A mother’s heartbreaking appeal to get her son back from Russian captivity

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For the mother of Ukrainian political prisoner Stanislav Klykh, a few photographs and a certificate of gratitude provide a powerful reminder of her son’s captivity in Russia. Tamara Klykh says her son was a true patriot. He participated in the student protests campaign of the 90s, the Orange Revolution in 2004 and most recently, the Euromaidan anti-government protests.

In 2014, a Russian judge found Stanislav Klykh guilty of fighting against Russian forces in the 1990s Chechen War. Russian human rights defender Zoya Svetova described the case as “one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea.” Klykh denied ever visiting Chechnya and was forced to give confessions under duress.

Read also: Six things you need to know about the show “trial” of Stanislav Klykh

Tamara Klykh, Mother of Ukrainian Political Prisoner in Russia Stanislav Klykh:

When I was in Grozny, he was very uneasy, he cried out in court and was aggressive. Then, I was very scared. A few months ago in Chelyabinsk, during our last meeting, which lasted three days, he was absolutely apathetic, very sick and had lost 18 kilograms. After a month’s stay in the psychiatric hospital, he cannot read or write; his hands are badly functioning. There are wounds and bedsores on the body. In communication, he had this childish naivety, he did not even recall his adult life.

Last summer, Tamara Klykh met with the mother of Russian saboteur Viktor Ageyev, who was detained by Ukrainian servicemen in the Luhansk region. The Russian citizen was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for participating in a terrorist organization in the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic.” Both women appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to personally ensure that their sons’ exchange occurs quickly.

Tamara Klykh:

We recorded a video message. The initiative was hers and the Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin’s, who brought Ageyeva to Ukraine, persuading me that we had to do this. And I believe that we had to do this for the children to be released. I’m staying in touch with our consul and waiting for news.

Ageyev stated that his client’s name is included in the list of 14 Russian citizens being prepared for the swap and that the decision to do so was made on the highest level.

Viktor Chevhuz, Lawyer of Viktor Ageyev

He doesn’t mind being exchanged. He wants to come back. He has realized that he’s made a mistake. He apologized before the court and before the Ukrainian people for coming here. He says he didn’t know. He just fell for the propaganda of Russian television.

Russian lawyer Mark Feygin believes that Ukrainian political prisoners are treated by the Russian government as bargaining chips in order to achieve geopolitical goals.

Mark Feygin, Russian Lawyer

Moscow is interested in delaying this process because an exchange is a serious resource. That is why, I think, it won’t be easy. The issue is decided by the leaders of the country. So I doubt that anyone has accurate information about the prisoners who will be exchanged.

On December 27, 2017, the Ukrainian government and the Russian-backed militants conducted the largest prisoner swap since the breakout of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014. The Ukrainian side handed over 233 people to the separatists and received 73 Ukrainians in return. The date of the second prisoner swap is yet to be set. But Stanislav Klykh’s mother believes that her son will be released sooner rather than later.

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