Russia begins grotesque show trial of abducted Ukrainian war veteran
The ‘trial’ has begun in Russia of Pavlo Zaporozehts, a 32-year-old from Kherson abducted by Russian soldiers in May 2022. Not only is Russia illegally applying its legislation against a Ukrainian living in a Ukrainian city which Russia was illegally occupying, but it is also violating international law by laying surreal ‘terrorism’ charges against a Ukrainian military serviceman.
Pavlo Zaporozhets is a former ATO veteran, who defended Ukraine in Donbas from 2014 -2017. He joined HUR, the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Military Intelligence, after Russia’s invasion of Kherson, and was serving in that capacity when seized by the Russians on 9 May 2022. He was held incommunicado for three months, first in Kherson, then in Crimea, with the Russians using this period to savagely torture him in order to extract a supposed ‘confession’. He initially had only a ‘lawyer’ appointed by the FSB, with these individuals typically there to sign papers, and / or encourage the person detained to agree to the charges.
Zaporozhets is now represented by Alexei Ladin, a Russian lawyer who has defended many Ukrainian political prisoners and who has confirmed that any ‘confession’ was extracted from Zaporozhets through unendurable torture.
The ‘trial’ which began on 2 February 2023 is taking place at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia). This institution has played a shocking role in Russia’s persecution of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners since shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The term ‘military’ in the title is linked solely with the fact that Russia has laid ‘terrorism’ charges, although the very fact that Zaporozhets is an active military serviceman means that such charges are illegal. In his application for the prosecution to be terminated, Ladin explained that “Zaporozhets, as a current serviceman in Ukraine’s Armed Services, was carrying out a military order. According to this, his task was to carry out an explosion along the path that a military patrol of the Russian armed forces was travelling during the night. This was while a curfew was in place, which precluded any risk to the life and health of Russian and Ukrainian civilians. Furthermore, on 9 May 2022, Kherson was de jure and de facto territory of the foreign state of Ukraine, and the presence there of Russian civilians was precluded.”
The application was, predictably, rejected, with the court, during the preliminary hearing on 2 February, remanding Zaporozhets in custody for a further six months. Russia, an aggressor state, is, in all seriousness, charging the Ukrainian with an attack (under Article 30 § 3 of Russia’s criminal code) and a so-called ‘act of international terrorism’ (Article 361 § 1).
The Russians are claiming that an attack on a Russian military night patrol, a clearly military target, constituted ‘international terrorism’, with the charge carrying a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
It is asserted that ‘the FSB detained’ Zaporozhets on 9 May, while he was carrying two grenades, a fishing line and two plastic bottles, seemingly made into petrol bombs. Zaporozhets was tortured into claiming that he had been contacted by somebody from HUR, but that he had agreed to carry out the person’s orders for money (30 thousand UAH per month. Ladin has shown journalists a copy of a note Zaporozhets wrote in August 2022, in which he described been subjected to savage torture in the form of beatings and electric shocks.
Ladin is representing two Ukrainians whom Russia is accusing of ‘international terrorism’. Yaroslav Zhuk, who is also 32 and from occupied Melitopol, was seized by the Russians on 17 June. He is presently held prisoner in occupied Crimea, and has given harrowing accounts of the torture he endured, including electric currents passed through wires attached to his genitals and beatings (details here).