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.

Russians abduct and torture former Ukrainian policeman for fake ‘terrorism trial’

Halya Coynash
Oleksiy Kyrychenko is one of five civilians illegally abducted and almost certainly tortured for the ‘confessions’ on which this latest ‘trial’ is likely to be based
Oleksiy Kyrychenko Family photo
Oleksiy Kyrychenko Family photo

As a former police officer, Oleksiy Kyrychenko was an obvious target for the Russians when they invaded and occupied Mykhailivka, a small town in Zaporizhzhia oblast at the beginning of their full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  While refusing to collaborate with the invaders, Kyrychenko remained in the town, both to look after elderly relatives and because he, like others, hoped that the occupation would soon end.  According to his sister, Liudmyla, Oleksiy was already planning to leave, but, unfortunately, left it too late.

On 23 August 2023, the Russians burst into Kyrychenko’s home and took him away, with a bag over his head.  They later returned and removed a flash drive and a box for a mobile phone.  He has been imprisoned ever since, in occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast or Crimea. 

As in the vast majority of civilian abductions, Kyrychenko’s family knew nothing about his whereabouts for several months.  It was only on 30 November 2023 that a woman whose son had also been seized came to Kyrychenko’s father and told him that a ‘court hearing’ was planned for the next day.  This was merely a ‘detention hearing’, but did, at least, mean that the Russians were admitting to his imprisonment, and that his father could get to see him.  He was appalled at how thin his son had become, and at the obvious signs that he had been beaten.  He was also concerned about his psychological state. 

It transpired that Kyrychenko and four other men from Mykhailivka are accused of having killed Ivan Sushko, a collaborator whom the Russians had installed as the head of the so-called ‘Mykhailivka military administration’.  Sushko was indeed killed, but almost exactly a year before Kyrychenko’s abduction.  According to Liudmyla, it is suspected that Sushko was, in fact, killed by the Russians.  This would not be the first time that the Russians or their minions in occupied Donbas have killed collaborators who had, for one reason or another, become ‘inconvenient’.  Such involvement will not, of course, be admitted, with scapegoats typically seized and tortured into ‘confessing’ to the killings.  Sushko was killed on 24 August 2022, making the charges against the five men seem very much like a pretext.  A new lot of Russians had been deployed in Mykhailivna, and may have wanted to demonstrate their ‘zeal’ by carrying out new armed searches and ‘arrests’.  It is, however, also possible, Liudmyla believes, that some Mykhailivna resident, who had it in for Kyrychenko as a former police officer, set the Russians on to him.  In her interview to the Hromadske Radio ‘Free our Relatives’ program, Liudmyla preferred not to name the other men accused together with her brother but does know their identity.  She stresses that her brother may possibly have known them, given that Mykhailivka is a fairly small place, but they were not friends or in any other way connected.

Had there really been any evidence of involvement in Sushko’s death, it seems unlikely that it would have taken a year to find it.  The charges, in any case, are illegal and absurd.  Russia invaded sovereign Ukrainian territory, abducted Ukrainian citizens, and is now planning to ‘try’ them under Russian legislation, with all of this expressly prohibited by the Geneva Convention pertaining to occupied territory.  While suiting Russia’s narrative, the claim that the killing of a collaborator, directly helping the invaders, constituted an ‘act of terrorism committed by prior conspiracy’ is simply untenable.

After being initially held in occupied Zaporizhzhia, Kyrychenko was taken to SIZO No. 2 – one of the two remand prisons in occupied Crimea which Russia opened after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, probably to accommodate the huge number of Ukrainians it has abducted from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.  It seems he was taken back to Zaporizhzhia oblast for a time, but is now back in occupied Crimea. He has only a Russian-provided ‘lawyer’, whom he is clearly unhappy with.  Liudmyla says, however, that the family have had trouble finding an independent lawyer in occupied Crimea. 

The appointed lawyer has warned the family that the actual ‘trial’ is likely to be in Rostov, at the Southern District Military Court which has been playing an active role in Russia’s political and religious persecution of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners since 2014.  ‘Judges’ from this court have on countless occasions ignored compelling evidence that so-called ‘confessions’ were obtained through torture and that other evidence was falsified.  Oleksiy Kyrychenko and four other Ukrainians are facing huge sentences (from 10 to 15 years, or more), and there are no grounds for expecting a fair trial.

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