No end to Russia’s revenge for Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity
It is seven years since the beginning of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, with the latest anniversary inevitably eliciting bitter questions about what has not been achieved and promises not kept. Many of the questions were also asked a year ago, although not all, since during this last year, Russia sabotaged Ukraine’s most important trial of suspected Maidan killers by demanding, via the Donbas militants who obey its orders, the release of the five defendants in return for the release of some Ukrainian hostages. Three of the five suspects have almost certainly joined the considerable number of former Berkut officers and others suspected of Maidan crimes given shelter in Russia. Perhaps Moscow has other uses for men accused of gunning down peaceful protesters, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is never averse to any divisive and destabilizing moves in Ukraine, and the release of the men only months before the trial was due to end was highly contentious.
If such actions have a clear political objective, the motive behind the ongoing persecution of Ukrainians involved in the Maidan protests seems solely about revenge. This is particularly evident in the surreal charges against two Ukrainian Maidan activists - Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets. Both men were savagely tortured in order to extract ‘confessions’ which they both retracted as soon as they were, belatedly, given access to lawyers.
Oleksandr Kostenko was ‘lucky’ in that his was Russia’s first such prosecution in occupied Crimea, and the FSB were still fairly restrained. The young Ukrainian was sentenced to ‘only’ three and a half years which he was forced to serve to the last day. Andriy Kolomiyets was the second victim and received a 10-year sentence, although in both cases the charges were preposterous and pertained to actions inon Ukrainian territory, under Ukrainian law and (allegedly) in respect to Ukrainian Berkut officers.
Kolomiyets, who is from Kyiv oblast, was just 22 when arrested on 15 May 2015 in the Northern Caucuses of Russia where he was living with his partner (now wife) Galina and her four children.
When officers turned up on May 15, the first thing they said to Galina was that Kolomiyets was a Maidan activist. During the search, they ‘found’ a small package with some hashish in her ex-husband’s safe. Whether or not the hashish was there before the officers arrived, testimony was presented to the court which confirmed that Kolomiyets had not had any access to the safe.
Fortunately, Galina understood not to touch the planted ‘evidence’ and the police were finally forced to leave without recording the hashish in the protocol. This was witnessed by a woman who was staying in their place.
The prosecution then claimed that Kolomiyets had been ‘released’ in Nalchik where he was supposed to have stayed the night at the station, then gone to some field by one taxi, gathered some hashish growing wild, 150 grams of which the officers then ‘found’ in another taxi that he was driving in. Galina is almost certainly right in assuming that in all of this the same packet first ‘found’ in her ex-husband’s safe has been used.
The above charge was used as the pretext for arresting Kolomiyets, however it was no accident that the officer mentioned Maidan at the outset. Kolomiyets was taken to Russian-occupied Crimea where he became the second Maidan activist, after Kostenko, to be charged on the basis of ‘testimony’ from former Ukrainian Berkut riot police who had betrayed their oath and joined the Russian FSB.
It was claimed that Kolomiyets had thrown a Molotov cocktail at two Berkut officers, with this having allegedly ‘caused them pain’. Enough ‘pain’ to allow them in court to claim that they remembered Kolomiyets, though not enough for them to have reported it to anybody at the time. The prosecution was under Article 30 § 3 and 105 § 2 of the Russian criminal code, namely “attempted murder of 2 or more people in connection with their official activities … out of motives of political and ideological hatred”.
Despite the absurdity of the charges, he was sentenced by a Russian-controlled court in Simferopol on 10 June 2016 to 10 years’ imprisonment: six years for the alleged ‘attack’ on the two ex-Berkut turncoats (Article 105 of the Russian criminal code), and four for the supposed possession of hashish (Article 228).
The sentence was upheld on October 27 by the de facto Crimean High Court under ‘judge’ Halyna Redko who had already taken part in at least one other politically-motivated trial since betraying her oath to Ukraine.
Kolomiyets has given harrowing, though unfortunately, familiar, details of the torture he was subjected to, including electric shocks and asphyxiation, to force him to ‘confess’ to invented crimes.
The renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre declared Kolomiyets a political prisoner on 17 July 2016. It demolished the narcotics charges against the young man, while stating simply that the main indictment was grotesque since a court under Russian legislation could have no jurisdiction over events allegedly taking place between Ukrainian nationals in Ukraine.
Please write to Andriy Kolomiyets!
The letters are a lifeline for him and an important message to Moscow that it is being watched and that Andriy is not forgotten.
The letters need to be in Russian and on ‘safe’ subjects (no politics; no discussion of his case, of Kremlin persecution, etc.) If it is a problem to write in Russia, you could simply copy-paste the letter below, maybe with a photo or picture.
Желаю Вам здоровья и терпения, и очень надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.
[Hi. I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ]
350039 Russia, Krasnodar Krai, Krasnodar, 58 Kalinin St, Prison Colony No. 14
Kolomiyets, Andrei Vladimirovych, born 1993
[In Russian: ФКУ ИК-14, 350039 Россия, Краснодарский край, г.Краснодар, ул. Калинина, 58, Коломийцу, Андрею Владимировичу, г.р. 1993]