Crimean radio enthusiast with a flag of Ukraine sentenced to 12 years on fake ‘spying’ charges
A ‘court’ in Russian-occupied Crimea has upheld a previously unknown 12-year sentence against Stanislav Stetsenko on charges of having ‘spied for Ukraine’s Armed Forces’. While Russia imposes total secrecy on such ‘trials’, there is every reason to assume that the 35-year-old Ukrainian is yet another victim of the Russian regime’s spy mania in occupied Crimea.
News of the sentence was by the Russian-controlled KrymInform on 22 March 2023, although it dates back to December last year. KrymInform cites Russia’s FSB in occupied Crimea in reporting that Stetsenko was first convicted of ‘state treason, in the form of spying [ Article 275 of Russia’s criminal code],on 22 December 2022 and sentenced to 12 years in a harsh-regime prison colony. That sentence was upheld on 21 March by the Third court of appeal in Sochi (Russia).
It was back on 24 June 2021 that Russian state media first reported the arrest in occupied Simferopol of a young ‘Russian citizen’, identified only as ‘S’ and seen on a video, circulated by Russia’s FSB. This was said to be on suspicion of having gathered information about Russian military flights for Ukraine’s Security Service. The FSB claimed that he had, over a long period of time, received and passed on information, using special antenna and reception equipment. The so-called ‘investigators’ asserted that ‘S’ had gathered and passed on information about the activities of the Russian Military Aerospace Forces and Marines over the territory of Crimea and the Black Sea. This was alleged to have contained current data of a military nature which could be used by a foreign state against the Russian Federation’s security and to have been commissioned by Ukrainian Military Intelligence. “An informed source”, Interfax reported, had told them that the person “is a technical specialist who understands specialized equipment. But not a military person, with a civic profile”. TASS, in turn, quoted their unnamed sources has saying that the man had worked in the public sector, but not in a field linked with aviation.
It was the independent Grani.ru website the person as Stanislav Stetsenko (b. 1988). Russia’s description of him as a Russian citizen and the charge of ‘treason’ simply make use of the fact that the occupiers of Crimea have rendered it next to impossible to live in Crimea without taking Russian citizenship. Stetsenko is Ukrainian, and Russia has no right to be applying its legislation on Stetsenko’s homeland which it is illegally occupying.
As in other such cases, the FSB video lingers ponderously on Stetsenko’s Ukrainian flag, a yellow and blue scarf with ‘Ukraine’ written on it in Ukrainian, binoculars and an aeronautical map of Crimea published before Russia’s invasion. Grani.ru notes that the equipment shown can be legally purchased in Crimea and in Russia. It cites Radioscanner, a forum for radio fans which Stetsenko has been registered on since 2010. If, as seems the case, Stetsenko was an avid airspotter, this would so obviously have attracted FSB scrutiny that he would have needed to be suicidal, and Ukraine’s Military Intelligence asleep, to have engaged in any illicit activities.
Stetsenko has undoubtedly been in custody since June 2021. There is no information as to whether he was ever allowed access to a proper lawyer, and not those foisted by the FSB, who generally simply encourage a person to admit to the charges in the hope of a shorter sentence. There was, however, an appeal, which presumably means that Stetsenko denied the charges.
quotes analyst Oleksandr Sedov as calling all of these charges of so-called ‘state treason’ absolutely unwarranted. He says that all such cases are aimed at forming the image of ‘the enemy’ among the population in occupied Crimea. They are further intended to send an ominous message to all pro-Ukrainian Crimeans that anybody can end up behind bars on totally fabricated charges. At least earlier, such arrests also increased the number of hostages on the list for exchange of prisoners. This last is, perhaps, less clearly the case now, given the huge numbers of civilians, as well as prisoners of war, that the Russians are holding prisoner.
Stetsenko’s arrest and ‘trial’ are similar to one of Russia’s first abductions and criminal prosecutions of a Ukrainian on ‘spying’ charges. Valentin Vyhivsky was seized in September 2014 after he was tricked into travelling to occupied Crimea, to help, or so he believed, an Internet acquaintance. Vyhivsky has been fascinated with aviation since earliest childhood and spent a lot of time on Internet chats, discussing aviation with other enthusiasts, and doubtless attracting FSB attention. Vyhivsky, who has a young son, will soon have been in Russian captivity for nine years. There are other victims also, most of whom appear to have been targeted for their pro-Ukrainian views. Russia has already caused the death of one such victim, Kostiantyn Shyrinh, and is very likely risking the lives of at least two or three of the following political prisoners.