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.

Empty promises from Ukraine’s leaders as release of Kremlin’s hostages ‘buried’

Halya Coynash

It is almost exactly a year since Russia finally freed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, 24 prisoners of war and 10 other political prisoners in an exchange almost certainly aimed at getting important MH17 witness and likely suspect, Vladimir Tsemakh, out of the reach of the Dutch prosecutor.  At the time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was full of optimism that other political prisoners would shortly be released.  He and his people are continuing to make assurances, but Archbishop Klyment, Head of the beleaguered Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Crimea is not alone in believing that the subject of such releases “has been buried”.  Not only is there no sign of progress, but there is little or nothing to suggest that any efforts are actually being made.  This is while Russia has imprisoned as many Ukrainians on politically motivated charges or for their faith in occupied Crimea as the number of political prisoners freed on 7 September 2019.

As well as largely futile efforts to get Ukraine’s leaders to meet with them and discuss tangible measures, the Association of Relatives of the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners have also turned to the diplomatic missions of Ukraine’s western partners. On 24 August, Petro Vyhivsky, whose son Valentin Vyhivsky has been imprisoned in Russia since September 2014, passed on an appeal to Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas.

The authors of the appeal note that over the past two months, Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the President, has twice spoken of a possible exchange of prisoners which could take place in the near future.  How can you get used to the bitter disappointment when such assurances come to nothing?  The same is true of the President’s upbeat words back in winter that the public would soon learn the names of those released in a new exchange.  Six months have passed since then, and no news at all.

“The families are worried that since the release of well-known political prisoner Oleg Sentsov and the Ukrainian seamen in September last year, that the question of the return of Ukrainians illegally held in Russia has virtually vanished both from the agenda of the Ukrainian authorities, and from that of the international community”.

The appeal was specifically aimed at asking the Germany Foreign Ministry to help get the subject of the release of political prisoners on the agenda of the meeting in the Normandy format which had been scheduled for 28 August .  That meeting was, however, cancelled, seemingly by the Russian side and there is nothing to indicate when the next meeting will take place.

In the meantime, arrests are continuing, with over 100 political prisoners now held in occupied Crimea and Russia.  This number can only increase while Crimea remains under occupation, as Russia is clearly using the persecution to try to drive Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians out of Crimea, and for show trials aimed at claiming that Ukrainians are carrying out sabotage and / spying for Kyiv in occupied Crimea.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin was clearly concerned to get the MH17 suspect out of the way, in case he revealed incriminating details about Russia’s role in the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17, it is likely that he hoped the release of Sentsov and several other prominent political prisoners would silence the international community. 

It was a cynical, and partially justified, calculation.  There was a huge international campaign to secure Sentsov’s release.  Despite the filmmaker’s own efforts, that campaign has not been rechannelled into getting the release of other political prisoners. 

There really is no need to wait for a major campaign to be initiated.  Some acts of support and solidarity need only the Internet.   You can use Twitter or social media to circulate information about political prisoners and make calls to government representatives in your country, the EU, etc. to demand their release in the face of the grave threat posed by Covid-19.

Write to the men!  Russian FSB and other ‘investigators’ spend a lot of time trying to convince political prisoners that Ukraine has abandoned them, that nobody knows what they are going through, nor cares.  Even if it’s hard to write in Russian, your very letters will demonstrate that this is not the case. 

The most urgent need for action is in those cases where men’s lives are in danger. 

Details can be found and circulated here about 58-year-old Dzhemil Gafarov.  He is suffering from a condition that, even according to Russian legislation, should have precluded his detention. 

There are similar concerns about 55-year-old Volodymyr Dudka who, together with 44-year-old Oleksiy Bessarabov, was sentenced to 14 years after a grossly falsified trial (See: 14 year sentences for Russia to present Ukraine as the enemy in occupied Crimea )

The list below is very long but please do not be overwhelmed, and simply choose one or more political prisoners – however many you or your group think would be realistic to write to or whose cases you could publicize. 

ANY help in making these cases known and in giving the prisoners moral support is important!

‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof 

Andriy Zakhtei

Oleksiy Bessarabov

Volodymyr Dudka

Dmytro Shtyblikov

Hennady Lymeshko  

Kostyantin Davydenko 

Oleh Prykhodko

Denis Kashuk


Mystery ‘spying’

Valentin Vyhivsky  Imprisoned since September 2014

Viktor Shur

Leonid Parkhomenko  

Vladimir Morgunov

Halyna Dovhopola  

Oleksandr Marchenko

Konstantin Shyrinha

Vasyl Vasylenko  - a 53-year-old former footballer whose arrest on spying charges was announced recently, nine months after his arrest

Ivan Yatskin


‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions  - fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists

Sevastopol Four    

Ruslan Zeytullaev 

Ferat SaifullaevRustem Vaitov andNuri Primov were released in early 2020 after serving wrongful sentences to the end

Yalta Six   - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.            

Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him.  See:

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it”

Muslim Aliev  

See: Stalin took Crimean Tatar Dilyara Alieva’s homeland and parents; Putin’s Russia has taken her son

Inver Bekirov

Vadim Siruk

Arsen Dzhepparov

Refat Alimov

Bakhchysarai Four  - four men arrested on 12 May 2016

Enver Mamutov

Rustem Abiltarov

Zevri Abseitov

Remzi Memetov

Simferopol Five   - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions

Teymur Abdullayev

Uzeir Abdullayev

See:  “Mama, have they come to kill us?” Russia’s new-old terror and deportation of Crimean Tatars

Emil Dzhemadenov

Aider Saledinov

Rustem Ismailov

Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests    

Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov  

Ernes Ametov  

Memet Belyalov  

Timur Ibragimov  

Seiran Saliyev

See: My grandfather was tried on the same charges as my son

Server Zekiryaev  

Server Mustafayev

Edem Smailov

22 March 2018        Nariman Memedeminov (a civic journalist)

10 May 2018           Enver Seytosmanov

14 February 2019    ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’ -  three men, including a civic activist and a 22-year-old  

Rustem Emiruseinov

See: Russia uses Trial by Fake Secret Witnesses to imprison Crimean Tatars

Arsen Abkhairov

Eskender Abdulganiev 

27 March 2019  ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia.  Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov were arrested later.

Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist

Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist

Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Rayim Aivazov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Enver Ametov  actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Osman Arifmemetov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

See: Bitter echoes of Stalin’s Deportation in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Tatars

Farkhod Bazarov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners

Remzi Bekirov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings.  Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention. 

Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Riza Izetov  human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist

Seiran Murtaza  actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.

Yashar Muyedinov  Crimean Solidarity activist

Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings

Seitveli Seitabdiev  Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist

Rustem Sheikhaliev  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist

Eskender Suleymanov,  Crimean Solidarity activist.

Ruslan Suleymanov  Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist

Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist

Asan Yanikov  civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.

10 June 2019  FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”   

‘Belogorsk group’  - including a father and son

Aider Dzhapparov

Enver Omerov

Riza Omerov

‘Alushta Group’

Eldar Kantimirov

Lenur Khalilov

Ruslan Mensutov

Ruslan Nahaev

11 March 2020   Another wave of armed searches and arrests in Bakhchysarai, targeting civic activists or their relatives

Seytumer Seytumerov

Osman Seytumerov  (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seytumerov)

Rustem Seytmemetov  (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)

Amet Suleymanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet).  He had recently restricted such civic activism, but only because of very serious heart problems.  This is one of only two cases where death in detention was presumably deemed so likely that Suleymanov was placed under house arrest.

7 July 2020  New FSB low, with arrest of a blind man with limited mobility and many others.  At least four of the men Vadim Bektemirov; Alexander Sizikov; Alim Sufianov and Emil Ziyadinov all took part in measures to help political prisoners and ensure circulation of information about such repression

Vadim Bektemirov

Ismet Ibragimov

Seiran Khairedinov

Zekirya Muratov

Alexander Sizikov(placed under house arrest due to his severe disability, but Russia is still trying to claim that he “led a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell”)

Alim Sufianov

Emil Ziyadinov 


Other religious persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serhiy Filatov

Artem Gerasimov

Tablighi Jamaat

Rinat Suleymanov

Talyat Abdurakhmanov(suspended sentence)

Arsen Kubedinov(suspended sentence)

Seiran Mustafaev (suspended sentence)


Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mykola Shyptur  imprisoned since March 2014

Oleksiy Chyrniy 

Andriy Kolomiyets   


Accused of membership in Ukraine of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes and has banned for political reasons. 

Maxim Filatov

Oleksandr Shumkov

Alleged membership of the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion

Fevzi Sahandzhy

Edem Kadyrov

Dilyaver Gafarov

Nariman Mezhmedinov

Mezhmit Ablyamitov

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

Rustem Abilev

Serhiy Buhaichuk

Oleh Chaban

Yevhen Karakashev

Ihor KIyashko

Maxim Sokurenko 

Punitive psychiatry

Yunus Masharipov

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