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.

Russian FSB threatened to kill Ukrainian sportsman’s mother to extract ‘confession’ to Crimean rail sabotage

Halya Coynash
Ukrainian orienteering sportsmen have issued an urgent appeal demanding that Russia end its torture of their colleague and #FreeKyryloBarannyk

#FreeKyryloBarannyk Image Crimean Realities

#FreeKyryloBarannyk Image Crimean Realities

Ukrainian orienteering sportsmen have issued an urgent appeal on behalf of Kyrylo Barannyk, their 25 (or 26--year-old colleague from occupied Crimea whom the Russians have accused of being a rail partisan and are holding in detention.  While a close friend and fellow sportsman has confirmed that Barannyk holds strongly pro-Ukrainian views, there is every reason to believe that his ‘confession’ was, as he himself has said, extracted through savage torture and threats against both him and his mother.  The involvement of the same ‘investigators’ who fabricated political charges against Feodosia artist Bohdan Ziza; the other methods used to ‘find’ suspects, and the fact that Barannyk’s imprisonment has not stopped acts of rail sabotage only strengthen the conviction, expressed in the appeal, that Kyrylo Barannyk has become one of the very many victims of Russia’s machine of repression in occupied Crimea. 

Crimean Realities have spoken with friends and colleagues of the young Ukrainian from Simferopol.  Barannyk would seem to have been a passionate orienteer since school days and won several Ukrainian championships in sports orienteering. Aged just 16, Kyrylo was at an international youth competition in Turkey, gaining a gold medal for Ukraine when Russia invaded Crimea.  During the European championship in Macedonia in the summer, he told former trainer Andriy Pidhaietsky that he was unhappy about what was happening at home in Crimea.  “I was born in Ukraine, lived and continue to live in Ukraine. All else is nonsense.”  There were lots of discussions among the participants, he says, and Kyrylo always demonstrated a pronounced pro-Ukrainian position, and seemed very grown-up for his age.  Darya Moskalenko, another former Ukrainian orienteer, met Kyrylo at many championships and had the same impression.  She is one of several current or former representatives of the sport who have joined the appeal and are calling to #FreeKyryloBarannyk.

Circumstances meant that, while his friend and fellow orienteer Mykyta Zviahin left, with his family, for mainland Ukraine, after the invasion, Kyrylo Barannyk remained in occupied Crimea.  He lived in Simferopol, with his mother, and continued his involvement in orienteering, but competing in Russian competitions.  It was the Zviahin family who initiated the appeal, published on 16 July, in which they call on Russia to stop torturing the young man and release him.  Torture is an international crime, the authors point out, and the perpetrators must be held to account.

Mykyta’s mother, Olena Zviahina told Crimean Realities that Kyrylo is like a son to her, and points out that he was the only person in occupied Crimea who “didn’t turn away from us because of our pro-Ukrainian views”.

As reported, Barannyk was seized by the Russian FSB on 30 May, who put a bag over his head and took him to some premises where they used illegal methods to extract a ‘confession’ to having caused an explosion on railway tracks on 23 February 2023

He was remanded in custody in the SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] in Simferopol, from where he has been able to describe the torture he suffered. He says that the FSB put him on a chair and, after binding his hands and feet with scotch tape, they tied electric wires to his fingers.  His FSB torturers kept the bag over his head to increase the terror and prevent him from recognizing them.  He believes the electric current torture lasted around an hour.  The FSB were not content with his ‘confession’ to the 23 February sabotage and demanded that he also ‘admit to’ the explosion on the railway lines near the village of Chystenke (Simferopol raion) on 18 May. Barannyk asserts that there were two other occasions when he was subjected to such electric current torture – during the night from 5 to 6 June and from 9 to 10 June.  Each time, the torture continued for around six hours.

“The FSB officers forced me to admit to a crime that I hadn’t committed.  At first, they tortured me with electric currents, connecting electric terminals to my fingers, toes, earlobes and buttocks.  They threatened to fully rape me, and I took the threat seriously. Then they beat and kicked me around the torso and head, with this resulting, I believe, in a broken rib on my right side.”, Barannyk recounts.  He is also suffering from acute pain in the kidneys from the beating and has partially lost feeling in his right hand.

The FSB then forced him to lie on a military stretcher and bound his arms and legs before placing a rag over his face and pouring water, as though to drown him.  He says that they would alternate this with the electric currents, demanding that he admit to a crime he had nothing to do with.  They also threatened to kill his mother, or to kill him, claiming that he had tried to escape.

Barannyk’s lawyer, Alexei Ladin has confirmed that the young man has scars which would correspond to such torture.  it is also typical that the FSB claim that he was only detained on 31 May, with this concealing the period of time when he was totally under their control and held without access to an independent lawyer.

As mentioned, the other reason for concern is that the two so-called ‘investigators’ in this case: Alexander Lavrov and Alexander Kuznetsov both also involved in the persecution of Bohdan Ziza.  He too was evidently tortured into ‘confessing’ on video and then faced charges which were clearly disproportionate to his act of protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Since Barannyk was seized, the occupation regime have reported other acts of railway sabotage – on 11 June and 21 June.  Each such attack (on a legitimate target, which Russia is using for its war of aggression against Ukraine) has been followed, at least since 23 February, by waves of armed searches, abductions, and likely torture of Crimean Tatars, and there were also mass arrests on 3 May.  Russia’s FSB has a long track record of fabricating ‘sabotage’ prosecutions in occupied Crimea and is clearly using the same methods of terror, intimidation and torture-extracted ‘confessions’ even when facing genuine rail partisans.  Under Russian occupation, any Crimean Tatars or other Ukrainians can become the latest victims.

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