Sentsov and Kolchenko: Russia does not extradite its own

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov was denied the opportunity to serve his sentence at home – all because of a Russian passport

Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for "Novaya Gazeta"

Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

By Anton Naumlyuk, journalist (text and all photos)
10.21.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

The Russian Ministry of Justice explained its position regarding transferring Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to Ukraine to serve his sentence at home. In short – the transfer will not take place. According to the agency’s official response to “the Ukrainian side’s” request, Sentsov has only one nationality – Russian, and because Ukraine does not provide for dual citizenship, the Russian Federation will not consider transferring its citizen to serve his sentence in another country.

Oleg Sentsov was 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. The latter are two not very successful arson attempts: at the office of the Party of Regions in Simferopol (in the case file, the office appears as belonging to the United Russia party, which, in actuality, could not have existed on the peninsula at that time- A.N.) and the office of the “Russian community of Crimea,” which was the headquarters of the “Self-Defense of Crimea” militant group. The terrorist organization in question, according to the court, was a cell of “Right Sector,” which Sentsov had allegedly created in Crimea, a nationalist Ukrainian group that is banned in Russia.

Oleksandr Kolchenko, an anti-fascist activist, was sentenced together with Sentsov, to 10 years of imprisonment; his only connection to Ukrainian nationalists is the fact that he was beaten by them several times, during memorials for journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov who were killed by Russian nationalists in 2009. The human rights movement “Memorial” has recognized Kolchenko and Sentsov as political prisoners.

“What is your nationality?”

The option to serve sentence at home was viewed as one of the main possibilities for the return of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. One of the obvious conditions for the transfer of prisoners would be a Ukrainian citizenship, but while no doubts arose regarding the passports of Nadiya Savchenko, Mykola Karpyuk and other Ukrainians, everything is much more difficult in the case of the “Crimean terrorists.” The issue of Kolchenko’s and Sentsov’s citizenship arose even during the trial.

Oleg Sentsov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for "Novaya Gazeta"

Oleg Sentsov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

“What is your nationality?” – Judge Sergei Mikhailyuk asked Kolchenko at the start of the first day of the court proceedings. “Russian, Ukrainian,” the anarchist responded hesitantly. “Decide already,” the judge said with a smile, and then asked if Kolchenko can speak Russian (he does). Sentsov answered [the question about his nationality] confidently: “Ukrainian.” In the case files, both of the accused appeared as Russian citizens, and the Ukrainian Consul was not allowed to see them. At the same time, only Ukrainian passports [of both Sentsov and Kolchenko] were present in the case files.

After the verdict, Sentsov was sent to serve his sentence in Yakutia, and Kolchenko, in the Chelyabinsk region. In March 2016, it seemed that the citizenship question was resolved in the Ukrainians’ favor. The final report, published by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, bluntly states: “As a result of the High Commissioner’s actions prompted by Sentsov and Kolchenko’s complaints, any legal uncertainty with regard to their nationality was eliminated, and their Ukrainian citizenship recognized.” By that time, Kyiv had already addressed the Russian Ministry of Justice with a petition for transfer for Sentsov and Kolchenko to serve their sentences at home. At the time, it seemed that either that way, or through a pardon, the Ukrainian political prisoners would be in Ukraine before the end of the year. But apparently, the Ministry of Justice knows nothing about the reasoning of the Russian High Commissioner.

“Sentsov acquired Russian citizenship pursuant to paragraph 1, Article 4 of the Federal Constitutional Law of 21.03.2014 №6-FKZ “On the adoption of the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation and the formation of the new entities of the Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol within the Russian Federation,” – said the agency.

“A person cannot be made a citizen of another country against their will. Kolchenko holds a Ukrainian passport. And Sentsov did not waive his Ukrainian citizenship.”

“The position of the Ministry of Justice is based on a federal constitutional law; the letter mentions the accession of Crimea and says that Sentsov has Russian citizenship because he did not waive it in writing. That is, according to the Ministry of Justice, all those who did not write such a waiver automatically received Russian citizenship. Except that a certain procedure had to be followed: writing the appropriate application, and obtaining a Russian passport. Sentsov did not write any such application, did not get a passport, and did not refuse his Ukrainian citizenship. De facto, he was made a Russian citizen, but de jure he did not become one, he did not undergo any procedures [to that effect],”- responded Sentov’s lawyer Dmitry Dinze.

