“Then on what basis did they arrive at their decision?..”
By Anton Naumlyuk, journalist, especially for “Novaya Gazeta,” Grozny
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Jury finds the Ukrainians Karpyuk and Klykh guilty of the murders of Russians in 1994
Attorney Ilya Novikov calls Olena Karpyuk in Kyiv, turns on the speakerphone and holds the phone as if he is going to say something. Standing opposite from him, behind bars, is Nikolai Karpyuk, smiling shyly. You can hear a child’s voice [on the phone], his ten-year-old son Taras says: “Tato [daddy], I love you.” “I love you too” – replies Mykola, clutching the bars with his hands.
This phone call is for him. Mykola has not seen his family for almost two years, after being detained in Russia in the spring of 2014. The trial of Ukrainians Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh is being held in the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, and has lasted for over eight months already. According to the investigators, in 1994, Karpyuk and Klykh, together with other members of the nationalist organization UNA-UNSO (now banned in Russia), flew into Tbilisi to enter Chechnya via “mountain passes and abandoned trails.”
The Ukrainians’ alleged purpose in Chechnya was to take part in the war against [Russian] federal forces on the side of Ichkeria. To this end, Karpyuk together with Oleksandr Muzychko, the brothers [Oleh and Andriy] Tyahnybok, and other members of the nationalist movement in Ukraine, allegedly created a paramilitary unit dubbed “Viking,” and fought as part of it, against federal troops.
According to the prosecution, during the storming of Grozny on December 31, 1994, they killed and wounded several dozen Russian soldiers.
“You will have to decide whether or not to believe the prosecution’s sole witness,” – Ilya Novikov, Karpyuk’s lawyer, told the jurors.
Indeed, due to a lack of other documentary evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on the testimony of Ukrainian Alexander Malofeyev, who has been sentenced for 24 years [in prison]. Before this, he was convicted of robbery, at least three times in Crimea and once in Russia. As of now, he is convicted of involvement in the Chechen war, including military operations in 1997.
According to Malofeyev, he was accepted into UNA-UNSO in 1991, which would have made him 15 years old at the time. In 1994, he came to Chechnya, where he fought with Karpyuk, Klykh, Muzychko and other nationalists. In 1997, he “fought in various parts of Chechnya.”“When I asked Malofeyev where exactly he fought in Chechnya in January and February 1997, he said that fighting was all over Chechnya at the time. It is unclear where Malofeyev could have fought [in 1997], considering that the federal troops had been withdrawn from Chechnya in December 1996. If we go by Malofeyev’s testimony, then the so-called First Chechen War has not ended with the signing of the Khasavyurt Accord, but continued personally on Malofeyev’s account. Still, how did he find [federal] troops to fight in Chechnya [in 1997]?”- Karpyuk’s attorney Dokka Itslaev stated during the debate.
According to Malofeyev’s testimony, on December 31, 1994, Karpyuk and Klykh fought in Minutka Square [in Grozny], near the train station, and defended the Presidential Palace. They took captive Russian soldiers, tortured them, and raped them with a shovel handle.
Malofeev was not brought to [the trial in] Grozny, but appeared as the prosecution’s witness via video conference. He gave a very detailed account of the criminal world in Crimea, naming local criminal authorities, and willingly showing [prison and gang] tattoos all over his body. However, his testimony regarding the events in Chechnya was so vague that the lawyers declared, “We doubt that Malofeyev has ever been to Chechnya in the first place.”
Malofeyev’s stepfather and ex-wife confirmed this in court. Judge Vahit Ismailov, who presides over the case of Karpyuk and Klykh, requested Malofeev’s criminal case from Kerch. When the document arrived in the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, it became apparent that in 2000 Malofeyev was serving another sentence in Crimea, and not undergoing combat training in Salman Raduyev’s camps in the Vedeno district [as he had testified]. Prosecutor Sergei Blinnikov took an impressive leap of imagination to explain this apparent contradiction: he accused the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] of falsifying the criminal case materials.
“He [Malofeev] did not serve a prison sentence. They had invented this legend in advance. That’s the bread and butter of all special services in the world,” – said Blinnikov. Some plainclothes men sitting in the courtroom exchanged understanding looks. Klykh’s lawyer Marina Dubrovin joked that now that the prosecutor declares Malofeyev’s conviction a legend, the latter may now appeal the Crimean court’s ruling.
