukrainian saboteur’ arrest, however the FSB do know that the Russian state-controlled media will ask no uncomfortable questions.

They will also avoid returning to the subject after the plot has been quietly shelved.

Of the four men arrested at the beginning of August 2016, two men – Volodymyr Prysich and Redvan Suleymanov have been jailed on charges that are either completely unrelated to their ‘confession’ or almost.  Both Andriy Zakhtei and Yevhen Panov gave similar ‘confessions’ which they retracted after finally (two months later) being allowed to see lawyers.

The FSB have now managed to put pressure on Zakhtei and force him to ‘accept guilt’ for a shorter sentence, meaning that the details of the torture used need not be revealed.  In Panov’s case, he is resisting the pressure and continues to assert that any confession was tortured out of him and that the charges are preposterous.

Russia is quietly using pressure against the men arrested in November 2016, although here too one of the six men – Oleksiy Stohniy – has been convicted and imprisoned on totally different charges.  While the FSB have also produced a video apparently showing Lymeshko being caught red-handed (with his handsaw), this should be viewed with scepticism.  Certainly in Stohniy’s case, a similar video showed him being arrested during the day, whereas he was seized at night as he tried to leave for mainland Kyiv to celebrate his student daughter’s birthday.

There is every reason to fear that Hennady Lymeshko, who has been remanded in custody for two months, is the latest such victim – he and his wife and very small daughter.   

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