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.

9.5-year sentence minus 1 month for affirming that Crimea is Ukraine and Russia an illegal invader

Halya Coynash
Russia’s first political persecution of 65-year-old Oleh Prykhodko was openly fabricated, and the later charges are particularly ominous as the same mechanism could be used to extend the sentences of other Ukrainian political prisoners

Oleh Prykhodko in court Photo Crimean Solidarity

Oleh Prykhodko in court Photo Crimean Solidarity

Russia’s Western military court of appeal has upheld a second conviction against recognized Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Prykhodko.  The court’s reduction of the sentence by a month was most likely to maintain the pretence that this was a real appeal, as the new charges were overtly absurd and unprovable.  Even if Russia stops here, and does not stage another fake trial, the sentence of nine years and four months would mean that Prykhodko, who turned 65 last November, would be 71 when released. If, that is, he survives the appalling conditions in Russian captivity and the harassment he is facing because of his pro-Ukrainian position.  The Russian penal service does not provide him with the medical care that he needs, and often prevents him from receiving the medication that his family send.  He is also constantly placed in SHIZO, or punishment cells, where the conditions are especially bad.

The ruling was only reported by OVD-Info in March, although it was handed down on 22 January 2024.  Prykhodko is held in prison, thousands of kilometres from his wife and adult daughter, and it is not even clear if he was represented by a lawyer at the appeal hearing.

Prykhodko’s ‘trial’ on the new charges took place on 8 November 2023, although it was only later that his daughter, Natalia Shevtsova, was able to provide any information.  Prykhodko had been forced to take part by video link from Vladimir Prison with the court simply ignoring the fact that the then near-65-year-old had problems hearing what was going on.  Shevtsova said that her father had been ‘tormented’ for about four days, from very early morning, with the court obstructing him from speaking and from communicating with his lawyer.

The new charges were of so-called ‘public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism’ (Article 205.2 § 1) and of the even more dubious ‘rehabilitation of Nazism’ under Article 354.1 § 1.  This article of the criminal code, which purportedly punishes those who ‘publicly deny or approve of the facts established by the Nuremberg Tribunal’, was criticized before its introduction in May 2014, and has already proven to be a weapon against historical truth.  The charges were based on claims that Prykhodkho had “promoted acts of terrorism’ and “praised the actions of Hitler and his supporters during WWII”.  All of this was based on the ‘testimony’ of fellow cellmates who were either deliberately placed with Prykhodko in order to bring a new prosecution, or who could be easily pressured into providing the required denunciations.  On the basis of allegations about words spoken in a prison cell, Prykhodko was sentenced to 9.5 years’ imprisonment.  The court did, however, take the original five-year sentence into account, with the 9.5 years thus counted from October 2019.

Oleh Prykhodko was one of a number of Ukrainians from Crimea arrested on fabricated charges in the months immediately after the Kremlin was forced to release 35 Ukrainian political prisoners in exchange, primarily, for Volodymyr Tsemakh, an important MH17 witness and/or suspect.  While it was clear that all had been targeted because of their pro-Ukrainian position, the ‘spying’ charges against, for example, Ivan Yatskin and Halyna Dovhopola meant that the ‘trials’ were held behind closed doors, with next to nothing known about them.

The ‘terrorism’ charges against Prykhodko were, on the contrary, known and quite brazenly fabricated. Prykhodko was arrested in the evening of 9 October 2019 by FSB officers who made no effort to search a second garage after claiming to have ‘found’ explosives in Prykhodko’s first garage.  Prykhodko had faced constant harassment and administrative prosecutions under Russian occupation.  Even had he wished to keep something illicit, he would hardly have held it in a place which he could expect would be discovered.  He would also not have held flammable substances near the welding and soldering equipment which he used in the garage.

The initial charge was of planning to blow up the Saki City Administration building.  Three months later, however, the prosecution added the even more surreal charge of having planned to set fire to the Russian general consulate building in Lviv, Western Ukraine, with the alleged ‘proof’ of this lying in a telephone and a memory stick. 

The defence provided clear evidence that the charges were falsified, however this was, typically, ignored by the panel of judges at the notorious Southern District Military Court in Rostov (Russia).  On 3 March 2021, presiding ‘judge’ Alexei Abdulmazhitovich Magomadov; together with Kyrill Nikolayevich Krivtsov and Sergei Fedorovich Yarosh found Prykhodko guilty of all charges, however removed the charge under Article 223.1 (preparing explosives) as being time-barred.  Prykhodko was sentenced to five years’ harsh-regime imprisonment with the first year in a prison, the worst of all Russian penal institutions. He was also fined 100 thousand roubles.   As mentioned, this was significantly lower than the 11-year harsh-regime sentence demanded by Russian prosecutor Sergei Aidinov.  On 17 May 2021, the sentence was upheld by the Military court of appeal in Vlasikha (Moscow region).  An extra month was later added after Prykhodko was found guilty of ‘contempt of court’ over his (strongly worded!) abuse of two prosecution witnesses who stood up in court and lied about the ‘testimony’ which the defence had shown to be falsified.

In April 2021, the Memorial Human Rights Centre [and its successor after being forcibly abandoned, the Memorial Support for Political Prisoners Project] declared Oleh Prykhodko a political prisoner, stating clearly that he had been arrested and tried purely because of his political views, in particular his unwavering opposition to Russia’s occupation of his native Crimea.

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