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#LetMyPeopleGo: free Ukrainian political hostages illegally jailed in Russia

T-shirts in support of Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in Russia. Designed by Braty Design
#LetMyPeopleGo: free Ukrainian political hostages illegally jailed in Russia

Over 10 Ukrainian citizens are political prisoners in Russia, facing up to 20 years of jail over trumped-up charges, sometimes for the sole reason of being Ukrainian. Some of them, according to human rights activists, were simply kidnapped. In order to raise awareness about their imprisonment, the Ukrainian organizations EuromaidanSOS and the Center for Civil Liberties, are launching the campaign #LetMyPeopleGo. Its purpose is to spread information about citizens of Ukraine who are illegally kept captive in Russia, as well as citizens of other countries imprisoned in Russia for political reasons, for supporting Ukraine, and public demonstrations against Russian aggression in Ukraine. EuromaidanSOS is presenting the campaign on June 1 in Kyiv at a screening of the film “EuromaidanSOS. A right to dignity.”

“Ukrainians that are imprisoned in Russian prisons for political motives are also at the front. Or even worse, in the rear of the aggressor, where there are no guarantees that you will meet tomorrow’s dawn. They are subjected to numerous violations of fundamental human rights, primarily the right to freedom from torture and ill-treatment (almost all are subjected to beating and humiliation, psychological and moral pressure), the right to effective legal defense, the right to freedom personal integrity, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of opinion and to medical care, access to the Ukrainian consul and others.”

commented Oleksandra Matviychuk, EuromaidanSOS coordinator and Head of Board at the Center for Civil liberties. One of the hostages, a Lviv student Yuriy Yatsenko, was released, partly as a result of the campaign.

However, eleven more remain behind bars, facing from 2 up to 20 years sentence in Russian prisons.
To make sure that their compatriots are not forgotten, Euromaidan SOS together with Braty Design designed T-shirts with portraits of the imprisoned Ukrainians. All these people are facing trumped-up charges that fall into several categories.

First, migrant workers coming to Russia to earn were arrested and forced by the FSB to recognize that they are “terrorists” that came to Russia to stage terrorist acts. At this time, Russian state-controlled media reported on dozens of Ukrainians that were preparing terrorist attacks in Russian cities. Similar TV stories and arrests were seen during the Russian-Georgian war, but in larger numbers.

Later, the FSB resorted to kidnapping of citizens of Ukraine in the annexed Crimea and occupied Donbas. Some are accused of being “Ukrainian spies,” some are suspected of participating in the Russia’s Chechnya war (“Caucasian case”), some are being accused of war crimes, despite Russia denying its military involvement in Ukraine.  For some, like Oleh Sentsov, Russia went so far as to concoct an imaginary terrorist organization. EuromaidanSOS also included the non-Ukrainian prisoners imprisoned for stating their support for Ukraine suffering from Russian aggression. One of them, the Belarusian Kirill Silivonchik, got jailed for Ukraine-supporting posts in social networks. Sergei Rudnev is a Russian that got jailed for negotiating for the release of a Ukrainian officer kept in captivity by the Russian hybrid army in Donbas.


Nadiya Savchenko

Savcenko_134 y.o., First Lieutenant of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, aviation pilot, kidnapped from Ukraine in July 2014 and held in detention in Moscow under false accusation of aiding murder. Facing a prison sentence from 8 up to 20 years.

She has been in the armed forces of Ukraine for more than 10 years, including serving in Iraq. On June 17, she was kidnapped by militants of the self-proclaimed People`s Republic of Luhansk near the town of Schastya when she went to rescue wounded colleagues. The negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the terrorists that held Nadiya failed and on July 8 it became known that she had been moved to Russia. Savchenko has been charged by Russia with “aiding in the killing of two or more persons”. On July 2 a Russian court remanded her in custody until August 30. This has been extended several times and, after the rejection of her appeal, extended into February 2015.

Russia insists that Nadiya Savchenko was detained on the territory of the Russian Federation. She and all authorities with operational knowledge of her movements deny this absurd suggestion, insisting she was smuggled across the border into Russia.

