war crimes in Ukraine

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Russia abducts gravely ill Ukrainian student Pavlo Hryb & sentences him to 6 years on fabricated charges

Halya Coynash
The Northern Caucasus Military Court in Rostov-on-Don has taken just minutes to pass a six-year sentence on Pavlo Hryb, Russia’s youngest Ukrainian political prisoner

The Northern Caucasus Military Court in Rostov-on-Don has taken just minutes to pass a six-year sentence on Pavlo Hryb, Russia’s youngest Ukrainian political prisoner.  This was exactly the sentence demanded by the prosecutor during the ‘court debate’ yesterday, 21 March.  Both the prosecutor and the judges have not only ignored Russia’s illegal abduction of the young man and the lack of any grounds for the charges against the young man, but also the fact that his medical condition means that he should not be in detention at all.  The fact that the sentence is in an ordinary regime prison colony means little when the young man needs specialist medical treatment which he cannot get in any Russian prison.

Hryb is in constant pain and suffering nausea, yet even after an ambulance needed to be called on Thursday, the court hearing was still resumed.

On the eve of this sentence, Hryb gave his final address to the court, with this translated from Ukrainian by an interpreter.  He dismissed the charges against him, and called the FSB officers “bandits and killers”.   Importantly, he made reference to his abduction, saying that nobody could have imagined that Belarus, from where he was abducted by the FSB, was so dangerous. 

Judging by the video footage of his address, Hryb had planned to say a lot more, explaining, for example, what had really happened, but was probably feeling too ill to continue.    

He ended by wishing that all Ukrainian patriots endure captivity with dignity, in accordance with the truth and their conscience, and then “Glory to Ukraine!  Glory to the Ukrainian nation!”

Hryb was, reportedly, able to briefly talk with his mother before the hearing, and also spoke for a moment with the journalist present from HromadskeTV.  Asked how he was feeling, he answered “rotten”, and explained that he is simply ignored when he complains about his health. He added that since the previous hearing, when he had fallen ill, nobody had done anything to treat him. “They bring me here and say that I’m healthy”  He insisted that he was not in a state to endure the hearing, speaking of pain and nausea.

He had been taken out of his cell in the morning, he said, but simply left in a room, which he understood to be so that they could rummage through his papers and notes for the hearing.

It should be stressed both that Hryb’s medical issues are placing his life in danger, and that the Russian prosecutor and court have been fully informed of this.  The court finally agreed at the beginning of February to call Dr Vasyl Prytula, Professor of the  Faculty of Paediatric Surgery at the Bohomolets National Medical University, who has been treating Hryb since the latter was a small child.  It cancelled one hearing, after Prytula had come all the way from Ukraine, but did finally hear him explain just how critical Hryb’s state of health is and how important it is that he has a specialized operation.

There are three shocking aspects to this case, and it is simply not possible that the ‘investigators’, prosecutors and the judges at the Northern Caucasus Military Court in Rostov are not aware of all of them.

Life-threatening medical issues

Hryb suffers from serious blood circulation issues, including portal hypertension, and has needed specialist medical treatment and supervision most of his life. His complaints of stomach pain and nausea are immensely serious, since they could cause internal haemorrhaging at any time. 

Unlike Russia, the European Court of Human Rights reacted to this situation soon after Hryb was abducted on 24 August 2017, and taken to Krasnodar in Russia.  They demanded information from the Russian government regarding Hryb’s state of health and the treatment he has received.  It appears that the Russian authorities essentially falsified the medical records, in order to not admit the scale of the problem and the fact that they were doing nothing about it.

Dr Prytula noted back in 2017 that Hryb needed a portosystemic bypass as part of his treatment, and the operation had been scheduled for September that year.  The need is now acute. In December 2018,  Prytula issued an opinion on the basis of readings taken at a consultative clinic in Rostov.  Among other issues, he found that Hryb’s portal hypertension, hypersplenism, including enlargement of the spleen, were developing, and that he was now suffering from liver cirrhosis and reduced ability for blood coagulation (heightening the threat of blood haemorrhages).  He wrote that it was possible that Hryb is suffering from an inflamed ulcer in the colon or stomach.  This can only heighten the danger of haemorrhaging in the digestive tract, stomach or duodenum, with any of these posing “a critical danger to his life”.  He stressed that people with Hryb’s diagnosis need to be treated in a high-level specialist hospital.  The court was told at the last hearing that the illness was developing rapidly and that Hryb needed an operation at a specialist clinic, either in Moscow or in Berlin. 

