The shadowy trial to Crimean activists

The director Oleg Sentsov and anti-fascist activist Oleksandr Kolchenko risk twenty years in prison for opposing the annexation of Crimea. The military court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, took to trial behind closed doors the two Ukrainians, already in prison for more than a year.

Before being a terrorist, Oleg Sentsov was an independent director widelyremarked in Ukraine and in the fil festival circle. One evening, shortly after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, he threw a Molotov cocktail against the local branch of United Russia, Putin's party. The office was empty and the damage was limited to the door a bit burned and a broken window. Sentsov was arrested along with Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirny, other activists who had opposed the Russian annexation of their land. The four were allegedly beaten, tortured an threatened of death before being moved quickly in a temporary prison in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia and charged with terrorism under the Russian Criminal Code. The investigation was kept secret for several months, until Afanasyev and Chirny have been judged guilty behind closed doors and sentenced to seven years, the minimum penalty for the crime of terrorism. Which suggests that they have decided to cooperate with the FSB to indict Kolchenko and Sentsov. The trial of the latter began behind closed doors a few days ago and could be concluded already by the end of the month. Because, according to many, the sentence is already written.

Chekhov’s Box

Sentsov is accused of being the leader of a terrorist group composed by the three others and "unidentified individuals", under command of Pravy Sektor, to carry out attacks against the Russian population in Crimea. He, who admitted to have thrown the Molotov cocktails, has always refused to confess the much more seriouscharge. "I am confident that the brave investigators will prove everything because the Federal Service of Chaos [a parody of the FSB, the Federal Service of Investigation, Nda] in your country knows how to perform their duties so that the affair is transparent," he said during a quick hearing to extend the detention. "It’s already a done deal, this is being constantly repeated. A very hard and interesting life will await me in prison camp, if I make it there at all."

The trial began on July 9. Not much is known of what happened at the hearing, since it was forbidden even to the Ukrainian consulto attend. Before the doors were closed, Sentsov has had time to make people understand what he is made of. "I’m not afraid of threats or hints, or of the 20 years in prison, because I know that the era of the reign of the bloody dwarf in your country will end sooner," he told reporters. "I don’t regret anything, and am not hoping for anything. I simply live. At the moment I’m living in prison, that’s my position on life.  I consider myself far freer than the vast majority of Russians who live in a Chekhovian case from which they love Putin through a little peephole."

A mockery of a trial

The trial to Sentsov and the three others has all the ingredients of Russian selective justice, from court deafness to requests of the defense, to the infringement offundamental rights of the indicted, from the absolute lack of evidence the politically motivated accusations. A similar fate to other political prisoners, such as Nadiya Savchenko. Plus a Kafkaesque element. The four are Ukrainian citizens, illegally abducted to Russia, where they should be treated in accordance with international treaties. But for Moscow Sentsov and others are Russian citizens since the time of the annexation. No matter that they have never expressed such a will or that they continue to call themselves Ukrainians, and to refer to Russia as another country.

According to lawyers the trial could be completed in a very short time, already for the end of July. For the two, the hope of a light sentence or even an acquittal is equal to the transparency and independence of the Russian justice system.


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