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.

Abducted RIA-Melitopol and Melitopol is Ukraine Telegram administrators tortured for Russian propaganda ‘blockbuster’

Halya Coynash
Five young Telegram channel administrators have been held in captivity for over two months, and clearly tortured into providing Russia’s later propaganda attempt to combat Ukrainian resistance in occupied Melitopol
19-year-old Yana Suvorova, administrator of the Telegram channel Melitopol is Ukraine, on the Russian propaganda program giving ’testimony’ clearly extracted under duress
19-year-old Yana Suvorova, administrator of the Telegram channel Melitopol is Ukraine, on the Russian propaganda program giving ’testimony’ clearly extracted under duress

Russia’s FSB and propaganda media have staged a menacing stunt in which five young Ukrainians, including a 19-year-old woman, are accused of ‘terrorism’ and made to ‘repent’ for Russian television viewers.  All are told that ‘if they’re lucky’, they face 12-year sentences, although most, if not all, of the five have clearly been targeted merely as administrators of the Telegram channels ‘RIA Melitopol’ and ‘Melitopol is Ukraine’.  Russia has imposed its own strict censorship and propaganda media on any territory that falls under its control and wants to eliminate all Telegram channels that provide truthful information, especially about Russia’s war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ advance.   The alleged ‘operation’ was probably staged for state television, as the Russians managed to hack into and hijack the Telegram channel RIA-Melitopol back on 20 August 2023, and it was then that Heorhiy Levchenko and, seemingly, other administrators of the channel, were abducted.  His ‘confession and repentance’ have thus been obtained after he was held incommunicado and almost certainly tortured for over two months.  The same is likely to be true of the other four Ukrainians: Yana Suvorova (19); Mark Kaliush; Oleksandr Malyshev, Maksym Rupchov; and Kostiantyn Zynovkin.

Although the FSB claim to have detained three large reconnaissance groups under the control of Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU], most, if not all, of the Melitopol residents abducted and shown on the videos, appear to have simply been administrators of the two pro-Ukrainian Telegram channels.  All, however, are charged under several articles of the Russian criminal code: public calls for terrorist attacks, supposed ‘treason’ and espionage, and are threatened with sentences from 12 to 20 years in prison.  As well as the cognitive dissonance involved in accusing Ukrainians supporting their native Ukraine on Ukrainian territory of ‘treason’, it should be recalled that Russia is flagrantly violating the Geneva Conventions by applying its legislation on occupied territory.

The real RIA-Melitopol, now found here, reported on 30 October that Russia had come up with “an entire blockbuster in the style of Russian propaganda” over two months after seizing their Telegram channel and abducting its administrators. The aim of all of this, including the enforced ‘repentance’ of 19-year-old Yana Suvorova;  Mark Kaliush, a young man suffering from schizophrenia and the others, RIA-Melitopol stressed, was to terrorize the civilian population.  The channel noted that the Russian invaders usually pull such stunts, deploying terror against the local population, when they are not having any success at the front.

The scriptwriters for these stunts certainly do not try for originality, with the alleged ‘operation’ reported on 29 October 2023 very similar to one also shown on Russian state media back in late April 2022.  The show trial of the first five abducted Melitopol residents is now underway at the notorious Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia).  A propagandist supposedly accompanies FSB ‘seizure squads’ in their early morning ‘operation against the above-mentioned Telegram channel administrators.  All of this, including the armed FSB officers in balaclavas and full military gear, was almost certainly staged, as Kostiantyn Zinovkin was abducted back in May 2023, and some, if not all, of the others have been in Russian captivity since 20 August 2023.

According to the ‘correspondent’, the ‘operation’ took place in the early hours of 27 October.  From beginning to end, the program presents an Orwellian twisting of language and fundamental concepts.  While these young people, administering truthful information channels in their own, Ukrainian hometown, are claimed to have been stopped from “trying to involve local residents in spying”, one of the armed special force thugs of the Russian aggressor state is shown saying “We will soon purge our territory [sic] of the enemy”. 

It is claimed that “RIA Melitopol was used “as well as its propaganda functions, for the gathering of information about the places of deployment and routes of Russian army units, and to recruit people to carry out acts of terrorism”.

The program is very clearly aimed at threatening horrific consequences to all those patriotic Ukrainians in Melitopol that they too could face such armed raids, whose men shoot to kill if they encounter any resistance.  Although the charges include ‘terrorism’, there is no attempt to conceal the fact that the young Ukrainians have been arrested as administrators of Telegram channels and ‘information providers.”

The claims made in the program are grandiose but based solely on videoed ‘confessions’ given by young people who have been held without access to lawyers and, undoubtedly, tortured for at least two months. It is likely also that they have faced threats against members of their families if they do not provide the ‘answers’ and ‘express the repentance’ demanded of them.

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