Sasha Kolchenko: Letter from Kopeysk Prison

By Tatiana Shchur, human rights activist on news received from Ukrainian political prisoner in Russia Sasha Kolchenko
03.18.2017
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Tatiana Shchur writes on her Facebook page:

Sasha Kolchenko

On March 16, 2018, a lawyer working under contract with the Ural Human Rights Group visited Oleksandr Kolchenko in Kopeysk IK-6 [penal colony N6 in the city of Kopeysk, Chelyabinsk oblast, Russia]…

Behind the dry words of this report, I try to hide my furious outrage over what I learned from him. Sasha is being kept in SHIZO [isolation cell] since March 8. He was placed there for 13 days, allegedly for unescorted movement precisely through areas where he and the other convicts go without a guard as a rule: the library, the dining room … Yes, formally, this is a cause for disciplining a convict, but it is only applied when it benefits the authorities.

Let me remind you that Kolchenko recently spent 10 days in isolation at New Year’s for a “dress infraction,” in which he did not sew a name tag onto the clothes he was given as a temporary replacement for his pea jacket, which was being laundered for the holidays. (They placed him there just after he received the telegram with New Year’s greetings from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs). This measure is called “reinforcement.” They use it for all holidays, special dates and events, such as elections, visits, festivals…

The current incarceration is especially vile, because the day before it, we delivered his long-awaited parcel, which the guy is in dire need of, as the doctors diagnosed him with heart rhythm problems. Now Sasha will receive this package only after the isolation cell, and who knows if it makes it to him at all!

And now we’re left to wonder: is this just red tape and prison life as usual, or a response to protests against torture, of which Sasha’s local anarchist support group is suspected, or whether this is part of the system of bullying applied to political prisoners. Or whether it’s all of the above: meanness, stupidity, muck!

Well, aside from that, Sasha is doing okay, he has no complaints about anything, sends greetings to all and thanks for the support.

Source: Tatiana Shchur FB 

 

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Share the Gift of the Holidays with Ukraine War Amps: Vadim Shalatovsky

By Senior Voices of Ukraine Staff
16.12.2017

Vadim Shalatovsky, was on Maidan in Khmelnytsky city, took part in the Revolution of Dignity and became a member of the Defence Ministry’s “Aidar” battalion. In the second wave of mobilizations, he left his business and was mobilized to the Armed Forces of Ukraine on August of 2014 and was killed in fighting on the highway between Luhansk–Shchastya in eastern Ukraine. Their unit was ambushed, cunningly arranged by the pro-Russia terrorist forces, after which his family and friends did not know for 6 months whether he was dead or alive. He is buried in the town of Khmelnytsky. He was 31.

After the start of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation], Vadim told his wife that he would not lie on the couch, but would go to protect his family because he was a paratrooper. In the battalion, Vadim was remembered for his care over the wounded soldiers.

Khmelnytsky’s City Council stated: “Vadim was a true son of his people, a passionate patriot, a fearless man who in his life purposefully moved toward justice and honor, who always wanted to live in a single and independent Ukrainian state and could not stay away from the events that unfolded in Eastern Ukraine. Vadim paid the highest price – his life for a free Ukraine, for its happy future.” Vadim Shalatovsky has received numerous medals and awards for courage and the defense of the Luhansk airport.

Vadim’s wife Natalia Shalatovska has 2 children: Khrystyna who is 9 years old and Kyrylo who is 7 years old. Vadim spent every free moment with his children, always ready for anything with them. Natalia went through many months of anxiety and uncertainty at the bitterness of loss; her husband was considered missing at first, and then he was found through DNA testing, and then there was the funeral. During all of this time she could not even cry, so as not to frighten the kids even more. Now she is trying to cope with life’s problems alone, for example needed house repairs, which she was going to do with her husband, but which have become an unattainable dream.

The family of the deceased received some immediate assistance from the platform “People Helping People” in Ukraine following his death but currently is not receiving support from any organization other than Ukraine War Veterans (UWA) through their I CARE About Fallen Hero’s Family program. UWA needs your help to provide assistance to the fallen hero’s family on a monthly basis.


During this holiday season, share some holiday love with Vadim’s children and widow by giving to them directly via UWA’s I CARE program. 

To join the UWA team and support Vadim’s wife and children via
I CARE About Fallen Hero’s Family
please visit the following link: https://www.youcaring.com/Adopt_a_Soldier
or
 get in touch through the following email: ukrainewaramps@gmail.com


Related reading:
REUTERS: People attend funeral ceremony for Shalatovsky member of Defence Ministry’s battalion “Aydar” in Kiev

REUTERS: Ukrainian honor guards carry coffins bearing bodies of members of Defence Ministry’s battalion ” Aydar”, who were killed last year in the fighting near Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, during a funeral ceremony at Independence Square in central Kiev March 25, 2015.

