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.

Crimean sentenced to 5 years for Ukrainian Yellow Ribbon activism against Russian occupation

Halya Coynash
The ‘Yellow Ribbon’ movement does not gel well with Russia’s false narrative aimed at justifying its occupation of Ukrainian Crimea

Mykola Onuk

Mykola Onuk

A Russian-controlled ‘court’ in Simferopol has sentenced 35-year-old Mykola Onuk to five years’ imprisonment on secretive, and almost certainly fabricated, charges initiated several months after he was detained, probably for pro-Ukrainian graffiti as part of the ‘Yellow Ribbon’ peaceful resistance movement. 

Russia clearly does not want to admit to Ukrainian grassroots and, quite possibly, widespread opposition to its occupation of Ukrainian territory, and it is no accident that this ‘trial,  first reported by Crimean Process, was held at the occupation ‘Zheleznodorozhny district court’ in Simferopol with all hearings behind closed doors.  There was nothing in the charges made public to warrant such secrecy, with this only compounding the suspicion that Onuk was, in fact, prosecuted for his support of Ukraine and, perhaps, his involvement in a movement which seeks to show the invaders that they are not welcome on Ukrainian territory.

Officially, Onuk was accused of ‘desecrating the state symbols (emblem, flag) of the Russian Federation (Article 329 of Russia’s criminal code); of vandalism, motivated by political, national, ethnic, or religious enmity (Article 214 § 2); and purchase, possession, etc. of an explosive device or substance (Article 222.1 § 1). It is unclear how Onuk is alleged to have desecrated the state symbols of the aggressor state illegally occupying Crimea.  The unwarranted secrecy around the ‘court’ hearings makes it equally impossible to assess the ‘explosives charge’, however Russia’s enforcement bodies have, on multiple occasions, claimed to have ‘found’ explosives as an excuse for politically motivated prosecution of Ukrainians in occupied Crimea.  Judging by the ‘court’ website, Onuk had both a lawyer and a defender.  Since the latter was renowned Crimean Tatar lawyer Edem Semedlyaev, it seems likely that the lawyer named as E.M. Kurdin was effectively imposed upon him by the ‘investigators’.  The ‘trial’ was heard by one ‘judge’, Yevhenia Romanenkova.  On 16 May, she found Onuk ‘guilty’ of the charges, and sentenced him to five years in a medium-security prison colony, and imposed a 50-thousand rouble fine.

There seems every reason to agree with Crimean Process that Onuk was, in fact, sentenced for involvement in the Yellow Ribbon movement, which has sprung up on all parts of Ukraine that have fallen under Russian occupation.

Onuk was detained in August 2023 by the Russian FSB and ‘Centre for countering extremism’ with the officers carrying out an armed search of his home.  This was one of the countless occasions which involved the notorious collaborator and information   Alexander Talipov.  The latter runs the Crimean SMERSH Telegram channel and seems to lead a corps of vigilantes working closely with the Russian occupation ‘police’ in hunting down those with pro-Ukrainian and anti-war views.  In August 2023, Talipov wrote that Onuk had “carried out direct action protests in Crimea under the control of officers of the Centre of information-psychological operations.  He carried out their tasks which cane via Telegram, with clear instructions what, howe and where to film and what leaflets to paste around (the city),  His creations subsequently ended up on pseudo-Crimean channels.”

Onuk was then accused of ‘disobeying enforcement officers’ with the (administrative) prosecution on this charge heard by another ‘judge’, Natalia Pliyeva, from the same occupation ‘court’.  The ‘court’ document asserts that Onuk had fully acknowledged his ‘guilt’, explaining his ‘disobedience’ as being because he had not expected the enforcement officers’ raid. 

Crimean Realities reports that Onuk was also prosecuted for supposed ‘discrediting of Russia’s armed forces’ (Article 20.3.3 of Russia’s code of administrative offences) with the hearing in that case before Mikhail Belousov, a notorious ‘judge’ who is wanted by Ukraine on treason charges, and is under international sanctions for his role in Russia’s repressive machine in occupied Crimea.

According to the Tribunal. Crimean Episode Telegram channel, pro-Russian social media sites began publishing video footage of Onuk’s arrest in January 2024 and reporting that he was facing criminal charges.  “This is, in fact, unconcealed persecution of the civilian population for their ideological views. And the delay in fabricating criminal charges is a method of intimidation and recruitment of members of dissident groups”.

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