war crimes in Ukraine

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Russia seeks surreal 8-year extension to sentence against abducted Ukrainian political prisoner

Halya Coynash
Ukrainian political prisoner Oleksandr Shumkov is due to be released from a Russian prison on 24 December 2020, however the prison administration has asked for him to be placed under ‘administrative surveillance’ for a further eight years

Ukrainian political prisoner Oleksandr Shumkov is due to be released from a Russian prison on 24 December 2020, however the prison administration has asked for him to be placed under ‘administrative surveillance’ for a further eight years.  The illegality of this is not necessarily surprising given the surreal charges laid against Shumkov after he was abducted from Ukraine.  What is, however, entirely unclear is how such ‘surveillance’ could be carried out in Ukraine. 

Ludmila Shumkova, Oleksandr’s aunt, has posted a copy of the application to the Torzhok Interregional Court submitted by the management of Prison Colony No. 4.  This asks that a term of eight years’ ‘administrative surveillance’ be imposed upon Shumkov according to the address he is registered at, which is, of course, a Ukrainian address.

The bizarre document asks for such administrative surveillance, with Shumkov prohibited during those eight years from visiting certain places, in particularly where alcoholic drinks are sold; from attending or taking part in mass events; and from being in schools and children’s places of recreation. He would also be subject to a night curfew; be obliged to appear at the police station twice a month and would not be allowed to leave the area designated by the court.

Nothing is said about how any of this could take place on Ukrainian territory and the motive for issuing such a document remains a mystery. Ludmila Shumkova writes that “either this is the latest deranged nonsense of the aggressor state, which is trying to instruct Ukraine’s National Police to establish restrictions on a Ukrainian citizen, or there is something we don’t yet know.” 

Shumkov was abducted in late August 2017 from the Kherson oblast and taken by force to Russia.  He had been serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2014 and, since he is a lawyer by profession, had been working as an investigator for the military prosecutor of the Kherson Garrison.  It is believed that he 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, with a laser gun used against Shumkov, who was taken, unconscious, across the border into Russia.

The Russian authorities, of course, deny the abduction,  It is, however, impossible that Shumkov would have crossed voluntarily into Russia.  He had taken part in Euromaidan and in 2014 had been a guard for Dmytro Yarosh, the then leader of Right Sector and one of the people Russia most demonized as its aggression against Ukraine mounted. All of this, as well as his role in the military, meant that Shumkov could have been in no doubt of the danger he would face in Russia.

He was charged under Article 282.2 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code with taking part in Right Sector in Ukraine, this deemed ‘involvement in an extremist organization which has been banned by a [Russian] court’ . The report from Russia’s Investigative Committee did not mention that these ‘extremism’ charges were in connection with activities on Ukrainian, not Russian, territory which were in no way illegal in Ukraine.

The Bryansk Oblast Investigative Committee and the courts were equally unperturbed by the evidence that  Shumkov had in fact left Right Sector a couple of months before the Russian court ruling in November 2014 that declared Right Sector illegal.

The investigators claimed 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 territorial integrity”. 

During his final address in December, Shumkov noted that he was accused of activities which he had never denied –  involvement in Euromaidan and then in Ukraine’s operation against the militants in Donbas.  By bringing criminal charges based on the assertion that such activities “threatened Russia’s interests”, he said, “the Russian Federation is acknowledging its presence on Ukrainian territory”. During the first ‘trial’,  Shumkov also pointed out the absurdity of a situation whereby Russia’s Supreme Court ruling banning Right Sector in Russia was being treated as a carte blanche for imposing a ban on Right Sector in other countries.

“The question therefore arises: is Russia not taking too much upon itself by deciding which organizations are legal and which illegal on the territory of Ukraine?”

The so-called ‘witnesses for the prosecution’ mostly only confirmed what Shumkov had never denied, namely that he had, in 2014, been a member of Right Sector.

Even so, Russia still resorted, as it has in most political trials of Ukrainians, to ‘secret witnesses’, as well as to the testimony from a person who had a vested interest in saying what the prosecution wanted. 

On 31 January 2019 three Bryansk Regional Court judges – Inessa Belova, Vladimir Zenichev and Olga Mazova upheld the original 4-year sentence passed on 4 December, 2018 by Viktor Rukhmakov, from the Sevsk District Court in the Bryansk oblast.  The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre had recognized Shumkov as a political prisoner back in April 2018, both because of his almost certain abduction and because the charges were legally nonsensical. 


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)

Russian Federation, 172011, Tver oblast, Torzhok, 79 Staritskaya St, Prison Colony No. 4,

Shumkov, Alexander Sergeevich, b. 1989

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