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.

Crimean artist sentenced to 15 years for protest over Russia’s war against Ukraine

Halya Coynash
Bohdan Ziza was charged with ‘terrorism’ although he had called for peace, not killings, and would probably not now be imprisoned at all had he not protest against Russia’s constant murdering of innocent civilians.

The Yevpatoria administration building daubed in the colours of the Ukrainian flag Photo from Krymsky Vecher Telegram channel, Bohdan Ziza from the supposed ’confession’

The Yevpatoria administration building daubed in the colours of the Ukrainian flag Photo from Krymsky Vecher Telegram channel, Bohdan Ziza from the supposed ’confession’

Ukrainian artist Bohdan Ziza (Azizov) has become the latest victim of Russia’s totally disproportionate sentences against those protesting its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The 28-year-old was also the latest victim of torture used by the FSB to obtain a videoed ‘confession’ which was then presented as key ‘evidence’ against him.

Ziza has been in detention in occupied Crimea since soon after his protest at around 4 a.m. on 16 May 2022 when he hurled yellow and blue paint on the door of the occupation Feodosia administration building.  While he did have a Molotov cocktail with him, there is nothing to suggest that he was trying to do more than express – and video – protest against the war.  He had alerted the security guard and there was nobody else that his protest could have harmed even if his petrol bomb had caused a fire. Had his action not been obviously pro-Ukrainian and in protest at Russia’s war of aggression, he would, at most, have received a suspended sentence or fine for ‘hooliganism’. 

Instead, he was seized, tortured into making multiple ‘confessions’ and then charged, with ‘terrorism’ under Russian legislation illegally applied in occupied Crimea. 

During his final address to the Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia), Ziza, who is an orphan, said that he regretted that his elderly grandmother, who had brought him up and now needs his help, would be left alone.  He had, however, acted in accordance with his conscience. He is a Ukrainian, and it causes him pain to see what is happening to his country.   He acknowledged that his protest had been foolish, and that he should have expressed his views in a different way, but rejected the ’terrorism’ charges and asked if his protest really warranted the 18-year sentence demanded by the Russian prosecutor. “Russian law gives shorter sentences even for murder, and I spoke out against murder.”

My position has been unchanged since the first day of the war: I spoke out against the war in Ukraine which is passively supported by most Russians.  My protest was an attempt to get through to apolitical citizens, an attempt to not stand on the sideline when innocent people are dying every day.”

He had called for peace, he stressed, and could not understand how the prosecution could claim that he called to acts of terrorism.  He said that his prosecution was aimed at scaring other dissidents into silence, with this only confirming its political nature.  

My act was a cry from the heart and conscience to those who, like me, were afraid, but like me did not and do not want this war.  <>  Yes, it’s frightening. Yes, you can end up behind bars, where I of course was not planning to be.  Even for these words, I could have new criminal charges laid against me.  However, it’s better to be in prison with a clear conscience than to remain, like silent cattle, at liberty.

I am also an ordinary citizen of my country, but of Ukraine, and who is not accustomed to be silent in the face of lawlessness. I am not alone in this ‘aquarium’ [the effectively cage that he is held in] today.  There are over 200 people with me.  These are Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russian prisons on fabricated charges.  Many of them are Crimean Tatars who have yet again faced Russian repression.  I am myself half Crimean Tatar and it is painful to see what is happening to our peoples.”

He would be going on hunger strike, he said, from 10 June, demanding both that he be stripped of the Russian citizenship (which Russia has made it all but impossible to live without in occupied Crimea) and the release of all political prisoners.

If anything happens to me in prison, I want the public to know that this is purely because I am a Ukrainian who spoke out against the war in my country.”

There was never any doubt that, in the early hours of 16 May 2022, Ziza had painted the entrance to the occupation ‘administration’ in Yevpatoria in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.  It was less clear whether he had thrown a Molotov cocktail, however in a [written] interview to Crimean Realities in March 2023, Ziza confirmed that there had indeed been a petrol bomb. This had, however, merely been to give more impact to the video clip that he was making of the protest, and certainly not to set the building alight.   In any case, he stressed then, as well as later in court, this had nothing to do with terrorism.

He confirmed that the supposed videoed ‘confession’ had been produced under torture. He said that he had, in fact, been forced to make at least five, with one of these then shown on Russian and Russian occupation TV.

Ziza was initially fined under one of the administrative charges hastily introduced (together with criminal charges) to silence protest over the full-scale invasion.  He was not, however, released from SIZO and it became known in late November that he was facing very serious charges.  The indictment includes four articles of Russia’s criminal code: Article 205 § 1 (carrying out a terrorist act); the same article but as the threat to carry out a terrorist act; 205.2 § calls to terrorism and 214 § 2 (politically-motivated vandalism).  He has also been placed on Russia’s notorious ‘List of extremists and terrorists’ (together with a huge number of other Russian and Ukrainian political prisoners and prisoners of conscience). 

Ziza was moved to a Russian SIZO [remand prison] in January 2023 with the ‘trial’ taking place under presiding ‘judge’ Roman Plisko at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov.  Both the prosecutor, Vladislav Kuznetsov and Plisko have taken part in many fabricated ‘trials’ and huge sentences against innocent men.

n 6 June, a day after Kuznetsov had asked for an 18- year sentence, the ‘court’ under Roman Plisko presiding, found Ziza guilty of all four charges brought against him.  These were: Article 205 § 1 (carrying out a terrorist act); the same article but as the threat to carry out a terrorist act; 205.2 § calls to terrorism and 214 § 2 (politically motivated vandalism).  He was sentenced to 15 years, with the first three in a prison, the worst of Russia’s penal institutions, with the rest in a medium-security prison colony.

The sentence will certainly be appealed,

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