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.

Russia sharply increases charges against Ukrainian sportsman tortured into ‘confessing’ to rail sabotage

Halya Coynash
The new charges would clearly be wildly disproportionate even without strong grounds for assuming that Kyrylo Barannyk ‘confessed’ because of torture and threats against his mother

#FreeKyryloBarannyk Image Crimean Realities

#FreeKyryloBarannyk Image Crimean Realities

Russia has finalized its indictment against Kyrylo Barannyk, the young Ukrainian sportsman imprisoned in occupied Crimea since 30 May 2023.  There is every reason to believe that Barannyk, who had not concealed his pro-Ukrainian position, was tortured into ‘confessing’ to causing an explosion on railway tracks on 23 February 2023.  The Russian FSB has now seriously escalated the charges against the 26-year-old, accusing him of ‘state treason’ (under Article 275 of Russia’s criminal code) and of taking part in the activities of a terrorist organization (Article 205.5  § 2).  The charges could carry a life sentence. 

The new indictment was reported by Avtozak Live, which pointed out that the initial charges against Barannyk were of sabotage and possession of firearms, etc. According to Avtozak Live’s information, the FSB have, over the past year, been preparing several other criminal prosecutions against civic activists in occupied Crimea and are seemingly planning to try to connect several people with acts of sabotage and terrorism in occupied Crimea. sabotage and terrorist attacks in occupied Crimea. 

The publication does not know how many people are now facing such serious charges.  Barannyk himself, according to Avtozak Live, says that he does not know the other people with whom, according to the FSB, he was in a ‘terrorist organization’.  The FSB have been fabricating ‘sabotage’ and ‘terrorism’ charges against Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians since soon after their invasion of Crimea, with the charges normally based on ‘confessions’ extracted through torture and ‘anonymous witnesses’.  There are compelling grounds for doubting any of the charges that the FSB have brought against the young Ukrainian.

As reported, Kyrylo Barannyk (b. 1998) has been a passionate orienteer since school 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 summer of 2014, he spoke to his former trainer about the situation, making his position, that he was “born in Ukraine, lived and continue to live in Ukraine” very clear.  It is unlikely that this position changed, but he remained in occupied Crimea , living with his mother, a pensioner.  Shortly after his arrest, the Ukrainian orienteering community, with the support of the International Orienteering Association, sought to highlight his plight, revealing more details of the torture that was almost certainly applied to extract his ‘confession’.

Barannyk was seized on 30 May and accused of involvement in an explosion on railway tracks on 23 February 2023.  He was by no means the only person whom the occupation regime detained after the attack, with the impression clear from the outset that Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians were being targeted without any particular grounds for suspecting their involvement.  At least one of the Crimean Tatars seized after a later incident on railway lines was threatened and coerced into signing effectively blank ‘confessions’.   

Barannyk is, fortunately, represented by an independent lawyer, Alexei Ladin (who has himself been subjected to persecution).  He was able to provide an account, posted by Graty and the Crimean Human Rights Group of the methods used to force him into providing false ‘confessions’.  He explained that he had been taken, with a bag over his head, to the FSB building in Simferopol.  There he had been subjected to torture, for example, by being forced into a chair, with his hands and feet bound with scotch tape, and electric currents attached to his fingers. The bag remained over his head throughout this torture which he believes lasted around an hour.

Even after he apparently confessed to the damage to railway lines on 23 February, the FSB continued their torture.  demanding 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 2023, and from 9 to 10 June. 

“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.”,

The FSB then placed him on a military stretcher and again 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 rape or kill his mother, or to kill him, claiming that he had tried to escape.

The ‘investigation’ was run by Aleksandr Lavrov and Aleksandr Kuznetsov, both of whom were involved in the political trial of young Feodosia artist Bohdan Ziza who was also tortured, and is now serving a 15-year sentence.  In his case, there was no doubt that Ziza had carried out an act of protest over Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and war crimes, but Russia’s use of its flawed ‘terrorism’ legislation was clearly absurd.  Here there are serious grounds for doubting that Barannyk did carry out the act of sabotage to railway tracks used for Russia’s war against Ukraine.  Even if he had, the charges now laid would be quite incommensurate with the act and any damage caused.  

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