Oleksandr Kolchenko. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

Oleksandr Kolchenko. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

The lawyer reminded everyone that Kolchenko’s defender, Svetlana Sidorkina, tried to sue the Migration Service regarding her client’s citizenship, but the Simferopol court rejected her claim, stating that there was no formal violation in the fact that Kolchenko was essentially given Russian citizenship by force. “I appealed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, the Office of the Prosecutor General, who replied that since [Kolchenko] did not complete the procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship, he remains a citizen of Ukraine. Her position is: a person cannot be made citizen of another country against their will. Kolchenko has a Ukrainian passport, he did not complete the procedures, thus, he is a citizen of Ukraine,” insists Dmitry Dinza.

There is another way

The refusal of the Russian Ministry of Justice to consider the option of transferring the Ukrainians to serve their sentences in their homeland certainly does not exclude their return, but it does close off one of the routes for such return; one that is not the easiest for Kyiv, in fact. Previously, all high-profile exchanges of Ukrainian political prisoners took place via their pardon and exchange, not by means of extradition for serving their sentence. Nadiya Savchenko went home a free woman, as did the GRU personnel Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeni Yerofeyev, who were exchanged for her. And Yury Soloshenko and Gennady Afanasyev’s pardons were broadcast almost in real time.

“As we have already seen, Russia does not extradite anyone from the list [of political prisoners] under the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to serve their sentences in their country of citizenship,” – said Ilya Novikov, the lawyer for Ukrainians Nadiya Savchenko, Mykola Karpyuk, and Valentin Vyhivsky. “This is nothing new. We should concentrate on the exchange and pardon mechanisms. There is a small upside to the fact that the issue of citizenship is being treated so crassly – it will make matters easier with the European Court of Human Rights. And overall, it will be easier to explain why Russia’s stance on this is wrong.”

Almost all lawyers say that in political cases, especially those involving Ukrainians, the defense does not view the Russian court as a body of fair judicial procedure. Dmitry Dinze, who represents Sentsov’s interests, is not about to challenge the position of the Ministry of Justice.

“To be honest, we are afraid to make the situation even worse,” the lawyer expressed his concern. “We will, most likely, appeal to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, so that his office would repeat their view on Sentsov’s Ukrainian citizenship. We would like to see the issue discussed at the initiative of the High Commissioner and the Prosecutor General, who have already expressed their position. And, of course, we expect the President of Ukraine to solve this situation at the highest level, using diplomatic means.”

Problems with the processes of exchange

It is true that after the return of Soloshenko and Afanasyev to Ukraine, the exchange processes seemed to have stopped. The incident with “Ukrainian saboteurs” in Armyansk failed to add any optimism to the matter of returning Ukrainian political prisoners home.

On the other hand, the [Russian] Bataysk Colony #15 currently holds two Ukrainian participants of high-profile trials: Oleksiy Chirniy, the main witness in the case of Sentsov, and Serhiy Lytvynov, whom the Investigative Committee of Russia originally accused of mass killings of civilians in the Luhansk region. Chirniy expressed a tentative hope that his exchange is being prepared.

Serhiy Lytvynov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Nova Gazeta

Serhiy Lytvynov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

Lytvynov’s lawyer, Victor Parshutkin, does not exclude that possibility in respect of his client, either. “Perhaps they will hand him over to Ukraine to serve further punishment, or…I’m wary of making predictions. The most important thing is, he is not forgotten – another hearing on redress of injury is scheduled for October 25th in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court, and yesterday, we received the decision on the verdict’s appeal. Now there is nothing to stop us making a complaint to the European Court,”- the lawyer noted.

The possibility of the exchange and return of the “Chechen prisoners” Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh may be on the table after October 26, when the Supreme Court [of Russia] holds a hearing on the appeal against the verdict made by the Supreme Court of Chechnya, which condemned the Ukrainians for allegedly taking part in the first Chechen war on the side of Ichkeria. Until the appeal hearing, the verdict has not entered into force yet, so it is impossible to insist on an extradition of the convicted.