GETTY IMAGES:  Crisis in Ukraine

——————-
About Ukraine War Amps:
Founded in July 2014, Toronto-based Ukraine War Amps is a worldwide community whose sole purpose is to assist amputees, severely injured soldiers and patriots who have been fighting for the liberty of Ukraine during Russia’s ongoing invasion and war against it. The Ukraine War Amps community is comprised of caring people who sponsor and support Ukraine’s heroes and their families.

UWA has an international team of volunteers working 24/7 all over the world and on the ground in Ukraine to make aid available and deliver it directly to the recipient’s doorstep or bedside in any city, town or village within Ukraine in a timely manner.

• Adopt a Soldier project: Provides monthly stipends of approximately $50 USD to as many Ukrainian heroes as it can. One hundred percent of the proceeds go towards Ukrainian veterans. Adopt a Soldier establishes a unique bridge between the donor and the amputee. The donor helps on a monthly basis so both parties are always connected. Some UWA supporters have had the opportunity to meet with the heroes and their families in person, others communicate through phone, Facebook, emails, or Skype. This helps supporters to learn more about their adoptee and his or her family and gives them a better understanding of the adoptee’s needs, situation and what can be done to bring them to the level of living they deserve. It also gives hope to the Ukrainian hero and the knowledge and experience that they are not forgotten.

• I CARE about Fallen Hero’s Family project: provides assistance to the fallen heroes’ families on a monthly basis. UWA founders Gene Berezovski and John Broadhead say that they have discovered, through personal experience, that not only the war amps, but their families also need help – the fallen heroes’ families suffer as well.

To help support the Adopt a Soldier and I CARE programs
please access both through this link:

https://www.youcaring.com/Adopt_a_Soldier

You may also contact us at:
ukrainewaramps@gmail.com

For more information, please visit the official UWA website
http://ukrainewaramps.ca

 

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YURI BUTUSOV: To everyone who was on the Maidan on December 1st

By Yuri Butusov, Ukrainian journalist and editor-in-chief of censor.net.ua
Dec. 1, 2017
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Four years ago I left the house and saw an unforgettable image. Lines of people stretched to the subway from every house in the densely populated Kharkiv massif. One subway car after another was overflowing with people, headed to the city center on a Sunday (!) afternoon (!). People were more tightly packed than even during the morning rush hour – yet there was no aggression or anxiety.

Near the Palats Sporty [Sports Palace] stop, someone in the subway car started singing the Ukrainian Anthem, and suddenly, most of the passengers joined in. That day, I would tear up more than once, including from the tear gas – but this was the first time. Before that day, I had sung the anthem at the stadium, at some events – but this was the first time I heard it sung by people who, outside of sharing their transport, were strangers. Everyone understood that the Ukrainian anthem was a password shared by those who share the struggle, an insignia for those who would no longer tolerate the insult to society, those who, on that day, decided to become a Citizen.

Everyone who sang it was declaring, ‘I’m travelling to the rally in support of the dispersed EuroMaidan.’ Dozens of strangers in the subway car used the anthem to confess to each other that they were traveling together, full of determination, and they would no longer be afraid. Later, the anthem was sung on the escalator, which was difficult to get onto – a humongous crowd filled the entire station platform, and proceeded upstairs, incredibly politely and attentively, so as not to bump into anyone. They sang the hymn in the underground passage, in the street, and then everywhere. A colossal sea of ​​people flooded downtown Kyiv, and this tremendous solidarity among the hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t know each other, showed that the people would win. That anyone who stood in the way of the people would be swept away, because there was nothing stronger in the world than this human sea.

It must have taken me over an hour to make my way from Shevchenko Park to the Maidan. There were no longer any cordons, the police and internal troops had fled, abandoning the strategically important Christmas tree, the fences had disappeared. The beginning of the rally was delayed; two honking cars could not pass through the dense crowd surrounding the Maidan from all sides. People were incredibly polite and helpful. I saw a bagpiper who played as he walked. I saw a young man in knight’s armor. The people calmly waited for the politicians to arrive, talking to each other and browsing the Internet on their smartphones.

