• Topics / Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea
Sadistic torment of Ukrainian Kremlin hostage
Lyudmila Denisova, Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson has called on her Russian counterpart to ensure that Ukrainian political prisoner Ivan Yatskin is provided with proper medical care following treatment by prison staff that can only be described as torture. The Russian Ombudsperson, , Tatyana Moskalkova, has a highly specific attitude to human rights, but Denisova also announced on 25 February that she would be approaching the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the head of the UN’s Committee against Torture and representatives of other international bodies.
Yatskin’s lawyer, Nikolai Polozov had earlier reported that on 12 February, his client had been held in a courtyard, wearing only slippers and flimsy clothing, for around an hour despite it being minus 14 outside. Polozov made a public appeal for response since Yatskin’s toes are now a blue-purple colour and there is clearly something wrong. He assumes this is frostbite, which can cause permanent damage if untreated. Yatskin is held in the Lefortovo SIZO, or remand prison in Moscow, and, given the pandemic, it can only be welcome that his cell was subjected to proper sanitary measures. He was, however, prevented from even taking a jacket with him and changing his footwear before being left out in the freezing cold. He told Polozov that none of the staff had reacted to his calls for help.
It is possible that the prison staff’s behaviour on 12 February was yet another attempt to put pressure on Yatskin who is doubtless annoying the FSB by continuing to deny their mystery ‘spying’ charges.
On 28 January, Russian enforcement officers carried out a baffling ‘search’ of the home of Yatskin’s wife, Gulnara Kadyrova and their children.
Kadyrova told a Krym.Realii correspondent that the whole thing had seemed very strange. At around 17.00, she had been getting into her car to pick up the children from playschool when she saw three men in plain clothes come up to the gate and begin talking with her father. She understood that they were from the ‘police’ and went up to them. The men told her that they were going to carry out a search, supposedly for drugs. Her father told her to collect the children and by the time she came back, this apparent ‘search’, lasting only around 30 minutes, was over. This was no normal search, she says, with the men having merely turned one or two things over and looked. She suggested then that this had either been a cursory response to a denunciation, or an attempt to put pressure on her family.
Yatskin is 42 and from the village of Voikovo in Crimea. His youngest child, a daughter, was born after he was arrested on 16 October 2019. Although the Russian FSB are not revealing what they claim was ‘treason in the form of espionage’, Yatskin had not concealed his pro-Ukrainian views. This has already led to ‘trials’ and long prison sentences against other Ukrainians under Russian occupation, and it is probably no coincidence that Yatskin was one of two Crimeans (together with Oleh Prykhodko) with a strong, pro-Ukraine, civic position to be arrested a month after Moscow finally handed over 35 Ukrainian PoWs and political prisoners (in exchange for MH17 witness. suspect Volodymyr Tsemakh).
Yatskin has an older son and daughter from a previous marriage, as well as two sons, and a baby daughter with Gulnara. She was six months pregnant when, on 16 October 2019, the FSB turned up at their home, took Yatskin away and carried out a ‘search’ of their home. This was much less cursory than the visitation on 28 January 2021, but also specific. For example, no mobile phones were taken away although these would have surely been of interest if Yatskin had genuinely been suspected of passing on ‘state secrets’. The FSB were led by a Russian investigator, Sergei Makhnev, who has been involved in a number of political trials, especially involving Crimean Tatars.
Gulnara had no idea where Yatskin had been taken, nor what to do, until her stepdaughter, Kateryna Yatskina sent her a link to the initiative Crimean Solidarity which helps political prisoners and their families. At the end of December, 2019, Nikolai Polozov, a Russian lawyer with considerable experience in representing the Kremlin’s Ukrainian hostages, took over from the state-appointed lawyer who had done nothing to defend Yatskin.
Russia has forced Polozov to sign a non-divulgence undertaking, so he is able to inform only that Yatskin is charged, under Article 275 of Russia’s criminal code, with having gathered and passed to the SBU information containing Russian state secrets, and that these so-called ‘secrets’ concerned employees of the Russian police / Interior Ministry in occupied Crimea.
Please write to Ivan Yatskin! The letters tell him that he is not forgotten and also send a clear message to Moscow that their treatment of the Ukrainian political prisoner is under scrutiny. Letters need to be in Russian, and any political subjects or reference to Yatskin’s case should be avoided. If possible, include an envelope and some thin paper so that he can respond.
If Russian is a problem, the following would be fine, maybe with a photo or card (the address on the envelope can be in Russian or English)
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.
РФ 111020 г. Москва, СИЗО-2 Лефортово ФСИН России, Лефортовский вал, д. 5
Яцкину, Ивану Григорьевичу, 1978 г.р.
Or in English:
Russia, 111020 Moscow, Lefortovsky Val, No. 5. SIZO-2
Yatskin, Ivan Grigoryevich, b. 1978