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.

Ukrainian political prisoner accused of ‘recruiting Russians to fight for Ukraine’

Halya Coynash
There are fears that Russia may be planning to fabricate new charges against Hennady Lymeshko who is already serving an 8-year sentence on surreal charges

Hennady Lymeshko Photo Anton Naumlyuk

Hennady Lymeshko has been transferred to harsher conditions in a Russian colony, with the prison administration claiming that the Ukrainian political prisoner “recruited Russian citizens to fight on Ukraine’s side”.   This is a worrying development, and not only for Hennady, since similarly unproven charges could be used as a weapon of repression against any political prisoners.

Lymeshko was told on 29 August that he was being transferred to “harsh conditions of imprisonment’ [SUS] for the duration of his sentence.  There is no information as to the details of this supposed ‘incitement of Russian citizens to fight on Ukraine’s side’, nor of what ‘evidence’ was presented. Lymeshko’s politically motivated 8-year sentence is due to end in 18 months and there is now real concern that Russia is not just seeking to intimidate the Ukrainian, but may be planning to fabricate new charges against him.

Lymeshko managed to get the information to his wife, Iryna, before all contact was lost, with the extra harsh conditions extending to contact with family members.

Iryna says that her husband has had several visitations from the FSB [security service] since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with the FSB questioning him about supposed links with Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service]. Iryna dismisses the suggestion that Hennady could have been trying to ‘recruit’ people as absurd.  She says that her husband tries to be extremely careful in what he says about the war and that he has only once been placed in a punishment cell [SHIZO] since being brought to the Stavropol prison colony in 2018, with it claimed that he had failed to make his bed. 

The problem here is that the prison administration can very easily manufacture such claims, either using prisoners who collaborate with them for material benefit, or by threatening a prisoner with further charges if he does not provide false testimony against Lymeshko.  The Russian FSB has already fabricated new charges and obtained a huge extra sentence against Ukrainian academic Dmytro Shtyblikov, and the fact that Lymeshko was once in Ukraine’s Armed Forces could well make him a target.

Lymeshko is one of many Ukrainians who have been seized by the FSB in occupied Crimea and accused of ‘sabotage’ charges, with the only ‘evidence’ ever presented being ‘videoed confessions’ extracted when the men were held incommunicado and without access to independent lawyers.

Iryna first learned of her husband’s arrest when she saw him on Russian television.  Then 25, Lymeshko had recently been defending Ukraine in Donbas, initially as part of a volunteer battalion linked with Right Sector, one of the Ukrainian nationalist movements that Russia has particularly demonized, and then as a contract soldier.  It was while he was serving in Donbas in 2016 that he met his wife, a medical student from Lviv who was working as a paramedic during the university holidays.

Lymeshko left the army after the couple’s daughter was born.  Iryna has since explained that her husband was offered work in occupied Crimea, and decided to go, brushing off her fears that he would be in danger as too pessimistic.

Iryna now knows that Lymeshko was seized on 12 August 2017 in Sudak (occupied Crimea) by men in balaclavas who said that they knew who he was and where he had served in the Army. He was taken to a basement, seemingly in the building now used by the FSB.  His captors proceeded to torture him through electric shocks and beatings, and also threatened reprisals against his family.   From the basement, he was taken to the place where they staged and videoed his supposed arrest. 

The FSB reported Lymeshko’s arrest on 15 August, claiming that he had arrived in Crimea on 12 August, and that, through his arrest, they had “prevented several acts of sabotage against infrastructure and vital services in Crimea” He was supposed to be “an agent of the SBU in the Kherson oblast, sent to Crimea to carry out acts of sabotage. The video performance produced appeared to show Lymeshko being seized by a group of people who used force against him until he asserted that “they told me to cut an electricity post”.   He had allegedly planned to cut this concrete post with a handsaw which was seen lying on the ground near him.

A supposed ‘interrogation’ was shown in which Lymeshko, showing signs of having been beaten, ‘confessed’ to carrying out explosions on the electricity lines between Sudak and Novy Svyet in Crimea for somebody called ‘Andriy’ from the SBU. They also claimed that he was supposed to set fire to a forest in the Sudak – Rybachye – Alushta area and one other act of arson, and to cause a rock avalanche that would block the Sudak – Novyy Svet highway.

The story was full of preposterous details, such as the idea that a young Ukrainian man could have slipped explosives and a large handsaw past the Russian guards at the administrative border between mainland Ukraine and Crimea. Plausibility is not, however, required when ‘courts’ invariably provide the sentences demanded of them, and the FSB claimed that, three days after he crossed into occupied Crimea, the FSB  had found two TNT explosive devices on him, together with a mechanism for detonating them, flammable liquids; and a digital camera (supposedly for the purpose of recording the sabotage in order to report back to his overseers.  

As in many such cases, the ‘confession’ broadcast on Russian state-controlled TV proved different from the actual charges. The indictment accused Lymeshko of possession of a weapon and the illegal production of explosive devices, with the sabotage plot and SBU conveniently forgotten. 

Lymeshko had not had an independent lawyer and it seems likely that he was tricked into pleading guilty on 10 May 2018 at the Sudak City Court, perhaps in exchange for a shorter sentence.  ‘Judge’ Yevgeny Rykov acknowledged that Lymeshko’s very small daughter, who was just 7 months old when he was taken prisoner, could be viewed as an extenuating circumstance.  He claimed, however, that there was an aggravating factor in the alleged political motive of “hostility to the Russian Federation in connection with reunification (sic) of Crimea” and passed a huge 8-year sentence.  Rykov had spent only 20 minutes in the consulting chamber before issuing a ruling and providing all parties with certified copies, which had probably been prepared in advance. That sentence was upheld on 24 June 2018 by the Russian-controlled High Court in Crimea.

Please write to Hennady! 

The letters tell him that he is not forgotten, and show Moscow that their treatment of Ukrainian political prisoners is under scrutiny.  Letters need to be in Russian, and any political subjects, reference to the war or to his case should be avoided. If possible, include an envelope and some thin paper as he may well try to reply.

If Russian is a problem, the following would be fine, maybe with a photo or card

Дорогой Геннадий,

Желаю Вам здоровья, сил и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.  Извините, что так мало пишу - мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

 [Dear Hennady,  I wish you good health, strength and patience, and hope that you will soon be freed.  I’m sorry to write so little.  It’s hard for me to write in Russia, but you are not forgotten.]

Address (You can write this in Russian or in English)

РФ 357873, ФКУ ИК-6, Ставропольский край, х. Дыдымкин, улица Тивилева, 2.

Лимешко, Геннадию Геннадиевичу, 1992 г.р.

[In English 

Russia, 357873, Corrective Colony No. 6, Stavropolsky krai, (khutor) Dydymkin, 2 Tivelev St.

Lymeshko, Gennady Gennadievich, b. 1992 ]

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