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.

Tortured and sentenced to 20 years in Russia for being Ukrainian

Halya Coynash
If Mykola Karpyuk’s involvement in two nationalist organizations made him an obvious target for Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine, Klykh’s link to any nationalist group was fleeting and far in the past.  He was, however, Ukrainian and no more proved needed for a breathtakingly cynical ‘trial’ which disregarded not only alibis and evidence of torture, but even historical fact.

As of early September 2017, 43-year-old Ukrainian political prisoner Stanislav Klykh is being held in a psychiatric hospital in Russia, with the Russian Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova writing only that “an improvement in his general condition” means that he will soon be discharged.  There is nothing to indicate when he was admitted, though the development is only of surprise because of Russia’s brutal refusal up till now to accept the grave consequences to Klykh’s psychological state of the torture and psychotropic drugs used to extract ‘confessions’ for its fabricated ’Ukrainian nationalist’ show trial. 

Klykh, a historian from Kyiv, was seized by the FSB in August 2014, after trying to visit a woman he’d met the previous year.  He vanished, as had Mykola Karpyuk, a Ukrainian nationalist politician who disappeared after entering Russia in March 2014.  If Karpyuk’s involvement in two nationalist organizations made him an obvious target for Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine, Klykh’s link to any nationalist group was fleeting and far in the past.  He was, however, Ukrainian and little more was needed for a breathtakingly cynical ‘trial’ which disregarded not only alibis and evidence of torture, but even historical fact.  


Both men were seized as Russia launched its military aggression against Ukraine in Donbas.  Russia has consistently, however with zero plausibility, denied its direct military involvement in the war and claimed that the vast numbers of Russians fighting against the Ukrainian Army are ‘volunteers’.  Not one has faced any consequences on their return to Russia.   

Karpyuk and Klykh were accused of fighting against the Russian federal forces 20 years earlier in Chechnya.  Neither man had ever been to Chechnya and the entire story was fictitious, but also immensely hypocritical given the clear parallel with the situation in Donbas.

The charges

Russia claimed that Klykh (b. 1974) and Karpyuk (b. 1964) had, together with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and other prominent Ukrainian politicians, taken part in battles in Chechnya in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995, carried out all kinds of atrocities and killed 30 Russian soldiers.   Karpyuk, who was the deputy head of Right Sector and member of the older Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian Peoples’ Self Defence (UNA UNSO)  was accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking’.  Klykh, who had once briefly been a member of UNA-UNSO while at university, was supposed to have taken part in it.

The case was entirely based on their ‘confessions’ extracted during the 18 months that Karpyuk was held totally incommunicado and without proper lawyers, and 10 months in Klykh’s case.  This was backed by provably wrong testimony provided by a Ukrainian national Oleksandr Malofeyev who was already serving a 23-year sentence in Russia, and directly dependent on the Russian prison authorities for life-saving medication.

Both Klykh and Karpyuk retracted their ‘testimony’ after being allowed to see real lawyers and their shocking accounts of the torture used to obtain the confessions are part of applications to the European Court of Human Rights. 

There are medical records which substantiate Klykh’s consistent allegations that during this period he was subjected to terrible torture and that he was plied with psychotropic drugs.  Klykh showed signs of serious mental disturbance from soon after the trial began, and there were pleas, including from a psychiatric association in the United Kingdom, for him to receive a proper psychiatric assessment .  This was refused, and instead the ‘court’ in Chechnya charged and convicted Klykh of having ‘insulted’ a prosecutor during a court hearing, where he was in a very disturbed state.

The facts

It is certainly not easy to say what exactly somebody was doing in a certain month, after twenty years.  There was, however, documented evidence that Klykh had been taking exams, and plenty of witnesses to confirm that Karpyuk was caring for his dying mother.

There were also the historical facts, and these were entirely ignored. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has followed both Russia’s wars in Chechnya and was therefore well-placed to assess the prosecution’s case.  In a four-part analysis, it demolished the entire indictment and left no doubt about the methods that had been used to extract insane ‘confessions’ to heinous crimes supposedly committed together with Yatsenyuk & Co.   The methods included threats to apply the same torture to Karpyuk’s wife and small child. 

In its analysis, Memorial HRC demonstrated that the indictment contained fictitious crimes, and of the 30 Russian soldiers who really had died, 18 were killed in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claimed. 

Memorial HRC also pointed to the fact that the men had ‘confessed’ to absolutely horrific atrocities.  These had not been included in the charges, yet were read out in court, clearly to influence both the judge and jury against the men.

It was on the basis of this devastating assessment of the charges that in February 2016 Memorial declared both men political prisoners.  It called the trial part of the unrelenting anti-Ukrainian campaign in the Russian state media and pronouncements from high-ranking Russian officials, including Alexander Bastrykin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin (see: The Chilling side to Russia’s claims about Yatsenyuk as Chechnya fighter

Trial and sentence

The trial took place in Grozny, and there is evidence of witnesses being threatened and harassed by thugs, working for the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The only positive element in this political show trial had been that because of the charges, Russia had to allow trial by jury.  It is likely that the jury members were also put under pressure.  It is difficult to understand otherwise how they could have found men guilty of killings that either never happened, or that happened in different places and could not have been carried out by the two men, even if the latter had not had alibis.

On May 26, 2016, Judge Vakhit Ismailov at the court in Grozny sentenced Karpyuk to 22.5 years, Klykh to 20 years, with this later upheld by the Supreme Court, as have been all such politically-motivated trials against Ukrainians.  Zoya Svetova, a prominent Russian rights activist has called the case “one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea”.


Even a single sentence or two will send an important message both to them, and to the Russian authorities, that they are not forgotten.

Mykola Karpyuk (please use the Russian version Nikolai, it has much more chance of passing the censor, the year of birth is needed)

Russian Federation 600020, Vladimir, No. 67 Bolshaya Nizhegorodskaya St., Prison No. 2 Vladimirsky Tsentral

Nikolai Andronovych Karpyuk, b. 1964

[In Russian: 600020 г. Владимир, ул Большая Нижегородская, д. 67, ФКУ Т-2 Владимирский централ,  Карпюку, Николаю Андроновичу, г.р. 1964]

Stanislav Klykh

Russia has provided no clear information of any change in Klykh’s status, and for the moment we must assume that the following address is still current.

Russian Federation 457670, Chelyabinsk oblast, Verkhneuralsk, 1 Severnaya St, Prison for the Chelyabinsk oblast

Stanislav Romanovych Klykh, b. 1974

[In Russian:  457670, Челябинская обл., Верхнеуральск, Северная ул. 1, ФКУ Тюрьма ГУФСИН по Челябинской обл.

Клыху, Станиславу Романовичу, г.р. 1974]

If you are unable to write in Russian, the following would be quite sufficient (maybe with a picture or postcard)

Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение.

(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released).



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