Instead, Russia is simply denying that there is a problem, and flouting the European Court of Human Rights which ordered that Ukrainian doctors be allowed to examine the young man.  All of this is placing Hryb’s life in danger.    


In August 2017, Hryb, who was then just 19, was tricked into travelling to Gomel, Belarus to meet a young woman with whom he had been corresponding and  with whom he believed himself to be in love.

His father understood that something was wrong as soon as the coach that Hryb had a ticket for returned without him, and went to Belarus in search of him.  The alarm had thus been sounded from the outset, meaning that Russia’s 13 day delay in admitting that Hryb was in their custody, and their attempts that claim that he had been apprehended on 25 August 2017 in Russia lacked any credibility.

The Belarusian authorities have tried to deny any involvement, however this is also impossible to take seriously since Hryb could not have been taken across the border into Russia without their knowledge. 

In February 2019, the court ordered that a check be carried out into Hryb’s allegations after viewing a video showing injuries which he says were caused by having his hands bound for a long time in fishing line.

Although there is a staggering difference between the FSB’s account and Hryb’s, with the young man’s story backed by material evidence, including his ticket back from Gomel, any such probe is unlikely to achieve anything.

An implausible plot  

Hryb is charged under Russian ‘terrorism legislation’ with inciting the young Russian girl, (Tatyana Yershova), who was then still at school,  to prepare an explosive device to detonate during a school assembly. This is alleged to have been at the instigation of another Ukrainian, Stefan Kapinos, with whom Hryb shared an account on VKontakte. 

Hryb’s lawyer Marina Dubrovina has explained that the correspondence between the two teenagers who believed themselves in love has not been provided in the original Ukrainian, but in a supposed translation into Russian.  When he was first presented with these alleged fragments of the correspondence, Hryb immediately stated that he could not say what was true, and what was falsified, but said that “we did not speak about that”.

The entire prosecution is based on some alleged words spoken in the course of conversation, so clearly the fact that the FSB is not providing the original suggests that they have something to hide.

The prosecution claims that the suggestion regarding a bomb at the school which the young girl hated was made during Skype conversations between March 27 and April 13, 2017, with the supposed date for the bomb set at 30 June.

While there are no independent records of those conversations, there are of later correspondence between the two teenagers.  From a month after the alleged mention of a plan to commit an act of terrorism, there is not one word about it.  Neither immediately before or on the alleged date chosen, nor afterwards, was there anything to back the FSB’s claim.

Nor did the FSB themselves, despite having supposedly discovered such a plan, do anything.  Yet on July 4, they allegedly launched a criminal investigation, with this involving a search of the young Russian girl’s flat.   By July 28, the FSB had designated Hryb as the ‘accused’ in this story, and they then set about intimidating the young girl into persuading Hryb to meet her in Belarus, from where he was kidnapped and taken to Russia.  She told Ukrainian journalists then that the FSB had told her that if she didn’t cooperate, they would charge her with terrorism.  Unfortunately, during this cynical trial she has not found it in her to tell the truth.

This is undoubtedly a political trial, with many of the same elements as others since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Please write to Pavlo! 

It is very important to show him – and Moscow – that he is not forgotten. 

Please use the Russian version of his name (Pavel) in any letters and avoid either politics or mention of the ‘case’.  Letters need to be in Russian.  If this is a problem, you could copy the letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. 


[In Russian] РФ 344082, Ростовская обл, Ростов-на-Дону, улица Большая Садовая, 31,  ФКУ СИЗО-4 ФСИН РОССИИ

Грибу, Павлу Игоревичу, 1988 г.  

[In English]  Russia, Rostov on the Don,  31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO 4

Hryb, Pavel Igorevich (b. 1998)


Желаю Тебе здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь, что очень скоро вернешься домой.  Извини меня, что так мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Тебе помним. 

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon return home.  I’m sorry that this letter is so short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but we’re all thinking about you. ] 


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