Ukrainian partisan captured and savagely tortured in Donbas put ‘on trial’ in Russia
Forget Russia’s pretence from 2014 that a ‘Ukrainian civil war’ was underway in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Russia is certainly making little effort to dissociate itself from the horrific torture used against Ukrainians in the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DPR]. One such victim, 32-year-old Hryhory Sinchenko is now ‘on trial’ at the same Southern District Military Court that Russia has been using to imprison Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners since 2014.
The narrative is still deeply dishonest, with Russia trying to present Sinchenko as some kind of criminal, and not a committed partisan, who returned to occupied Donetsk oblast after being released once in a prisoner exchange.
Hryhory Sinchenko is from occupied Makiivka, which is close to Donets. He had been living in Kherson but returned to the territory of the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ in 2016. This was seemingly in order to reinstate medical records needed to confirm the disability status which had meant that he was unable to serve in Ukraine’s Armed Forces. in Makiivka, Sinchenko became involved in a partisan group opposing Russia’s pseudo ‘Donetsk republic’ and was captured by the so-called ‘DPR ministry of state security’, or MGB on 2 December 2016. He was accused of blowing up cigarette kiosks, and was savagely tortured., with this including the use of electric shocks; asphyxiation and beatings, as well as being suspended for several hours by handcuffs. His mother, Tetiana Hulevska reported that he had been so badly beaten that he suffered a collapsed lung and almost died in the prison.
It was not only the bestial torture that was a precursor of the treatment that the Russians have meted out on all occupied Ukrainian territory since their full-scale invasion in February 2022. The ‘search’ of Sinchenko’s family home back in 2016 boiled down to sheer plunder of anything of value, including home appliances. By April 2022, the Russian invaders had become notorious for wholesale plunder and for sending the results of their looting, including fridges, home to Russia.
Sinchenko was released in an exchange of Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk oblast) hostages and POWs on 27 December 2017. Driven by what his mother calls his strong sense of justice, however, Sinchenko returned to ‘DPR’ territory.
He was seized again in October 2019, with the DPR militants bringing him, covered in blood, to his grandmother’s home. The ‘search’ on that occasion was purportedly for explosives, though none were found.
It is now clear, though was already then suspected, that Sinchenko was accused of involvement in the blowing up of a Donetsk radio tower, providing mobile communications to occupied territory, on 27 October 2019. As reported, this was very obviously an act by partisans, with of the blast posted on YouTube, together with an ultimatum, reading: “This was done in order to draw attention to the inhuman torture in MGB basements. Ill-treatment and having ones extremities connected to electric wires have become the norm in the “people’s” republics. The people of Donbas must come out in protest against torture or the fascist republic will remain without communications.”
Nothing more was heard about Sinchenko’s imprisonment until a ‘DPR wanted notice’ appeared on 21 May 2020. This said nothing about the young man having been imprisoned and claimed that he was wanted “for a grave crime”, offering a reward for information leading to his capture. The photo had clearly been taken while he was in custody, and he had obviously been beaten, and probably tortured with electric shocks to his face. He was recaptured on 20 June 2020.
In September 2020, Sinchenko ended up in a prison hospital in occupied Donetsk. He had tried to slash his wrists in protest at torture aimed at getting him to give up his lawyer, and to extract false ‘confessions’.
The above details are either omitted altogether or seriously distorted in the Russian reports about Sinchenko and his supposed ‘trial’ over alleged acts of sabotage in occupied Ukraine, yet tried under Russian legislation. writes that Sinchenko is accused of “spying; sabotage; attempts on the life of law enforcement officers; deliberate damage to and destruction of property; illegal crossing of the border; escaping from detention; extortion; participation in a terrorist society and multiple cases of obtaining or preparing explosives.”
This would not be the first time that Russia has added absurd charges of ‘illegally crossing the border’ to try to get around the fact that a Ukrainian, seized in occupied Ukraine, ends up on ‘trial’ in Russia. It is also very standard that both Russia and its proxy ‘republics’ try to attribute mercenary motives for behaviour which either never happened or was part of partisan activities. It is claimed here that Sinchenko was first accused, before his release in 2017, of blowing up kiosks as a form of extortion.
It is further claimed that he returned to occupied Donbas in order to revenge himself on so-called ‘enforcement officers’ whom he tried to kill. He is alleged to have blowed up the above-mentioned radio tower, as well as carrying out explosions on electricity lines, the foundations of a railway bridge and several cars belonging to ‘DPR enforcement officers’.
Despite the formidable number of allegations, nobody is claimed to have been killed. It is also telling that the ‘witnesses’ include an owner of a kiosk and ‘DPR enforcement officers’ whom Sinchenko is supposed to have tried to kill.
Sinchenko reportedly denies all but one episode. We have ample evidence, including detailed testimony from former hostages, of the horrific torture methods used in ‘DPR’, as well as by the Russian FSB, especially before a person is formally remanded in custody. Any other ‘evidence’ used in this ‘trial’ will have been presented by an illegal formation which was assessed by Freedom House as close to North Korea in terms of its lack of rule of law, the chances for a fair trial or other fundamental rights.
The presiding judge at the Southern District Military Court is Viacheslav Alekseevich Korsakov who has been involved in imprisoning many Ukrainian political prisoners. On 16 June 2023, for example, he was one of three judges who sentenced Crimean Tatar civic activist Ansar Osmanov to 20 years’ imprisonment, without any recognizable crime.
There is essentially no chance of Sinchenko’s ‘trial’ being anything but a predetermined travesty of justice, but it is, nonetheless, vital that it receives maximum publicity.
Please help, if you can, with publicity and do also write to Hryhory. It is important that he knows he is not forgotten, and that Moscow understands that it is under scrutiny. Letters need to be on ‘safe’ subjects and in Russian. If that is a problem, the letter below (copied by hand) would be fine.
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.
[Hi. I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ]
344022, Россия,, Ростовская обл., г. Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219, ФКУ СИЗО-1
Синченко Григорий Андреевич 1991 г. р.
[Or in English
344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1
Sinchenko, Hryhory Andreevich, b. 1991 ]