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 academic abducted from occupied Kherson, tortured and sentenced to 12 years in Russia on nonsensical ‘spying’ charges

Halya Coynash
Vladyslav Kryvyy is one of a huge number of Ukrainian civilian hostages almost certainly tortured into providing ‘confessions’ clearly and boringly drafted by Russia’s FSB
Vladyslav Kryvyy (on the right) during the so-called ’interview’ Screenshot from the video posted by REN-TV
Vladyslav Kryvyy (on the right) during the so-called ’interview’ Screenshot from the video posted by REN-TV

A Russian court has sentenced Vladyslav Kryvyy to 12 years’ imprisonment 18 months after the 30-year-old academic was seized by the Russian invaders of his native city Kherson.  The Ukrainian citizen, abducted from Ukrainian territory, was charged under Russian legislation with ‘spying’ (Article 276 of Russia’s criminal code).  All details about the ‘trial’ have been kept secret, and essentially the only thing that is certain is that the supposed ‘confession’ shown on a Russian propaganda channel was extracted through torture.

The information reported on 19 November 2023 by the Crimean Human Rights Group appears to have come from Vladyslav’s relatives.  The young man, who was working in a faculty of the Kherson State Agrarian Economic University, was seized by the Russians in April 2022 when Kherson was still under Russian occupation.

Kryvyy was initially held in one of the prison-torture chambers that the Russian invaders set up in Kherson oblast, before being taken to Moscow and held for a while in the Lefortovo SIZO [remand prison]. He was later sent to occupied Crimea Simferopol.

It is likely that Kryvyy’s family knew nothing about his whereabouts after his abduction until the reports in the Russian state media on 8 May 2022. He was shown in a so-called ‘interview’ to Ivan Litomin on the Kremlin-loyal Izvestia and REN-TV.

We know from several other Ukrainians forced, while in Russian captivity, into taking part in such ‘interviews’ that they were told exactly how to answer and threatened with renewed torture (including with the use of electric shocks) if they did not comply. In several cases, the person was forced into making several such videos, and it is noticeable here that the video is not continuous, with scenes clearly pasted together.

The story told is that Kryvyy (in the Russian, Krivoy) became an agent of Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service] back in 2014.  Supposedly, until 2022, he was not particularly active, used only when the SBU needed official witnesses (for searches, etc).  In March 2022, he was purportedly contacted by the SBU contact who demanded that he collect information about Russian military technology, described by the Kremlin-loyal media as “on territory under the control of the Russian Federation”.)

Among the many reasons for suspecting that either all, or most, of the supposed ‘confession’ is untrue are the telling similarities with other such videos of Ukrainians held incommunicado and entirely under FSB control. The FSB want such propaganda videos to show the victims expressing ‘repentance’.  It does not, however, look good for Russia if those they detained are shown providing information out of patriotism.  In almost all cases, therefore, the story line is either that they did it for money (which, it is generally claimed, they were promised, but did not receive) or, as in this case, because of ‘threats’ if they don’t agree.  Kryvyy says that he tried to refuse, but was told that if he did not fulfil the tasks, the SBU would somehow manage to get a person living in the then occupied Kherson forcibly mobilized. Even the ’interviewer’ seems to acknowledge that this seems a bit absurd, but they were seemingly unable to come up with anything more plausible.

The information which Kryvyy is alleged to have passed on came from a group which, he suggests, existed before the full-scale invasion, as ‘Youth Wing”, and his role was mainly to gather communications and send them on.   This was presumably considered insufficient and the contact from March 2022 onwards, with the code name ‘Mowgli’, also asked him to go to a particular place to confirm that something was there.  Asked, he says, that he was told that targets had been hit two or three times.

Worth noting that on very many occasions, including the ‘interview’ where Ukrainian political prisoner and journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko also spoke of working for the SBU, these ‘confessions’ have proven to have little or nothing in common with the ultimate indictment.  Here, however, Russia is keeping everything secret, making it very easy to conceal gaping holes in the indictment and the likely failure to even allow Kryvyy an independent lawyer.

Russia has taken a huge number of civilians hostage, with Kryvyy not the first to be illegally taken to Russia and ‘tried’ under Russian law on charges which the aggressor state has no right to lay.

See: At least 89 civilians abducted from occupied Ukraine since 2022 charged by aggressor state with 'terrorism'

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