In their final statement, the lawyers shared an analysis of the circumstances of the death and injuries of all 43 of the victims – soldiers of the Russian army who took part in the storming of Grozny on New Year’s.
“During the course of the trial, the death of ten soldiers has not been confirmed by evidence examined in the proceedings of this criminal case, and therefore, cannot be attributed to our clients,” concluded Marina Dubrovina. The deaths of the remaining  servicemen occurred on that day in different districts of Grozny – from the Presidential Palace to the village 13 km away from the center. Not a single person died that day on Minutka Square, because the fighting had not yet reached it.
“How could there have been war on Minutka Square on January 1st? There couldn’t have been any war there, because they [the troops] did not approach from that side. On January 1st, the war [fighting] was happening near the railway station, near the cannery, and in the Staropromyslovskiy district. They could not have fought their way through to Minutka Square. There could not have been any deceased soldiers on Minutka [Square]. They are likely to have died in the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. It was only later that they began to press forward; fighting on Minutka Square began in late January,” I am told by a person who had participated in those events and was defending the Presidential Palace.
“The reality of the military operations in Abkhazia is that Ukrainians really did fight in Grozny, but there was no ‘Viking’ group,” says Ilya Novikov. “Still, these are two different statements: ‘Ukrainians fought there’ or ‘Karpyuk and Klyh fought there.’”
“Sashko Bilyi [Olexandr Muzychko],” tells journalist Aslanbek Dadaev, who was present in Grozny at the time. “But there were no combat units made up of Ukrainians. In fact, Bilyi and some Ukrainians together with him were unarmed. They went to repel the assault with knives and bayonets in hand. Only when he returned with the prisoner, did he take a weapon from him. There is also a video, where they interrogate this captive captain, shot by Belal Akhmadov who was later killed together with Maskhadov. The captain survived, and later, when there was a truce, he was inviting the militants to his wedding,” the journalist told me.
After the arguments for each side were given, the judge spent almost the whole day giving the jury instructions before they proceeded to the jury room. The judge suggested that the jury review the questions pertaining to two episodes: participation in gangs, and the murder of Russian military personnel.
The lawyers tried to change these questions, insisting that episodes for which the Ukrainians have not been accused cannot be used with the jury. For example, illicit arms trafficking does not appear in the indictment, yet the questions for the jury describe in detail how Karpyuk supplied the “Viking” group with arms and ammunition. And not one word about the fact that both Ukrainians had recanted their original testimonies and declared that they had been tortured. During his final word, Klykh lifted his trouser leg, leaned on the crossbars of the cage, and began showing the burn marks on his legs.
“Everything put together in this criminal case was based on the slander I was forced to say about myself. Why bother with facts and evidence when you have an electric current? And when the electric current didn’t work on me, they told me: tomorrow, we’ll have your young son here, and will do to him the same that was done to you. Then I said to them, ‘Yes, I’ll sign all your vile lies.’ And I signed,” Karpyuk explained in his final statement.
When Klykh, instead of his final word, began reciting poetry, “Vladikavkaz. Here, in ’43, they stopped the Teutons. Here One was crucified, to become stronger. And people fought here, both for Christ, and for Allah,” – the judge ordered him to be removed from the courtroom.
“Why don’t you put a bag over my head? In Yessentuki, they led me to the cage with a sack over my head,” Klykh recalled in response. In the evening, the jury went into the deliberation room. There was clearly no unity amongst them; they failed to make a decision the first time around, and the chairman of the jury requested a recess until morning. In the morning, a decision was made, and formalized within half an hour. When the chairman – a burly man who often paused to drink water – read a long text of questions and answers, the jury tried not to look at the lawyers or at the [prisoners’] cage. The jury declared the Ukrainians guilty. But never specified whether the decision was unanimous, or what the balance of votes was. Klykh, according to the jury, deserves leniency.
“Slaves could not have set a person free,” Karpyuk shrugged his shoulders and started persuading his lawyers, who had defended him for eight months, not to take the jury’s decision to heart. Klykh was reading a newspaper while the verdict was being announced, and paid no attention to anything else.