In November 2014 Nadiya Savchenko became a member of the Ukrainian parliament and of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). Despite her official status and diplomatic immunity, despite the appeals of human rights organizations, international leaders and governments, the Russian authorities continue to keep Nadiya Savchenko under arrest.

On December 13, 2014 Nadiya Savchenko began a hunger strike as a protest against her illegal detention in Russia. Although  her health is at severe risk  she is refusing to yield. According to her lawyer and sister the hunger strike reaching the point that she is “slowly dying”. On March 5, 2015 Nadiya Savchenko partially ended her 83 days of hunger strike, as her lawyer Mark Feygin confirmed. On March 16 her hunger strike was resumed. At present she eats just enough to keep herself alive.  Find out more:[hr]

Oleh Sentsov

Sencov_139 y.o., a filmmaker, arrested in May 2014 in the Crimea, held in detention in Moscow under the accusations of terrorism and illegal keeping of explosives.
Facing a prison sentence from 5 up to 20 years.

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian filmmaker, best known for his 2011 film “Gamer”. Sentsov was born in 1976 in Simferopol, Ukraine. He was an economics student in Kyiv and took courses in film directing and screenwriting in Moscow. His first two short movies were “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (2008) and “The Horn of a Bull” (2009). “Gamer” debuted at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 2012. Its success in this and other festivals helped secure him funding for a forthcoming feature “Rhino”, production of which was postponed by his work with the Euromaidan protest movement.

After the November 2013 breakout of the Euromaidan-protests Sentsov became an activist of “AutoMaidan” and during the following 2014 Crimean crisis he helped deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian servicemen blockaded at their Crimean bases. Sentsov has stated that he does not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea and the “Russian Federation military seizure of the Crimea”. Sentsov was arrested on 11 May 2014 in Crimea on suspicion of “plotting terrorist acts.”

He became one of four Ukrainian (Oleh Sentsov, Hennady Afanasiev, Oleksiy Chirniy, Oleksandr Kolchenko) citizens being held by Russia’s Federal Security Service who accused them of seeking to carry out terrorist attacks on bridges, power lines, and public monuments in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Yalta, and Sevastopol. These charges are punishable by 20 years in prison. After holding Sentsov without charges for three weeks a statement by Russia’s Federal Security Service accused the four Ukrainians of being “part of a terrorist community, to carry out explosions with home-made devices on 9 May 2014 near the Eternal Flame memorial and Lenin monument in Simferopol and to set on fire to the offices of the Russian Community of Crimea public organization and the United Russia party branch in Simferopol on 14 April and 18 April 2014.”

Sentsov, Afanasiev, Chirniy, and Kolchenko have also been accused of membership in Ukraine’s nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector, a claim that both Sentsov and Right Sector deny. Russian prosecutors have stated that Sentsov has confessed to the terrorist plots. But the filmmaker and his lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, who defended Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, denied this and he and Setsov himself have stated that Sentsov was beaten and threatened with rape to force him to confess. Sentsov since 19 May 2014 is being detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

European directors like Agnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, and Pedro Almodóvar have co-signed a June 10, 2014 letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for Sentsov’s release. On 26 June 2014 Russia’s presidential council for human rights appealed to Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin to review the circumstances surrounding the arrests of Sentsov and a fellow Ukrainian activist, ecologist and anti-fascist Oleksandr Kolchenko. A reply, posted on the council’s website, says prosecutors found “no grounds” for altering the detention of either suspect.

On 7 July 2014 Sentsov’s arrest was extended to 11 October, then to 11 January 2015, then to 11 April 2015. Ukrainian authorities are being prevented by their Russian counterparts to contact or help Sentsov, Kolchenko and other activists, as they are considered citizens of Russia (at least in the eyes of Moscow). The European Union and the United States have condemned their detention and have called for their release.[hr]

Oleksandr Kolchenko

Kolchenko_125 y.o., a student and a public activist, arrested in May 2014 in the Crimea, held in detention in Moscow under the accusations of terrorism and illegal keeping of explosives. Facing a prison sentence from 5 up to 20 years. Is being prosecuted on the same grounds as Oleh Sentsov.