That was when I saw things for what they were: the real Revolution. This is a whole new caliber of civil society – people who no longer needed to be entertained, who didn’t need a leader to give them speeches. People stood there consciously, and no one would back down. And another thing I clearly realized, at the very beginning of the rally, was that everything on the Maidan would be fine, that my participation would not be needed there. And I understood that the authorities would want to use some technology against the Maidan, that something shown on the evening news would have to eclipse the incredibly powerful image of Kyiv, which came to the rally almost in its entirety… To everyone who was on the Maidan, back then on the 1st of December – thank you.

Photo: Yuri Butusov, 1:30pm on Dec. 1, 2013

Source: Yuri Butusov FB page

 

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Global Action: ‘Waiting In Vain’ at airports for Ukrainian political prisoners. #FreeKolchenko

By Senior Voices of Ukraine Staff
11.26.2017

Today, activists in both Ukraine, Canada, Poland, Austria, the USA and the Czech Republic marked Ukrainian political prisoner [Oleksandr] Sasha Kolchenko’s birthday in a variety of ways, including by organizing a symbolic action in airport arrival terminals, entitled “Pointless Waiting” or as they called it in Toronto,“Waiting in Vain,” to support Kolchenko and other Ukrainian political prisoners. Each activist carried a sign with Kolchenko’s name or the name of a political prisoner who is being unjustly and illegally held – by now there are around 60 political prisoners whom Moscow is holding in either Crimea or Russia. The action was timed to coincide with Kolchenko’s birthday, it is now his 4th birthday behind bars in a crude, cold and remote prison in Kopeysk, in Chelyabinsk oblast, Russia. The title of this global action carries some irony and is intended to create a sense of dissonance that stays with the viewer, since “Waiting in Vain” is fundamentally about showing up for an act of remembrance, a supportive action of hope-filled determination, and a meme-change from writing postcards to prisoners. Far from being ‘pointless’, it alerts the authorities to the continued determination of global civil society to stand with the dissidents and lets the prisoners themselves know visually that they are awaited globally by many, with flowers and open arms.

The action was started by Czech activists in Prague, one of whom, Otakar van Gemund stated: “We are symbolically waiting for the ‘victims of Putin’s Russia.’ The FB event page specifies: This time around the action will focus exclusively on Ukrainians who find themselves in Russian captivity in Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian-occupied area of the Ukrainian Donbas region, or in Russia itself. There they are either languishing in jail without any form of due process, are in custody awaiting an unfair and manipulated trial or are already serving a prison sentence after having been unjustly convicted on the basis of falsified charges. This particular action is conceived internationally to take place on November 26, the birthday of the wrongfully convicted Ukrainian activist Oleksandr ‘Sasha’ Kolchenko, at various airports right across the world.”

Activists at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Arrivals Gate.

In Toronto, at the Pearson International Airport, activists gathered at the Arrivals gate to focus on Crimean and especially Crimean Tatar political prisoners–many of whom have not enjoyed the same wider media attention of other Ukrainian political prisoners. The chairman of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center and member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Eskender Bariyev has stated that 57 political prisoners are currently held in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister for Information Policy Emine Dzhaparova noted that, “More than 50 symbols of resistance in the annexed Crimea are people who are under trial or are serving their sentences in political cases, and it is important to inform [the public] about these cases and other cases of violations of rights and freedoms in Crimea,” adding that 100 children are now left on the peninsula without support from parents who are victims of repression. Since Russian annexation, Crimea has been subject to more frequent searches in the homes and offices of especially pro-Ukrainian independent journalists, public activists, activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement, members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, as well as Crimean Muslims suspected of having links to the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization with no links to violence in Crimea, that is banned in Russia, but not in Ukraine.

Signs held by activists participating in the Pearson International Airport action included the names of Sasha Kolchenko and Oleg SentsovBekir Degermendzhi, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Ali Asanov, Asan Chapukh, Kazim Ametov, Volodymyr Balukh, Muslim Aliev, Remzi Memetov, Enver Mamutov.

Last year at mid-November, according to the U.S. OSCE Mission to Ukraine, there were 21 Crimean Tatars facing baseless charges of “terrorism” or “extremism” and 30,000 Crimean residents had fled the peninsula fearing reprisal for their pro-Ukrainian views. These repressions were the basis for global sanctions to remain in place against the Kremlin until Russia ends its occupation and attempted annexation and returns control of the territories to Ukraine. Today, a year later, both of those numbers have grown exponentially and the OSCE Mission’s current report states: “The politically motivated targeting of Crimean Tatars, and others opposed to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, continues unabated…Russia has detained dozens of Ukrainians on a variety of baseless pretexts…Those who have survived more than three years of Moscow’s bloody conflict face ever deteriorating conditions…we all know the truth: this is Russia’s conflict, but it is unwilling to make even simple moves to reduce tensions…We demand the sides treat detainees humanely, and call on Russia to respect the spirit of the Minsk agreements, and to authorize the exchange of detainees without delay.”

