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.

Disabled Kherson volunteer tortured by Russian invaders for insane propaganda confession to ‘spying for Ukraine’

Halya Coynash
The Russians who invaded and occupied Mykola Petrovsky's home are in all seriousness charging the 28-year-old Ukrainian volunteer with ‘spying for Ukraine’ and threatening a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment
Mykola Petrovsky Photo from the ZMINA report
Mykola Petrovsky Photo from the ZMINA report

Mykola Petrovsky was abducted on 27 March 2022 from the centre of Kherson and has been imprisoned ever since.  The Russians who invaded and occupied his home are in all seriousness charging the 28-year-old Ukrainian volunteer with ‘spying for Ukraine’ and threatening a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.  Petrovsky lost part of his foot and sustained serious injuries a few years ago, and now also needs urgent treatment for a stomach ulcer.

Petrovsky’s fiancée Diana Demchemko explained to Hromadske Radio at the end of October that, after he was seized by the invaders, she and Mykola’s parents had had no information at all for around half a year.  It was impossible to describe what they went through during that time, she said, with no confirmation from the Russians even that they were holding him, let alone where. They also suffered the agonizing dilemma so many families have gone through, not knowing whether publicity could help, or lead to him facing reprisals.

They learned in September that he had been illegally taken to occupied Crimea, where he was imprisoned in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison].  Since then, there has at least been contact via the lawyer appointed, and they are able to get parcels (with food, etc.) to him. They now know that he was moved to Crimea as early as April.  As Diana Demchenko points out, there are a huge number of Ukrainians whom the Russians are holding in occupied Crimea, with them only admitting to their imprisonment once they’ve decided which surreal charge to bring against them.

The conditions in this, and all Russian-controlled, SIZO are tantamount to torture, and Petrovsky, although very young, sustained grave injuries when he was hit by a car while riding his motorbike ten years ago.  He lost part of his left foot, as well as receiving a head injury and damage to the left side of the face.  His mother explains that, as a result, he has difficulty both seeing and hearing. He was also provided with a poor-quality prosthetic foot which left him with wounds that need constant treatment, as well as acute back pain from resulting spinal problems.  He was under specialist care before his abduction and urgently needs a proper examination and health care. Since his abduction, doubtless because of the conditions, he has also developed a stomach ulcer. 

Mykola Petrovsky’s treatment by his Russian captors From the FSB video
Mykola Petrovsky’s treatment by his Russian captors From the FSB video

His mother told the ZMINA Human Rights Centre that her son was savagely tortured in Russian captivity, with fingers broken, as well as damage to his healthy leg and shoulder.  The Russians also abducted Ukrainians and kept their whereabouts unknown making it impossible for families to even get warm clothes to men and women who had only the clothes they were seized in.

Mykola Petrovsky has a pronounced pro-Ukrainian position, and had refused to leave Kherson after the Russians invaded.  He was active helping to evacuate people from the occupied city and taking food to those most in need.

In early October 2022, the FSB produced a propaganda video which was widely shown on Russian state television.  Mykola Petrovsky is first shown, being led bent over, with arms forced behind his back and in handcuffs, through a prison corridor.  He is limping heavily, and his mother has expressed horror at how thin he has become.  

The reports do not name Petrovsky, nor do they show his face, perhaps because his injuries would clash with their claim to have detained an “SBU agent”.  The FSB assert that Petrovsky was ‘recruited’ by the SBU (Ukraine’s Security Service) back in 2021.  They allege that after Russia’s full-scale invasion, which they call “the beginning of the special military operation on Ukrainian territory”, he “was actively used by them to gather information about the places of deployment, the numbers of divisions of the Russian armed forces, the routes of their movement on the territory of the Kherson oblast, as well as the types of military technology and arms used in particular places.”

Petrovsky was held totally incommunicado and any supposed ‘confession’ can be safely assumed to have been obtained through duress, with this very likely the most savage forms of torture.

Russia’s FSB and kangaroo courts will likely carry through a farcical ‘trial’ on charges of ‘spying’ under Article 276 of Russian criminal code.  That does not change the real situation, namely that Mykola Petrovsky was seized in mainland Ukraine by members of an aggressor state who had no right to be there, let alone impose their legislation.  He is one of the huge number of victims of enforced disappearances and any ‘sentence’ only compounds the crime that Russia is committing.

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