Today, almost a year after the arrest near Shchastia, Russian special forces Evgen Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov are voiced the sentence.
Captain Evgen Yerofeyev and Sergeant Alexander Alexandrov in the evening of May 16 were taken to the medical service of "Aydar" battalion. Aleksandrov was suffering from gunshot fracture of the femur, Yerofeyev suffered from injury of his right shoulder. The self-proclaimed "Luhansk People's Republic," they were called "soldiers of the militia."
Yerofeyev asked to treat his shoulder without anesthesia, fearing for the internal organs. Thanks to the prompt actions, the doctors managed to save Alexandrov’s leg.
They told the OSCE representatives that they were military personnel; they were sent to conduct exploration in Ukraine, but they did not participate in the fighting. However, according to the General Staff of Armed Forces of Ukraine, Russians were detained during an armed conflict, one Ukrainian soldier died and three were wounded.
Group of Yerofeyev, he said, consisted of 12 people. On that day, in the area of Shchatia they searched for new places for observation and ran into the trenches.
"I commanded two people to check the trenches, while I remained on the cover-up. When the servicemen entered the trench, there were some clapping, and they run away shouting “Run away!" They opened fire against us, I was wounded in the arm. Bone was shattered, I fell down and fainted... After regaining consciousness, I began to crawl, but the soldiers came soon from the trenches," Russian commando said, adding that he wanted to blow up himself with a grenade.
"No one’s" prisoners
Two days later, Russian Defense Ministry said that at that time Alexandrov and Yerofeyev were not Russian soldiers, which caused surprise among the detainees.
Yerofeyev’s father reported that his son resigned from the army and went to Donbas, and his former subordinate on condition of anonymity, said that did not hear anything about the dismissal of the commander. According to Alexandrov's wife, her husband left the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces in December, but his mother is not aware of his son's plans to retire from the army.
The protective arguments were build up on the fact that the Russians were not professional soldiers. Lawyers have filed a request to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and received an answer that at the moment of detention, Alexandrov and Yerofeyev were not Russian servicemen. They held service under the contract with the Luhansk People’s Republic, precisely with people’s militia. The commandos immediately recanted and said that after the arrest they testified under pressure.
Russians changed his testimony several times, as long as the lawyers were instructed. Immediately after the surrender, they insisted that the Russians are not fighting in Donbas, but later answered yes to a reporter's question about the presence of the Russian army. They stated that they had barely contacted with the militants of Luhansk People’s Republic, although they subordinated to the general command.
"As you can see, the Russian army is here. It is just difficult to admit it," said Alexandrov, adding that for the service on the territories controlled by the rebels, leadership promised to double the salary. However, subsequently again he retracted his words and assured that the salary for the trip to Ukraine he was the same as for the service on the territory of Russia.
May 22, 2015 the Court has chosen for both commandos preventive measure in the form of arrest. September 17 they were handed the indictments, and November 10 a judicial review of the merits was launched. Each of them is accused of conducting a war, promoting activities of a terrorist organization, moving across the border of Ukraine of weapons and ammunition, violation of the order of entry in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, carrying, storage, transferring of firearms, ammunition without lawful authority, and committing a terrorist act, the use of weapons with the intention to provoke a military conflict, the international complications that led to the death of a person.
They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors asked for them to 15 years imprisonment.
This case "has acquired" a new crime. Thus, a criminal case on suspicion of intentional stabbing was opened against Oksana Sokolova (Yerofeev’s lawyer). She has conducted searches, after which the court chose to Sokolovskaya preventive measure in the form of a personal commitment.
Georgiy Grabowski, Alexandrov’s lawyer, was found shot dead in an abandoned garden in Cherkasy region. One of the suspects is detained and arrested, the names of two more involved in the crime also appeared in the media. New Alexandrov’s lawyer became Valentyn Rybin.
On April 8, someone, threw "Molotov cocktail" into the judge’s office in the building of the court, which considers the case of the Russians. The fire damaged office equipment and furniture.
It took about two hours for the verdict of district court (for comparison - the verdict of Savchenko had been voiced for 2 days). The panel of judges did not find sufficient evidence of protection that the Russians were fighting in Donbas as combatants, and rejected the arguments of a number of other lawyers.
Russians were found guilty of waging aggressive war, the creation of a terrorist group, and organization of a terrorist act.
The court did not recognize the guilty commandos (illegal crossing of the temporarily occupied territory, arms smuggling, and illegal possession of weapons). Alexandrov and Yerofeyev was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment with confiscation of property.
Prospects of exchange
Information about the possibility of exchange the commandos appeared from the first days after their detention. There were rumors that they were secretly exchanged. The Security Service of Ukraine initially stated that an exchange is impossible, while the Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin noted that this possibility is discussed though. The military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios admitted that Russians can be exchanged for Sentsov or Savchenko.
Probably this trial was “accelerated” in response to the hunger strike of Nadia Savchenko, which bears a direct threat to her life. Referring to unofficial information, a lawyer Ilya Novikov reported that the commandos could be exchanged only for Savchenko, and only as long as she is alive. However, Ukraine must wait until the sentence comes into force. The fastest exchange procedure is pardon.