Stanislav Klykh. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

Stanislav Klykh. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk, especially for Novaya Gazeta

Although, Klykh is also currently on trial in Grozny for insulting the public prosecutor Salambek Yunusov. It is true that the Ukrainian displayed some unbalanced behavior during the court process – shouting, reciting poetry, speaking out of place. At the last hearing, Klykh, in response to the prosecutor’s statement, refused the services of his lawyer, insisting that his interests in court be represented by the singer Stas Mikhailov. The defense suggests that this behavior may be the result of tortures, about which Klykh spoke in the Grozny courtroom, showing burn marks from electricity on his legs. The lawyer Marina Dubrovina requested a psychiatric examination of the defendant, to which the judge stated that he has no reason to believe Klykh is mentally ill.

Source: novayagazeta.ru

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Slovyansk’s pedestrian crossings now have motivational slogans (photos)

By bzh.life, a magazine publication of urban life in the big city. Photos by Larissa Kovalenko, Alexei Ovchinnikov, Marina Danilova
10.11.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Participants of the platform “Zmіsto” created motivational pedestrian crossings in Slovyansk [Donetsk oblast], Ukraine.

"Life is beautiful when it’s colorful"

“Life is beautiful when it’s colorful”

At the initiative of the platform Zmisto and with support of the municipal enterprise “water table” Slovyansk increased the number of pedestrian crossings in the city, according to 6262.com.ua [the City of Slovyansk’s website].

"Live – Breathe – Stride – Wilfully"

“Live – Breathe – Stride – Wilfully”

The pedestrian crossings are also decorated with motivating inscriptions: “You are your own country,” “Everything will be all right,” “Life is beautiful when it’s colorful” and others.

"You are your own country"

“You are your own country”

The plan is to paint a total of five such crosswalks in Slovyansk, at intersections in different parts of the city. All of the materials necessary to implement this initiative have been procured with grants from the US Agency for International Development – USAID.

Source: bzh.life

 


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Alexander Kolchenko meets with members of Chelyabinsk region OIC #FreeKolchenko

By Tatiana Shchur, text. Photos by Olga Frolova and Russian Federal Penitentiary Service staff.
10.05.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Nikolay Shchur meeting with Sasha (Alexander) Kolchenko in Kopeysk prison in Chelyabinsk region.

Yesterday, October 5th, Russian human rights activists Nikolay Shchur and Olga Frolova, members of the Chelyabinsk region Public Supervisory Commission (OIC) met with Ukrainian political dissident Sasha Kolchenko who is serving a sentence in a prison colony in Kopeysk, Chelyabinsk area.

N. Shchur, O. Frolova, and IR-6. Photo: Tatiana Shchur

N. Shchur, O. Frolova, and IR-6.

They met with him in the classroom at a vocational school, where he has been mastering the profession of carpenter. Sasha said that letters are getting through to him now, but he is not receiving his subscriptions regularly. And – most importantly – he has still not resolved the question of a meeting with the Consul. His letter requesting a meeting with the Consul of the [penal] colony, it seems, has not worked out. Alexander turned to the OIC for assistance in the transfer of this letter (already done). In its audit report, the OIC Commission pointed out that it “draws attention to the management HUFSIN violations of citizen rights institutions Ukraine Kolchenko AA a meeting with the consul of his country! “draws attention to the Federal Penitentiary Service for a violation by the institution’s management and leadership of the rights of Ukrainian citizen Kolchenko to a meeting with the consul of his country!”

N. Shchur and A. Kolchenko in discussion during meeting. Photo: Tatiana Shchur.

N. Shchur and A. Kolchenko in discussion during meeting.

Source: Tatiana Shchur FB post


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“Stop exporting our forests!” – Chernivtsi artist Taras Polataiko protests on train station platform (VIDEO)

By CHV.TV Staff, Chernivtsi, Ukraine
09.09.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

International artist Taras Polataiko (R) holding protest signs in an intense chat with the Head of the Police on the platform of Chernivtsi train station, Chernivtsi Ukraine on September 8, 2016. Photo:

International artist Taras Polataiko (R) holding protest signs in an intense chat with National Police patrol Paranyuk who explains that only accredited journalists are allowed on the platform of Chernivtsi train station, Chernivtsi, Ukraine on September 9, 2016. Photo: Oleg Tudan

Today, during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first train from Lviv to Ivano-Frankivsk, local artist Taras Polataiko (Chernivtsi–Kolomyya) stood in a one-man picket protest against deforestation.