The case of the so called “Sentsov group” is noteworthy because, first of all, the detainees were not related to each other in their life before imprisonment. It was the FSB which decided to unite these people and call them the “terrorist and sabotage group of Sentsov.” All of the detainees were kidnapped from Simferopol (Crimea) in the period between 9 – 16 of May 2014. There is only one common thing about them: they were all supporters of united Ukraine even though they belonged to different parts of political spectrum – beginning with the far right wing ending with the leftists and some of them were just apolitical. After the arrest they got almost the same accusations:  p. “A” s. 1, Art. 205.4 (“creating a terrorist group”), p. “A” s. 2, Art. 205 (terrorist act committed by an organized group of persons by prior agreement), s. 1, Art. 30 (preparation and attempt to commit a crime), p. 3. 222 of the Criminal Code of Russia (“illegal acquisition and possession of ammunition by an organized group of persons by prior agreement”).[hr]

Oleksiy Chirniy

Chirniy_134 y.o., a teacher of history, arrested in May 2014 in the Crimea, held in detention in Moscow under the accusations of terrorism and illegal keeping of explosives. Facing a prison sentence from 5 up to 20 years. Is being prosecuted on the same grounds as Oleh Sentsov.[hr]


Mykola Karpiuk

Karpuk_1Mykola Karpiuk (born 1964) is a Ukrainian civil activist who has been active in politics since the early 1990s. He played an active part in Ukraine’s recent Revolution as part of the Right Sector. He was arrested in Russia on March 21, 2014 under unclear circumstances. His family and friends believe him to have been kidnapped  by the FSB from the territory of Ukraine (namely Ukrainian-Russian border in Chernihiv Oblast).

It is not clear where exactly he is kept. He might be in the investigative temporary detention center №6 in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia (or he is reported to be in the Investigative temporary detention center in Essentuki, Stavropol Krai). Information about the course and stage of the proceedings is lacking. What is known is that Karpiuk is facing 15 years in prison for the following accusation: s. 1. Art. 209 of the Criminal Code of Russia (“Creating a stable armed group (gang) to attack the citizens or organizations, and implementation of the management of the group”). He is a figurant in a large case against members of Ukrainian nationalist organizations together with Dmytro Yarosh, Ihor Mazur, Oleg Tyahnybok. Russian investigative bodies claims he was participant of Chechen war. But Karpiuk’s family and lawyer deny this claiming that Karpiuk indeed was a fighter, but not yon the territory of the Russian Federation, he participated in the events of 1990ies in Abkhazia and Transnistria.

The Ukrainian consul has not been allowed to meet with Mykola Karpiuk and his lawyers question whether he is still alive. Facing a prison sentence from 12 up to 20 years.[hr]

Stanislav Klykh

Klih_1Stanislav Klykh (born 1974) was arrested in Russia on August 11, 2014 during a visit to his girlfriend in the city of Orel. After that he was supposedly transferred to prisons in Yessentuki and Pyatigorsk, being accused by Russian authorities of the participation in the “Right Sector” movement. Is facing charges on the basis of the same “Caucasus case” as Mykola Karapiuk.

The Ukrainian consul has not been allowed to meet with Stanislav Klykh.[hr]

Serhiy Litvinov

litvinov_1Serhiy Litvinov (born 1983, resident of the Kamyshne village, Luhansk Oblast), was arrested on August 22, 2014, accused of fighting in the “Dnipro” volunteer battalion. According to official information from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, responsible for the “Dnipro” battalion, Serhiy Litvinov has never been a member. Serhiy himself also denies any involvement.

He came to Russian city of Tarasovskiy (Rostov Region) in August 2014 from one of the Ukrainian border cities to visit the hospital. Instead he was arrested and accused of the crimes stipulated in s. 2 of Art. 105 (“Murder”) and s. 1 Art. 356 (“Application of prohibited means and methods of warfare”) of the Criminal Code of Russia. There is no information about the course and stage of the proceedings. What is known is that at the moment he is kept in the 5th investigative temporary detention center in Moscow.

Ukrainian consuls met with Serhiy Litvinov twice. During the meetings he complained about physical and psychological violence and torture employed against him by Russian law enforcement authorities.

