Ihor Movenko has been sentenced by a court in Russian-occupied Sevastopol to two years in a minimum security prison for a comment on the VKontakte social network. The comments were only ‘noticed’ and a criminal prosecution for so-called ‘public calls to extremism’ launched after Movenko demanded an investigation into the brutal and unprovoked attack by a police officer that had left him hospitalized. The ruling on May 4 is even more disturbing in that the ‘prosecutor’ had asked for a suspended sentence, whereas ‘judge’ Pavel Kryllo from the Gagarin District Court in Sevastopol passed a real 2-year sentence, albeit in a ‘settlement’ prison colony (where the conditions are much less harsh). Movenko was taken into custody in the courtroom.
The prosecution was supposedly over a comment the 40-year-old Ukrainian made on the VKontakte group ‘Crimea is Ukraine’ back in the summer of 2016. The comment, about what should happen to traitors, after Russia’s occupation of Crimea ends, was strong, but rather an expression of ‘black humor’, Movenko had explained in court. The post was clearly a pretext which the occupation authorities decided to use over a year later, on 27 October 2017. Movenko was stopped from deleting this alleged ‘call to extremism’, as had earlier been Rafis Kashapov, the Russian Tatar activist jailed for 3 years for criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea. In both cases, the motive may well be to send a warning to others of how chillingly little can get you a prison sentence.
Movenko was attacked on 7 September 2016, after he stopped to get money out of an ATM and then returned to his bike, which had two Ukrainian stickers on it. One was Ukraine’s Trident, and the other was the ‘Azov Battalion’ sign which is now on Russia’s huge list of banned organizations.
The man who brutally assaulted him claimed to be from the police, though he did not show any ID. The Crimean Human Rights Group later, in fact, identified him as Volodymyr Sukhodolsky, who had served in a Berkut special force unit before becoming a turncoat in 2014. He is now working for the Russian police.
This was an unmotivated attack, which left Movenko needing to be hospitalized. The doctors found an open head injury, concussion, a skull fracture, a broken jaw, broken nose, eye injury and more.
It was quite evident that he had been attacked, yet it was Movenko who had his hands bound after the police appeared. It was clear from the surreal video here, that the police who arrived were on the best of terms with the assailant. The officers even tried to stop Valentina Movenko, who had come as soon as somebody phoned her, from giving her husband some water as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and in obvious need of medical treatment.
In the beginning, the occupation authorities made it clear that Movenko would be facing administrative charges for alleged ‘extremism’ over the Azov sticker. They did, however, claim that criminal proceedings would be initiated against his assailant.
There is no evidence that a criminal investigation was ever launched over the attack, though Movenko himself ended up fined two thousand roubles for the sticker.
He continued to insist that there should be an investigation into the assault. This resulted only in his being taken by police from work on December 16, 2016, beaten up and threatened, before having a search carried out of his home.
He called the FSB detention that day a “special operation”, with the FSB officers stopping him on his way to work. They began beating him and threatening to take him to a forest, strip him naked and leave him there. They then took him to his work and told him not to speak with anybody while they took his computer away. When he tried to say something, they dragged him into the corner and inflicted several blows. They then went to his home. His wife says that she was prevented from using a telephone to call a lawyer.
During the ‘court’ hearing on January 31, 2018, one of the official ‘witnesses’ of this search, whom the FSB almost certainly (and illegally) brought with them, was questioned. He confirmed that during the search Movenko had been held, with his hands in handcuffs behind his back, and had not been allowed to contact a lawyer.
None of these infringements were investigated either.
The message in this case could not be clearer.
Read the original text at Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.