Taras Polataiko on Chernivtsi train station platform holding a "Don't kill the Carpathians" sign. Photo:

Taras Polataiko on Chernivtsi train station platform holding a “Don’t kill the Carpathians” sign.

According to the artist, every day 100 train cars pass through the [Chernivtsi] local station, carrying [illegally] logged wood from the Carpathian Mountains. Deforestation is resulting in loss of water in the mountains and an increase in landslides.

Taras Polataiko at Chernivtsi train platform holding up signs: "Stop killing the Carpathians" and "Stop exporting the forest!!" Photo:

Taras Polataiko at Chernivtsi train platform holding up signs that say: “Stop killing the Carpathians” and “Stop exporting the forest!!”

However, local law enforcement agencies did not like this protest. The activist says, “There were 10 policemen, who did not allow me to stand here because I was ‘holding some kind of rally.’ I’m not holding a rally, I’m just a regular person, a citizen of Ukraine, who is just standing here.” [Ed: Polataiko also writes on his Facebook page that the police told him he “had a suspicious backpack” and suggested to “go talk outside”].

However, as was noted by Ivan Hrunyk, the Acting Head of the regional branch of the “Lviv Railway” public joint-stock company Ukrainska Zaliznytsia [PJSC “Ukrzaliznytsia”], the railroad is not responsible for the parties engaged in logging: “We only provide transportation. The responsibility rests with the Customs authorities and the Forestry Service, who are actually carrying out the logging.”

To that, protestor Taras Polataiko said: then apparently, no one is responsible for the destruction of the forests, and so the logging of the Carpathians continues. “It’s the prosecutors’ job to find the perpetrators and prosecute them for this. But I care about the problem! I can clearly see [the timber], leaving on these trains. The railway company “Ukrzaliznytsia” is exporting the timber! I’m doing what’s logical – protesting against the fact that “Ukrzaliznytsya” is exporting the Carpathians,” said Polataiko.

International artist Taras Polataiko with Carpathian Mountain deforestation protest signs flanked by police on the Chernivtsi train station platform during the train's 150th Anniversary celebrations, September 8, 2016. Photo:

International artist Taras Polataiko with Carpathian Mountain deforestation protest signs under police presence on the Chernivtsi train station platform during the train’s 150th Anniversary celebrations, September 9, 2016.

The activist added that he was surprised by the actions of the railway station personnel, who, despite the fact that he showed his accreditation as a journalist, did not allow him to reach his colleagues and twisted his arms. [Ed: Polataiko also writes on his Facebook page that they unexpectedly roughed him up and beat him.]

International artist Taras Polataiko flanked by police holding Carpathian Mountain deforestation protest signs while the Head of the Lviv Railway speaks during their 150th Anniversary celebrations on the train station platform September 8, 2016. Photo:

International artist Taras Polataiko flanked by police holding Carpathian Mountain deforestation protest signs while Ivan Hrunyk, the Acting Head of the Lviv Railway (regional branch) speaks during their 150th Anniversary celebrations on the train station platform September 9, 2016. Photo:

Video (in Ukrainian) where Taras Polataiko talks about the deforestation and drying of the Carpathian mountains and the rationale of his protest (as written in above article).

Source: CHV.TV

Further Reference:
Video of illegal clear-cutting in historical Bukovina mountains done within a 2 month period, including the after-effects of flooding in the region. By “Kozak Victory,” posted by Mykola Petichenko (video):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gmjL5pl2eM

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Nikolai Polozov: The trial of Crimean Tatar leader Ahtem Chiygoz #FreeChiygoz

By Nikolai Polozov, Russian lawyer to Ahtem Chiygoz, Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and a political prisoner of the occupying Russian force in Crimea
09.02.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Photo Source: QHA Crimean News Agency

Photo Source: SIMFEROPOL/AQMESCIT (QHA) – Crimean News Agency

The trial of Ahtem Chiygoz
(Tenth day of trial)

At the beginning of today’s session, the judges again refused to satisfy the motion of the defense on bringing Ahtem Chiygoz into the courtroom, which is why he participated in the process indirectly, through videoconferencing. As in previous meetings, the unsatisfactory quality of the video communication link was called into question, this led to complaints about the quality of the link, and Chiygoz explained to the court that the sound is interrupted, one often has to ask the victims the question again.