Serhiy Litvinov is being detained in the 5th remand prison in Moscow, and is facing a prison sentence from 8 up to 20 years.[hr]

Yuriy Soloshenko

Soloshenko_173 y.o. the former Director of the military plant in the City of Poltava held in detention in Moscow in August 2014 under the accusation of spying.
Facing a prison sentence from 10 up to 20 years.[hr]



Henadiy Afanasiev

Afansev_125 y.o., a lawyer, arrested in May 2014 in the Crimea under the accusations of the preparation of a terrorist act and illegal keeping of explosives.

Is already convicted to 7 years in prison by a secret sentence of the Moscow city court.[hr]


Yuriy Yatsenko

Yacenko_124 y.o., a law student from Lviv, arrested in Russia in May 2014 and held in detention in the City of Belgorod, Russia, under the accusation of contraband and illegal keeping of explosives.

Yuriy was detained together with Bohdan Yarychevskyi by law enforcement officers of the Russian Federation in the Oboyan Kursk oblast when the hotel in which the young people were staying was raided for a document check.

8 May 2014 – The District Court of the Oboyan Kursk region found them guilty of violating Article 18.8, Part 2 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (violation of the rules of entry or the stay in the Russian Federation). They admitted their guilt and paid a fine of 2,000 rubles. However, for reasons unknown, a deportation order has not been issued and they remain in custody in the village of Avdeev Kastrychnitski in the Kursk region, in an institution for the detention of foreign nationals and stateless persons who are subject to administrative expulsion or deportation from the territory of the Russian Federation. A month and a half previously, the district court held several meetings regarding the case of the young men. To date, according to their relatives and friends, as well as the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, there exists no legal basis for the detention of Yuriy and Bohdan.

According to the testimony of the detained, as well as friends and relatives, the young men were visited during their stay in the institution by “civilian people” who were not officially presented, but who the detained identified as members of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB; successor organization to the KGB). According to testimony from a lawyer, “Bohdan and Yuriy underwent long-lasting interrogations. For interviews they were taken to some private room, but several times they were put in the trunk of a car, handcuffed and hooded, and driven in an unknown direction. If those who led the interrogation did not like the answers to the questions, the detainees were beaten, including on sensitive organs. Relatives reported that after an interrogation, Bohdan slit open his veins and Yuriy sliced his stomach in an attempt to be sent to the hospital and thus avoid contact with the so-called “competent authorities.” At the hospital, the wounds were sutured without anesthetic. The young men wrote allegations of abuse, but the torture only stopped after a protest at the intergovernmental level. Officially, according to Serhiy Yatsenko, the Federal Migration Service denies allegations of torture.

The Ombudsman of Ukraine issued a public statement, as well as an appeal to the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Kursk region, Nikolay Efremov, asking for verification of information on the use of torture against the young men and facilitation of their return to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Ukraine in Russia have repeatedly sent notes demanding that Russian colleagues explain the causes of illegal detention of Ukrainian citizens by the Federal Migration Service. Representatives of the Ukrainian embassy also visited the site and met with Yuriy Yatsenko and representatives of the Federal Migration Service and the Interior Ministry in the Kursk region.

After being moved to the status of a “suspect” Yuriy is being detained in Belgorod jail, the FSB charged him with smuggling narcotics (later these charges have been withdrawn) and illegal possession of explosives (40 grams of gunpowder), Bohdan became a “witness” in the case and was deported back to Ukraine in August 2014. On April 10, 2015 Yuri Yatsenko was sentences to two years of jail. He was recently released on the grounds of reducing his sentence to the time already spent in jail.[hr]

Kirill Silivnonchik

He is a Belarusian citizen who came to the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod as an IT worker. He was arrested right in his office for the posts in social media which condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine. This picture and call to get Crimea back to Ukraine were estimated by the Russian investigative bodies as a “public incitement to terrorism”. Kirill was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Sergei Rudnev

He is a citizen of Russia but for 12 years prior to apprehension he had been legally residing Ukraine. He went to the Ukrainian city of Horlivka occupied by pro-Russian forces to negotiate the release of a Ukrainian military officer held in captivity. There he was kidnapped by the unlawful armed group led by a person with the nickname “Botsman”. Soon after that he was transfered to pre-trail center in Russian city of Tihoretsk. According to our information he is accused of illegal keeping of  weapons and illegal crossing of Russian border (similar to Nadia Savchenko).

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