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.

In memoriam of the great poet

20 years ago, on 2 October 1980 a great Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus was condemned to 10 years of concentration camps and 5 years of exile. 15 years ago, 5 September 1985 Stus tragically died in Perm special political colony No. 36. We publish today some materials from our archives: a fragment from Mikhail Heyfetz’ book ‘Mesto i vremia’ (‘Place and time’)about Stus’ first term, the information about the trial of 1980, fragments from Andrey Sakharov’s appeal in protection of Stus. All these materials are published in Ukraine for the first time.

Mikhail Heyfetz. A fragment from the book ‘Mesto i vremia’ from the chapter ‘Boris Penson tells’

…On the day of signing the Helsinki documents Vasyl Stus fainted and fell on the floor in the prison barrack. Permanent stays in the punishment block, undernourishment, fault-finding and persecution on the side of the administration resulted in the hemorrhage in his torn stomach.

I am listening to Bob with pain . It is next to impossible to find a man nobler than Vasyl and, at the same time, less suitable for the prison life. He is straightforward, manly and proud like his poems; such people are first broken in concentration camps, and they cannot avoid it. This is the essence of the concentration camp regime.

Here is an example: in January 1974 a convict, a Lithuanian Klemanskis died in the hospital. ‘As a convict he was a good comrade’, said Vasyl. It was a usual roll-call. Stus stepped from the line: ‘Our comrade has died. He is deprived of the last consolation: he cannot be seen to his last abode by those who shared bread and salt with him…’ – ‘Stus, stop your agitation!’ – ‘Let us do what we can, let us bare our heads to commemorate him.’ – ‘Stus, stop it!’. But everybody, including hardened criminals, took off their caps. Naturally an affair was started about ‘the meeting organized by Stus’. During the investigation he reproached an officer, major Aleksandrov: ‘Shame upon you! Even fascists gave away coffins and urns to the relatives, if the deads were German…’ So Vasyl earned six months of the camp prison. That was typical for Stus.

-- …When Vasyl fainted and fell down, he was bleeding. We were frightened. I ran to the guard and pressed upon him as I could, he phoned to the settlement. It was a day-off, and for a long time we could not find a doctor. At last someone promised to find a doctor. In an hour a doctor appeared, he was somewhat tipsy. One hour more – and we managed to direct Stus to a stationary hospital. While we convinced the bosses, while we found a stretcher and transport, while we solved the problem of convoy, another hour passed.

Two convicts from an adjacent zone convoyed by four guards wit tommy-guns, their sergeant and a dog brought Stus to the hospital situated in 300 meters from the colony three hours after the fit. Nobody attended him to the morning.

It looked especially bleak on the days of signing the Helsinki act.

Not long before these events the newspaper ‘Pravda’ placed the note that Louis Corvalan fell ill, and the Academy of Medical Sciences volunteered to send to Chili a group of doctors. Slavko Chornovil sent this note to the Academy of Medical Sciences asking its president to sent a team of doctors to Stus, whose life was endangered not far from Moscow. Certainly, there was no answer, but the prison hospitals hospital made their best: they stopped the hemorrhage. The main surgeon of the hospital used to boast: ‘I’ve taken Stus from the mortuary’. Vasyl’s state continued to be grave, and we asked to send him to the hospital again. The doctor murmured back: ‘I cannot carry him in my arms’. What happened with Stus I learned in a year since just then I was transferred to another zone…

Half-dead, Vasyl was sent to Kyiv, where KGB-men tried to interrogate him. He refused pointblank saying to the prosecutor in the presence of the KGB-men that ‘one has no obligation to speak with one’s murderers’. His 80-year-old mother came to Kyiv asking to see her son. His wife walked his son, the 10-year-old Mytryk, around the prison: ’Here is your daddy…’. Neither wife no mother were permitted to see Stus. From Kyiv they took Stus to Leningrad, where doctors cut out two thirds of his stomach. From there he was returned to zone No. 17.
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