There were 2 plaintiffs testifying today. The first plaintiff was Vladimir O. Yushkov. As of 02.26.14, he is a citizen of Ukraine.

His mother had informed him of the rally on February 26th by telephone. He went there with his wife and child, and met his parents there. He left his wife, child and mother in a safe place on Zhukovsky St., while he and his father took part in the rally. To the left of the entrance to the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) there were “pro-Ukrainian” participants meeting with Crimean Tatar flags, Ukrainian flags, and the “Right Sector” flag. To the right – were the “pro-Russian” participants with the flags of Crimea, Russia and a number of Crimean cities. I remembered there were slogans and shouts. From the left side they were carrying signs: “Crimea – is Ukraine,” “No to the referendum,” “Suitcase–>Station–>Russia!,” “Allah Akbar.” On the right – “Return the Constitution to 1992,” “Referendum,” “Putin – help us,” “Berkut.”

I saw Sergey Aksyonov and Refat Chubarov, who called for calm from the steps of the Verkhovna Rada. There were not enough police officers and they were not protecting public order. At some point a crowd crush began,  protesters started throwing sticks and plastic bottles filled with water. According to the plaintiff’s view, active efforts were being made by the “pro-Ukrainian” rally participants, while the “pro-Russian” participants were calm and restrained the crush. After, opponents of the victim released tear gas and began to squeeze out the “pro-Russian rally” from the inner court of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC. He himself was squeezed by the bodies of “pro-Russian” rally participants, he fell down and they dragged him out by his arms. He saw Chiygoz, he is not familiar with him, so he could not report anything about his actions, except that he was there and spoke with Chubarov.

He said that after the end of the rally, he still stayed for some time in the Verkhovna Rada building, where he joined the “people’s militia,” and then went home. He did not seek medical assistance. He became a plaintiff in the case after appealing to the leadership of the “people’s militia.”

The second plaintiff questioned today is Eugene S. Anokhin. On 02.26.2014 he was a citizen of Ukraine. On the eve of 02.23, together with his brother, he enrolled in the first company of the “people’s militia,” the commander of whom was M.S. Sherbet.

On 25.02, he was guarding the statue of Lenin with other “militia” members when M.S. Sherbet informed him that on 02.26 a rally will be held next to the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea (ARC) at 14:00. The next morning, he was driving to work when his brother called him and said that waiting 14 hours is not worth it, but that he should come immediately, because a rally of their political opponents was already organized – stepping out for the unity of Crimea and of Ukraine – and that it is necessary “to ensure the presence of our demands” also. Asked whether the issue of protection resulting in a change in time to the “pro-Russian” rally, identically coinciding with the holding of the opponents’ rally, escalated tensions – the victim found it difficult to answer. Clarifying questions in sequence were filmed by the court.

Next, the plaintiff described the circumstances of the rallies, also mentioning the presence of Aksyonov and Chubarov. And the presence of the Right Sector flag among others. As a result of the crowd crush he fractured two ribs. Unlike many of the other plaintiffs, in his case a medical examination was carried out.

Regarding the actions of Ahtem Chiygoz he knows nothing, did not see him.

During the court session, Ahtem Chiygoz noted the active role of the judge, Kozyrev, who takes on the function of a Chairman, actually trying to manage the process in a sarcastically-mocking form, allowing himself caustic comments in respect to Ahtem Chiygoz and other participants in the process. Such behavior certainly is not compatible with the status of a judge. And to which the defense has repeatedly made objections.

The next hearing will take place on Tuesday 06.09.2016, beginning at 9:30 am.

Source: Nikolai Polozov FB post

Related Reading:
QHA: Crimean News Agency, September 1, 2016: “Trial of Chiygoz is ongoing in Simferopol”

Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group: “Russia’s Trial of jailed Crimean Tatar leader turns openly racist”


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