Surprising everyone in the courtroom, the Spokesman for the Head of the Republic arrived to be present at the announcement of the verdict.
Karpyuk’s final statement (video in Russian)
“Is there any documentary evidence of [these] Ukrainians being in Grozny?” – he asked me after the court session. “For instance, there are a lot of photos and videos of Bilyi.”
When he learned that such evidence did not exist, he was surprised: “Then on what basis did they arrive at their decision?…”
“My only transgression before Russia is that I am Ukrainian,” Karpyuk said in his final word. “The commander of the group that tortured me, said it right: ‘You crossed the border of the Russian Federation? Rights don’t exist here.’ The Chechens here joke: didn’t you know, Mykola, that being Ukrainian in the Russian Federation is a criminal offense? Now I know.”
The Chechens do treat the Ukrainians in the Grozny jail (SIZO) with some sympathy.
While everyone was waiting for the jury, the judge asked the bailiff to give Karpyuk some water.
“Not allowed,” – said the commander of the convoy. “What if it’s poisoned?”
“So buy him a sealed bottle of water, the man has been sitting here [for a long time],” said [Judge] Ismailov.
Klykh declined the offer of water.
On May 24th, the prosecutor will demand that the punishment is decided for the Ukrainians. Theoretically, he can even request a life sentence, but the defense will demand to withdraw the murder charges based on the expiration of the statute of limitations – it has been more than 15 years. The second accusation, one of participation in a gang, is unlikely to be lifted, even though this exact charge was dropped in Malofeyev’s case.
“We expect that both Karpyuk and Klykh, like other Ukrainian political prisoners – [Oleg] Sentsov, [Olexandr] Kolchenko [Gennadiy] Afanasyev, [Yury] Soloshenko, [Serhiy] Litvinov, [Valentyn] Vyhovskyi and others, will be included in the exchange processes and will return home by the end of the year,” Ilya Novikov said hopefully.
On the same day as the verdict was handed down by the jury, the court extended the detention period for Karpyuk and Klykh by a further three months.
“Within three days, we will appeal. We will keep fighting, what else is there to do,” responded attorney Marina Dubrovin.
The case of Karpyuk and Klykh, as all other political processes against Ukrainians in Russia, involves not only those who found themselves on the defendants’ bench, but also prominent political figures, who are not being accused directly, but who, de facto, were the reason for the respective cases. For example, the case of Serhiy Litvinov, whom the IC RF (Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation) initially tried to accuse of the massacre of civilians in the Luhansk region, involves Ihor Kolomoisky, who was allegedly supplying the “Dnipro-1” Battalion with bags of money as a reward for the shootings ordered by the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. When it became clear that proving the existence of Litvinov’s “victims” was impossible, the murder charge was dropped, but Kolomoisky’s and Avakov’s names remained in the case file. In the case of Karpyuk and Klykh, this figure, mentioned but not accused, was the former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. According to this same witness Malofeyev, he saw Yatsenyuk once in Grozny, armed with an AK and “firing no less than 10 shots towards the Russian soldiers” (in 1994, Yatsenyuk was twenty years old).
The only distinguishing feature of Karpyuk and Klykh’s case from the trials of other Ukrainians – Sentsov, Kolchenko, Savchenko and others – is that their cases have been isolated from the so-called “Big Ukrainian Case” about crimes of the Ukrainian military and activists during the events in Crimea and Donbas. The events for which the Ukrainians are being sentenced in Grozny, happened 20 years ago. But it is obvious that the case revolving around the deaths of Russian soldiers during the assault on the capital of Chechnya, initiated immediately after the Chechen war and then forgotten about until 2014, would not have emerged again, if it were not for the events in Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine. Malofeyev only included Karpyuk and Klykh in his testimony after they had already been detained. The case itself was brought up when the need arose to collect as many Ukrainian hostages as possible: firstly, to add to the propaganda of Russian TV, and secondly, to use them as bargaining chips during peace talks.
After the verdict, President Poroshenko wrote on Facebook: “We are doing and will do everything to return Karpyuk and Klykh home.” But so far, they [Karpyuk and Klykh] have not been mentioned in the [prisoner exchange] negotiations.
Anton Naumlyuk, especially for “Novaya Gazeta,” Grozny
Source: Novaya Gazeta
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