The Crimea Human Rights Group has put together a blacklist of information regarding all judges involved in illegally imprisoning Ukrainian citizens in Russian-occupied Crimea. Despite the fact that decisions to persecute individual Ukrainian citizens are made in the Kremlin, this list provides evidence to back demands for these individuals to face sanctions and is documentation for the international courts.

Last month, in October, the Kremlin’s most famous Ukrainian political prisoner, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, was sent to a brutal prison north of the Arctic Circle in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the ‘White Bear’ Prison Colony No. 8 in Labytnangi. This prison colony is said to be ‘red’, a term used when the staff are free to impose their own ruthless regime, with many reports of prisoners being brutally beaten.

If you can write even a sentence in Russian (as only Russian messages are accepted) to support Sasha Kolchenko, send him a postcard to the address:
Kolchenko Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (born 1989),
IK-6, 20 Kemerovskaya Str.,
Kopeysk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, 456612, Russia.

Oleksandr, or “Sasha” (“Tundra”) Kolchenko

REFERENCES:
For a list of Ukrainian political prisoners and their profiles and information on their cases, see at the end of the article here: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group


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Oleg Sentsov: “The flight continues well. :)” – Letter from Kirov SIZO

“The flight continues well” is a reference to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight on the Vostok (“East”).
 
By Oleg Sentsov, shared by Tatiana Shchur, human rights activist
10.11.2017
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

 

Tatiana Shchur: Here is a letter from Oleg Sentsov, sent from SIZO-1 [detention facility] of Kirov, on September 27, 2017. There is so much irony, humor and dignity in it! He sends his greetings to Sasha [Olexander] Kolchenko, convinced that “Tundra can take care of himself!” In fact, Tundra [Kolchenko’s nickname] is currently receiving a visit from his mother…

 

Letter Transcript:

“Nikolay and Tatiana, hello!

“I’m writing to you from Kirov, while on my way through here. I was recently passing through your area [Chelyabinsk] on another complimentary trip organized for me by the Russian FSIN [Penitentiary Service], meals and extended security included. 🙂 🙂 I’m going from Yakutia [Sakha Republic] to Yamal [Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug], through Siberia and Ural.

“I’ve figured that over these past three-plus years, thanks to this Russian travel agency, I’ve seen all of Russia’s great rivers: Volga, Kama, Ob, Yenisei, and Lena. I even saw a bit of Lake Baikal from the window of an air prison, on the chartered flight from Yakutsk to Irkutsk. Now I’m going to look at Ob again, and even temporarily reside somewhere around its eponymous Guba [the Gulf of Ob]! 🙂 ))

“The place is called Labytnangi (I hope I spelled that right), it’s somewhere close to Kharp, the “Snowy Owl” [maximum security prison] and polar bears. Arctic night and northern lights guaranteed. In my opinion, it would be very stupid to turn down such a tempting offer, especially since no-one really asked for my opinion. 🙂 )

“Along the way, I’ve seen several places considered “scary”: Irkutsk, Omsk, now Kirov. Didn’t collect any bumps, and did not observe any humiliating treatment or physical violence. It’s institutional treatment alright, but it’s all “if you please.” Are the times changing, or are they faking it well? Hopefully, the former.

“I didn’t receive any of your letters while in Yakutia, even though I know you wrote to me. I wrote one myself, but it looks like it also failed to arrive. Yakutia is some kind of black hole in this respect.

“Overall, I’m doing okay, feeling fine, the flight continues well  🙂 ). Send my greetings to all our people!

“Don’t write to this address, obviously: they’re moving people around fast now, so I’ll be on my way before you even get this letter. (Hopefully, you will get it, unless Kirov is like Yakutia).

“With this, I will take my leave.

“My separate hello to Sasha Kolchenko. I’m sure he’s doing okay: Tundra can take care of himself! 🙂 )

“All the best!
Sincerely,
Oleg Sentov”

Source: Tatiana Shchur FB

Summary of Sentsov’s case:
–  convicted by the North Caucasus Military District Court to 20 years in prison on charges of “creating a terrorist organization and committing two acts of terrorism;”
– was supposed to serve his sentence in Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange deal;
– was subsequently denied that option on false grounds;

Further reading:
Letter posted by Open Russia;
– Letter posted by Gennadii Afansiev;
– Profile pieces on Sentsov at KHPG.org: Aug 2016, Oct 2017;
Kyiv Post feature;
Oleg Sentsov in Wikipedia.

 

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