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.

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Russian invaders abduct and torture Kung-Fu master and four other Ukrainians for fantasy ‘international terrorism trial'

Halya Coynash

Melitopol Andriy Holubiev Photo from the Current Time interview given by his wife, Olha

Andriy Holubiev from Melitopol Photo from the Current Time interview given by his wife, Olha

The abductions of ordinary civilians, and use of torture capable of extorting ‘confessions’ to insanely implausible crimes are among the worst hallmarks of the terror that Russia has brought to any Ukrainian territory it has occupied since 2014.  

Five Ukrainians from Melitopol were abducted by the Russians in early April, and are facing charges of ‘intentional terrorism’ over an alleged plan to blow up a truck carrying humanitarian supplies.  It is, in fact, Russia that has targeted humanitarian convoys in Ukraine, as well as people standing in queues for humanitarian aid, with this only one of many reasons for profound scepticism about a case which brings to mind the boast attributed to Stalin’s notorious ‘prosecutor general’ Andrey Vyshinsky that “if you give me a man, I will find a crime”.  

Five Ukrainians: Andriy Holubiev, a Kung Fu master and popular educator in Melitopol, Ihor Horlov; Yury Petrov, Volodymyr Zuyev and Oleksandr Zhukov, are all imprisoned at the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.  It is claimed that, on instructions from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU], they planned to stuff explosives into the front bumper of a car with the explosive supposedly intended to detonate when a vehicle with humanitarian aid passed by. A report from 21 April 2022 asserts that the FSB “thwarted a terrorist act against Russian Federation soldiers and a humanitarian convoy in Melitopol”, and lists a whole lot of weapons, etc. allegedly ‘found’ at the homes of the “detained Ukrainians”.

There is no proof of any such plan, but none is needed, with Russia’s FSB able to claim credit for supposedly ‘thwarting’ an ‘act of international terrorism’ while extracting ‘confessions’ to this from men held totally incommunicado and likely subjected to horrific torture. Judging by Russian media reports, it seems likely that the FSB first decided to stage a ‘trial’ on charges of planning ‘an act of international terrorism’ (under Article 361 of Russia’s criminal code, as well as Article 30 § 1) and then made up the plot to fit these charges.  The security service of a country that had illegally invaded and seized control of Melitopol claim that the Ukrainian citizens “were specifically planning an act of international terrorism since it was aimed against civilians of Ukrainian and the Russian Federation for the purpose of disrupting the peaceful co-existence of states and peoples and against the interests of the Russian Federation.”

The only thing that remains unclear is whether the men were seized before the charges were thought up, or afterwards, but that is a mere detail.  All five have already been added to Russia’s notorious ‘list of extremists and terrorists’.  On this, Petrov is identified as being from Zaporizhzhia although, like the others, he is registered in Melitopol and had long lived them.  They were initially taken to occupied Crimea, and then to Moscow, with all the Russian ‘authorities’ denying any knowledge of the men’s whereabouts.  Most of the information that the families have received was when the ‘case’ was reported in Russian Kremlin-loyal media.

Andriy Holubiev (b. 1977) is from Melitopol and a graduate of the Melitopol Pedagogical University.  He is well-known in the city as a popular Kung Fu trainer, especially of children, and is also the head of the Melitopol Kung Fu Association. 

The pandemic prevented him from working in his chosen profession and for exactly a year from December 2020, he served in a Ukrainian border guard unit in Kyrilivka, on the coast of the Sea of Azov.  He was planning, after medical treatment, to return to his true vocation, working with children, and hoped to also work in a computer school.

It seems likely that it was because of his period of border guard service that he was targeted by the Russian invaders. 

Holubiev’s wife, Olha, has recounted in a Current Time interview how, on 6 April 2022, five armed men in combat gear burst into their home in Melitopol and took her husband away.  They told her that “if he cooperates, he will return”. The Russians made no attempt to search the place, demanding only his passport and telephone, with this another clear indication that the changes they later pinned on him are pure fabrication.

Olha tried all the occupation ‘authorities’, with them claiming to know nothing about Andriy.  She has taken the couple’s 8-year-old son to Dnipro, in government-controlled Ukraine, from where she is trying to raise publicity for her husband’s plight.

The family certainly did not support Russia’s invasion, however Olha explains that her husband had scarcely left their home, as he had health problems, linked with a degenerating condition of the hip-joint for which he was receiving injections. Not only have the Russians who illegally abducted him from his home deprived him of his liberty for the last year, but they are also directly risking his health, since the lack of proper treatment could leave him permanently crippled.

Ihor Horlov from Melitopol giving the ’confession’ he was almost certainly tortured into making Screenshot from the video

Ihor Horlov from Melitopol giving the ’confession’ he was almost certainly tortured into making Screenshot from the video

Ihor Horlov is 35 and knew he was a target for the Russians as he was serving in a Ukrainian military unit in Melitopol right up to Russia’s invasion. He had therefore left his home and was living in hiding, but was seized by the Russians on 6 April 2022.  For a week after this, his telephone responded to messages from Horlov’s family and friends, with the invaders presumably using this to try to identify other contacts.  The Russians brought him, under convoy, to his home for searches twice, after he had already been in Russian captivity for well over a week.  After that, he disappeared, however, on 22 April, he was shown on a Russian propaganda video, supposedly ‘confessing’ to the above charges. The manner in which he speaks, staring fixedly at the camera, would already arouse suspicion, and there is already substantial evidence that all such ‘confessions’ are obtained through horrific forms of torture, including electric currents attached to the most sensitive parts of a person’s body.

Volodymyr Zuyev is a 44-year-old IT specialist who was living with his father who is ill.  He was also in the Melitopol Territorial Defence reserves.  His brother, Oleksandr, says that the Russians came for Volodymyr on 1 April and did carry out a search of the flat, saying that they knew Zuyev was an ‘ukrop’ [a derogatory term for the Russians, but indicating only pro-Ukrainian views) and claiming him to also be ‘a terrorist’.

Yury Petrov is 61 and lived with his family in Melitopol, where he is registered.  It is not clear why the Russians have entered him on their ‘list of extremists and terrorists’ as from Zaporizhzhia.

The Russians seized him between 1 and 4 April 2022.  The lack of exact information is because his family remain on occupied territory and contact with them could put them in danger. 

Oleksandr Zhukov (b. 1969) was seized by the Russians on 7 April.  His daughter, Yevhenia, explained to the Centre for Journalist Investigations that the family had not believed they would come for her father and had not even agreed beforehand what to say about his military service.  When the Russians asked if her father was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, she tried to say that they had only just arrived and she didn’t know.  This was absurd, she acknowledges, as there was even a photo of him in uniform.  The Russians claimed that Oleksandr would be interrogated and then released. He has not been seen since, though here too, the Russian occupation forces have denied any knowledge of his whereabouts, and they have learned the little they know from Russian Telegram channels or media.

There is nothing to suggest that the five men even knew each other, yet they are now facing life sentences on charges which seem evidently fabricated.

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