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.

‘The Chronicle of Current Events’, No. 58 (Moscow, Samizdat 1980, pp. 74-78)

On 29 September – 2 October the Kyiv city court chaired by P. I. Feshchenko considered the case of a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki group Vasyl Stus (born in 1938), accused by the Article 62 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the UkrSSR (Article 70 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The prosecutor’s name was Ardjanov. In spite of Stus’ protests an advocate V. V. Medvedchuk was present at the trial; he was appointed to defend Stus (Chr. 55).

Stus was arrested on 14 May (Chr. 57). During the preliminary investigation Stus refused to give any information.

Stus was blamed of writing letters to Sakharov, Lukyanenko, Grygorenko and his Kyivan friends, as well as an application concerning the Gorbal, his poems, and ‘oral agitation’.

On 25 September Valentina Popeliukh, Stus’ wife, phoned to Seliuk (a KGB major who investigated Stus’s case. – Editor’s note), but he said nothing about the trial of her husband. Late in the evening of 30 September Mykhaylina Kotsiubunska (Chr. 45, 46, 48, 49), Svetlana Kirichenko (the wide of political prisoner Yuri Badzio. – Editor’s note) and V. Andrievska, the wife of Evhen Sverstiuk, received summons for the 1 October calling them to come to the trial as witnesses. It was from them that Popeliukh learned that the trial of her husband was carried, but she was not admitted to the courtroom on the 1 October.

In her evidence Kotsiubinska called Stus a men with bare consciousness, unable to pass by any injustice. ‘Such people are seldom, and I am happy that the lot permitted me to meet Stus. I much oblige to him’. Answering the judge’s question what she can say about Stus’ application to the prosecutor’s office about Gorbal (in this application Stus demanded to start a criminal case against the organizers of the cynical provocation), she answered that this application brightly confirms her characteristic of Stus. She also was convinced that Gorbal was not guilty, but she was only feeling grief, while Stus reacted at once.

Kotsiubinska refused to fulfil the judge’s request: to characterize Stus’ letter from his exile to Kyiv written in 1977. In this letter Stus’ wrote about his with to join the Ukrainian Helsinki group, planned his behavior at the trial to be: he was going to demand the representatives of the World Congress of free Ukrainians to be present. In the opposite case he was going not to participate in the trial and to dot the i’s only in his conclusive word.

In answer to the advocate’s request to give Stus a political characteristics, Kotsiubinska remarked the profound humanity and democracy of his outlook. He was absolutely devoid of the skin-surface nationalism. But is to understand nationalism in the light of the saying: ‘If one does not love his mother, one does not love the mankind’, then Stus was a nationalist. He perceived all ugliness of the national life with acute pain and always condemned them openly.

Does the witness know that the Declaration of human rights proclaims a right of man to have his own views?


Does the witness know about the about the secret of the personal correspondence?


Does the witness know that Kristine Bremer (Stus’s incrimination included his letter to her; in the final accusation it was said that he communicated by mail with ‘a nationalist from Germany’) is a member of ‘Amnesty International’, can she be a nationalist at that?

It is absurd. Now I understand why the investigation officer did not want to write in the preliminary accusation that Kristine Bremer was a member of the German socialist party.

Does the witness know that on 8 August at the preliminary investigation cops applied to me physical torture? That is who ordered it (Stus pointed at the deputy head of the KGB preliminary prison standing near the door).

I do not now. But if Stus says it, then it is true.

Then Kotsiubinska described heavy conditions under which Stus lived in the exile: he was made to reside in a hostel, where everybody was drinking.

The judge interrupted her by saying that some of these people were present in the courtroom (as witnesses of Stus’ ‘oral agitation’ several people from the settlement Matrosovo of the Magadan oblast were invited) and let her not slander the working class.

After this one of the witnesses from Magadan was asked if it was right that one of Stus’ neighbors, being drunk, urinated to Stus’ tea-kettle. The witness answered that he was not present at the act, but the urine actually was in the kettle.

After the interrogation Kotsiubinska was asked to leave the courtroom.

In the beginning of the testimony Svetlana Kirichenko addressed the court: ‘I demand to ask Stus whether he regards this trial as a legal one’.


In this case I refuse to take part in this trial.

In answer to the prosecutor’s demand to punish her for the refusal to give testimony and similar threats, Kirichenko answered: ‘I shall give testimony at the trial, where Stus will be an accuser, not an accused’, and left the courtroom.

Andrievska was asked about Stus’ letter from the exile (see above). She answered that she read only the part of the letter addressed personally to her.

In the capacity of witnesses of Stus’ ‘oral agitation’, some dwellers of the settlement Matrosovo were interrogated. They were: the manager of the mine, where Stus worked, the staff manager of this mine, several workers, his neighbors in the hostel, a nurse from the hospital, where Stus was treated, shop-girls.

The prosecutor’s speech lasted more than two hours. At first he listed the achievements of the Soviet Ukraine, blackened by Stus, then he dwelt upon crimes of Bandera followers and of OUN members. After this he enumerated Stus‘ ‘crimes’: the letter from exile, the application concerning Gorbal’s case, letters to Kristine Bremer, A. Gorbach and G. Gorbach (to Germany), A. D. Sakharov, L. Lukyanenko, P. G. Grigorenko (these letters were represented in his case as xerocopies); the main accusation was about the oral agitation in the exile).

The advocate said in his speech that all crimes committed by Stus amply deserve punishment, but he asked the judge to take into account that Stus, when he had worked at Kyiv enterprises in 1979-80, always fulfilled the norms, besides, he underwent a grave operation on the stomach.

After the advocate’s speech the court session was interrupted.

On 2 October the session was resumed with reading the verdict (thus Stus was deprived of the right for a ‘final speech’ stipulated by law). Handpicked public, not to count V. Popeliukh, her sister and Rita Dovgan, was admitted to the courtroom. Kirichenko was summoned to militia on the same day as a social parasite (she was unemployed for three and a half months; according to the then law, she had to be persecuted after four months) and was kept at the militia station to the end of the court session.

The court condemned Stus to the maximal punishment: 10 years of the special regime colony and 5 years of exile. Besides, Stus was ordered to pay 2300 rubles of court expenses (mainly for the transportation of witnesses from Magadan.

The judge read the verdict, swallowing words and with such speed that it was impossible to recognize the dates and the names of witnesses. Having finished, he said without any pause: ‘The court is over’, and the public started to leave the courtroom. ‘Butchers! You have not even given me my final word’, exclaimed Stus.

Stus looked pale and ill. After the trial he said to his wife that he would not survive the term.

On 19 October A. Sakharov published an appeal

In protection of poet Vasyl Stus

1980 is notorious with unjust verdicts and persecutions of human rights protection activitists in our country. But the verdict to the Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus is noticeable on this tragic background by its cruelty.

…The juridical machine worked with its usual cruelty and doomed a human being for 15 years of sufferings more.

That is the way how a human life is broken as a pay for an elementary decency and non-conformism, for the faithfulness to one’s convictions, for one’s self. The verdict to Stus is a shame of the Soviet repressive system.

I appeal to colleagues of Vasyl Stus, poets and writers throughout the world, to my colleagues, scientists, to ‘Amnesty International’, to everybody who values human dignity and justice, to defend Stus. My especial appeal is directed to the participants of the Madrid conference… The verdict to Stus must the canceled, as all other verdicts to participants of non-violent human rights protection movement.

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