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First hearing in Russia’s new ‘Ukrainian spy trial’ ends with an ambulance

16.08.2021
Halya Coynash

Kostiantyn Shyrinh Photo from Kommersant.ru

The first closed hearing in Russia’s trial of Ukrainian Kostiantyn Shyrinh on ‘spying’ charges ended abruptly on 12 August, with an ambulance needing to be called.  The 61-year-old suffers from cardiovascular problems, however the administration at the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison] in occupied Crimea has simply ignored his repeated requests for medical care.

Since the entire trial will be behind closed doors, it is fortunate that Shyrinh is represented by Dmitry Dinze, a Russian lawyer who has already defended many Ukrainian political prisoners, including the Kremlin’s most famous Ukrainian hostage, Oleh Sentsov. In essentially all such cases, however, the Russian FSB extracts a non-disclosure commitment from defendants’ lawyers, so most of the information now available is that which was reported soon after Shyrinh’s arrest.  Back in April 2020, he denied the spying charges and said that his common-law wife (possibly ex-wife), a Russian military servicewoman, had given false testimony against him to save herself from charges of treason.

The Russian FSB originally claimed on 15 April 2020 that they had “broken up activities of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry’s Military Intelligence Department aimed at organizing and carrying out acts of sabotage – terrorism, stealing information containing state secrets and recruiting Russian citizens”. It was asserted that such activities had been organized by Lieutenant Oleh Alisherovych Akhmedov, the head of a department of military intelligence located in Kherson.  His was the only name given, but it was stated that a Russian military servicewoman from Feodosia and a male Ukrainian citizen had been arrested.   The woman was said to have been arrested on 24 March 2020 and charged with ‘state treason’ (Article 275 of Russia’s criminal code).  The reports then said that she had ‘admitted guilt’, saying that a Ukrainian citizen, her former husband, had recruited her several years after they parted and that she had passed him documents of the military unit in which she worked.  Due to her underage child, she was placed under house arrest.

Kommersant reported on 19 May 2020 that the Ukrainian, Kostiantyn Shyrinh, had been moved to the Lefortovo prison in Moscow and that he denied the charges against him. The newspaper reported that Shyrinh’s appeal against his detention had been rejected by the Russian-controlled ‘Crimean High Court’.  That had preceded his transfer to Russia, but no dates were provided.

On 4 June, 2021, Tatyana Kuzmenko was sentenced by the Southern District Military Court in Rostov to eight years’ imprisonment, with a deferment of two years until her daughter is 14.  Such special procedure is reportedly applied where a person is admitting the charges, with it extremely likely that she was threatened with a much longer sentence if she did not.

Russia’s FSB has staged many such arrests of Ukrainians who they claim were planning acts of terrorism or sabotage, usually for Ukraine’s Military Intelligence. Not one terrorist attack has ever been carried out, however such arrests enable the FSB to trumpet their supposed ‘success’ in fighting ‘terrorism’.  They are also widely used on Russian state-controlled media to try to convince Crimeans that they need to be ‘protected’ from the dastardly Ukrainian military.  RIA Novosti, for example, produced a ‘report’ back in April 2020 under the title ‘Ukrainian saboteurs planning terrorist acts detained in Crimea’.  There is nothing to suggest that either Kuzmenko or Shyrinh were accused of anything of the sort, and no other arrests were reported. 

The next hearing at the ‘Crimean High Court’ is scheduled for 23 August.

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