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 incriminates itself through ‘trial’ of Ukrainian abducted 7 years ago in occupied Donbas

Halya Coynash
The secrecy this time is not only because the charges are absurd, but to hide the inconvenient detail that Oleksandr Korol has been held hostage since 2017

Oleksandr Korol, whose daughter was just 9 months old when he was taken hostage. She is now 7

Oleksandr Korol, whose daughter was just 9 months old when he was taken hostage. She is now 7

The ‘trial’ is underway in Russia of Oleksandr Korol, a Ukrainian civilian hostage abducted in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ seven years ago.  The charges and imprisonment of Korol in Russia would be illegal under any circumstances as Russia, as an occupying state, has no right to apply its legislation on occupied territory or forcibly take Ukrainian citizens to Russia.  The situation here, however, is considerably more incriminating as Korol has been imprisoned since September 2017, when Russia was still claiming that there was a ‘civil war’ in Ukrainian Donbas to which it was not a party. 

It is no accident that this ‘trial’ is taking place at the Southern District Military Court in Rostov, a court which has been notorious since 2014, for its ‘trials’ and huge sentences passed on Ukrainian political prisoners.  A ‘DPR’ propaganda site first reported the planned ‘trial’ back in November 2023, saying that it was to be held behind closed doors as “some material is classified as secret”.  All of Russia’s ‘trials’ of Ukrainian political prisoners on ‘spying’ charges have been held in secret, with even lawyers forced, under threat of criminal prosecution, to sign non-disclosure agreements.  Here, as well as the lack of any grounds for the charges, it seems that Russia is seeking to conceal the inconvenient fact that Korol has been imprisoned already for almost seven years.

Although abducted from Makiivka in September 2017 when Russia had not even ‘recognized’ its fake ‘republic’, Korol is charged under Russian legislation with ‘spying’ (Article 276 of Russia’s criminal code); and ‘involvement in a terrorist organization’ (Article 205.4 § 2).  It is claimed that, as well as running his own construction business in occupied Makiivka, Korol also drew up maps of Russian military facilities.  “According to our sources, he not only carried out surveillance of these, but also collected some kind of secret information which he subsequently passed to his handlers in Ukrainian Intelligence.”

In fact, Korol’s wife, Tetiana Lach, has made it clear that the truth was very different.  The family left Makiivka after the Russian-led seizure of control and creation of the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.  They returned from time to time to look after their home

It was during one of those trips to Makiivka, in September 2017, that Oleksandr Korol was seized by ‘DPR militants’.  Tetiana received a call from an unknown number with the person saying he was ringing from the ‘DPR police’ temporary holding centre and told her to bring her husband new clothes, etc.  She was desperately concerned what they must have done to her husband that he needed new things and says that, indeed,  those that he had been in when seized were ripped and bloodstained.  

The ‘DPR police’ initially claimed that he had been jailed under ‘administrative arrest’ for 30 days. When he was not released after that, Tetiana went to the ‘DPR police’ where she was basically abused, with her husband and her whole family ‘accused’ of pro-Ukrainian views and of not having taken part in the fake ‘referendum’ of 11 May 2014.  This farcical event was so absurd that even Russia stopped short of ‘recognizing’ it, with people openly bribed to appear, and no impediment to ‘voting’ as many times as you wanted.  

Tetiana recalls that these ‘DPR police’ told her that, in 2014-15, they had shot people like Korol, and that she should “thank them” for not shooting her husband, or throwing him into some deep basement where he’d never be found.  It was clear to her then that they had no intention of freeing Oleksandr.

Together with her mother and the couple’s 9-month-old daughter, she stayed in occupied Makiivka for three years, trying to get her husband released, or at least provide support so that he didn’t think he’d been abandoned.   They were, however, finally forced to flee as she was given to understand that they could come for her also.

It is near certain that any ‘evidence’ for this travesty of a trial has come from supposed ‘confessions’, extracted from Korol under torture.  The ‘trial’ began slightly later than planned, with Korol twice not brought to the court.  Since the first hearing on 21 December 2023, there have been a further three, with the next due on 16 May 2024.  This probably means that Korol has refused to be cowered and is denying the charges.  The court website mentions only ‘judge’  Sergei Fedorovich Yarosh, although he is probably the presiding judge in a panel of three.

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