Ukrainian abducted to Russia faces ‘trial’ for protest in Ukraine against Russian occupation of Crimea
Russia’s Investigative Committee has completed its ‘investigation’ into surreal charges laid against Oleksandr Shumkov, a 28-year-old Ukrainian from Kherson who was almost certainly abducted and taken to Russia by force. He is to be tried for alleged ‘involvement’, while in Ukraine, in Right Sector, a Ukrainian organization which Russia has chosen to consider ‘extremist’ and banned. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has already declared Shumkov a political prisoner, finding cause for concern both with respect to how he came to be in Russian detention and in the charges themselves, which could carry a 6-year sentence.
The report from Russia’s Investigative Committee is highly telling both for the allegations made, and the crucial details which are omitted.
No mention is made of the fact that a Ukrainian citizen is being charged according to Russian legislation for alleged activities on Ukrainian territory in an organization which is legal in Ukraine. We are told only that he is charged under Article 282.2 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code (taking part in an extremist organization which has been banned by a court).
‘Investigators’ from the Bryansk Oblast Investigative Committee assert that Shumkov “took an active part in the activities of the Ukrainian extremist organization ‘Right Sector’ directed against the interests of the Russian Federation and encroaching upon its territory integrity”.
Shumkov is said to have taken part in September 2015 “in the blocking of roads, obstructing the supply of food and other vital goods to the Republic of Crimea”, as well as in actions “aimed at intimidating residents of the Kherson oblast protesting against the Crimea blockade and calling for the reestablishment of economic and political relations with Russia”.
The Crimean Blockade was initiated by respected Crimean Tatar leaders and initially had very specific human rights demands, including the release of all Russia’s Ukrainians political prisoners. Although there was later concern about some of the activists’ behaviour, the blockade was on Ukrainian territory and legal, unlike Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. There were grounds for believing that Russia was playing a major role in the protests, supposedly by Kherson residents, using methods similar to those used in Donbas.
The Investigative Committee claims that Shumkov’s ‘significant role’ in Right Sector is indicated by the fact that he was for some time the bodyguard of former Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh.
It is asserted that “in August 2017” Shumkov was detained by Russian border guards at a border crossing in the Bryansk oblast as he tried to enter Russia, with the FSB [Russian security service] involved in the ‘criminal proceedings’.
Even had Shumkov really been trying to cross into Russia, he should have simply been refused entry. He would have needed to be on a wanted list for his detention to be possible, and then only with Ukraine’s notification.
There is nothing to suggest that he was on any wanted list, and there are serious grounds for believing that he was abducted from close to the Ukrainian-Russian border, on the Ukrainian side.
Shumkov was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At the time of his disappearance in August 2017, he was working as an investigator for the military prosecutor of the Kherson Garrison. All of this, as well as his former involvement both in Euromaidan and in Right Sector, make it simply inconceivable that a young man with a higher legal education would have “tried to enter” the Russian Federation, given the number of Ukrainians imprisoned on politically motivated charges. Shumkov was doubtless aware of the trial and huge sentences passed in Russia on Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, despite the lack of any evidence at all of the ‘Right Sector terrorist plot’ they were accused of. Russia is also illegally imprisoning two Ukrainians – Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets – for their role on Ukrainian territory in Euromaidan.
It was on 26 September, 2017, over a month after he vanished, that Larisa Shumkova received a letter from the Russian FSB for the Bryansk oblast saying that her son was held in the Bryansk SIZO [remand prison]. The letter also contradicts the Investigative Committee’s report since it told her that Oleksandr had been detained on September 6.
Ukraine’s police have ascertained that Shumkov crossed into Russia on 23 August 2017, together with three other individuals. A criminal investigation has been initiated over his abduction and imprisonment.
In his capacity as investigator for the military prosecutor, Shumkov is believed to have set off for a meeting with an informer who was supposed to provide information about supplies of drugs smuggled from the Kremlin-backed ‘republics’ in Donbas to government-controlled oblasts. The car in which he was driving came under attack near the Russian-Ukrainian border. A taser gun was used against Shumkov, who was taken, unconscious, across the border into Russia.
The indictment claims that Right Sector “is aimed at violently changing the constitutional order and violating Russia’s territorial integrity, undermining state security and also at propaganda for justifying and carrying out extremist activities in Russia.” The only element of truth in this nonsense is that Right Sector, like the entire international community, does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It is certainly true that members of the organization would view actions like the Crimean Blockade as legitimate measures against Russian occupation of Crimea. Some may well support the use of force to end it.
The indictment asserts that Shumkov was aware of the above, and did not leave the organization, and continued taking part in its activities including during military operations in the fighting zone up to 23 August 2017. This is quite simply untrue.
Memorial HRC has pointed to evident political moves behind Russia’s persecution of Shumkov. They write that “It reflects the essence of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. On the one hand, Russia officially denies any part in the conflict, while on the other it takes an obviously anti-Ukrainian position reflected in propaganda; in the unofficial military support for the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’, in the political persecution of people supporting Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens; and in the ban of a number of Ukrainian nationalist organizations around half a year after the beginning of the war.”
Oleksandr declared hunger strike on 24 May in solidarity with Oleg Sentsov who has been refusing any food since 14 May and says he will not end his hunger strike until Russia frees all Ukrainian political prisoners.
Please write to Oleksandr Shumkov!
It is important for him to know that he is not forgotten, and all letters send an important message to Moscow that Russia’s politically motivated abductions and imprisonment of Ukrainians cannot be covered up.
Letters need to be in Russian and on ‘neutral subjects’. If this is difficult, the following can be cut and pasted.
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.
Мы о Вас помним.
[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.
Address (the name is at the end, together with year of birth. There will be more chance of it getting through if the name is written in the Russian manner (Alexander)
241050 РФ, г. Брянск, ул. Советская, д. 2, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Брянской области, Шумкову Александру Сергеевичу 1989 г. р.
241050 Russian Federation, Bryansk, 2 Sovyetskaya St., SIZO-1,
Shumkov, Alexander Sergeevich, b. 1989