Russia’s “most falsified Ukrainian show trial” has taken on yet another cynical twist with Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh each ordered to pay 500 thousand roubles ‘compensation’ for a death that neither man had anything to do with in a country that neither had set foot in. This new court ruling is fairly theoretical since the two Ukrainians have been illegally held prisoner in Russia since 2014 and could not possibly pay the money. A human rights lawyer has warned, however, that it could block any agreement for their release.
There have actually been three such court hearings, in connection with civil suits officially lodged by Zinaida Nikolayeva, whose conscript son was killed in Chechnya during the storming of Grozny on 31 December 1994. One claim was against a third Ukrainian - Oleksandr Malofeyev - serving a long sentence on unrelated criminal charges, and then the initial claim against Klykh and Karpyuk in September 2017, which awarded much lower figures. Nikolayeva appealed against the September ruling, demanding 5 million roubles in compensation. The panel of judges at the Sverdlovsk Regional Court, under presiding judge Angela Karpinskaya, awarded one million, with each man supposed to pay half.
Russian human rights activist Gleb Ehdelev was present at the court hearing on 20 April. Judging by the file material, he says, the young conscript was killed three times: first by Oleksandr Malofeyev, then by Klykh and finally by Karpyuk. It is not only this that expresses the cynicism of the civil suits and the case as a whole, since the prosecution has always claimed that Karpyuk and Klykh used automatic rifles and sniper guns, whereas Nikolayev died from mortar shelling.
Nadiya Volkova, a lawyer for the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union believes that this supposed ‘debt’ could in principle prevent Karpyuk and Klykh’s release. While this is true, the chances of the two men being released under the bilateral agreement on returning prisoners to serve sentences in their own country seem remote. Yes, such a release would be possible only if Ukraine’s government agreed to pay the million roubles since the families of the two men could not. This, however, would not be the only problem, since the agreement requires that the men serve out their sentences, which would be totally inappropriate in this grossly flawed trial of two men who have been recognized by international structures and human rights NGOs as political prisoners.
Klykh, a historian from Kyiv, was seized by the FSB in August 2014, after trying to visit a woman he’d met the previous year. He vanished, as had Mykola Karpyuk, a Ukrainian nationalist politician who disappeared after entering Russia in March 2014. If Karpyuk’s involvement in two nationalist organizations made him an obvious target for Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine, Klykh’s link to any nationalist group was fleeting and far in the past.
Karpyuk and Klykh were accused of having fought against the Russian federal forces 20 years earlier in Chechnya. Neither man had ever been to Chechnya and the entire story was fictitious,. It was also immensely hypocritical coming, as it did, at a time when Russia was manning, arming and funding military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
Russia claimed that Klykh (b. 1974) and Karpyuk (b. 1964) had, together with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and other prominent Ukrainian politicians, taken part in battles in Chechnya in Dec 1994 and Jan 1995, carried out all kinds of atrocities and killed 30 Russian soldiers. Karpyuk, who was the deputy head of Right Sector and member of the older Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian Peoples’ Self Defence (UNA UNSO) was accused of creating and leading a band called ‘Viking’. Klykh, who had once briefly been a member of UNA-UNSO while at university, was supposed to have taken part in it.
The case was entirely based on their ‘confessions’ extracted during the huge periods that the men were held totally incommunicado and without proper lawyers (18 months in Karpyuk’s case, 10 months in Klykh’s). The lurid and wildly implausible ‘confessions; they signed to stop the torture were backed by provably wrong testimony provided by Malofeyev. As mentioned, he is already serving a 23-year sentence in Russia and is a drug addict with diseases which would be life-threatening without appropriate medication.
Both Klykh and Karpyuk retracted their ‘testimony’ after being allowed to see real lawyers and their shocking accounts of the torture used to obtain the confessions are part of applications to the European Court of Human Rights.
There are medical records which substantiate Klykh’s consistent allegations that during this period he was subjected to terrible torture and that he was plied with psychotropic drugs. Klykh showed signs of serious mental disturbance from soon after the trial began, and there were pleas, including from a psychiatric association in the United Kingdom, for him to receive a proper psychiatric assessment . This was refused, and instead the ‘court’ in Chechnya charged and convicted Klykh of having ‘insulted’ a prosecutor during a court hearing, where he was in a very disturbed state.
It is not easy to say what exactly somebody was doing in a certain month, after twenty years. There was, however, documented evidence that Klykh had been taking exams, and plenty of witnesses to confirm that Karpyuk was caring for his dying mother.
There were also the historical facts, and these were entirely ignored. The authoritative Memorial Human Rights Centre has followed both Russia’s wars in Chechnya and was therefore well-placed to assess the prosecution’s case. In a four-part analysis*, it demolished the entire indictment and left no doubt about the methods that had been used to extract insane ‘confessions’ to heinous crimes supposedly committed together with Yatsenyuk & Co. The methods included threats to apply the same torture to Karpyuk’s wife and small child.
In its analysis, Memorial HRC demonstrated that the indictment contained fictitious crimes, and of the 30 Russian soldiers who really had died, 18 were killed in another place altogether, and a further eleven – including Nikolayev - were not killed by gunfire, as the prosecution claimed.
Memorial HRC also pointed to the fact that the men had ‘confessed’ to absolutely horrific atrocities. These had not been included in the charges, yet were read out in court, clearly to influence both the judge and jury against the men.
It was on the basis of this devastating assessment of the charges that in February 2016 Memorial declared both men political prisoners. It called the trial part of the unrelenting anti-Ukrainian campaign in the Russian state media and pronouncements from high-ranking Russian officials, including Alexander Bastrykin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin (see: The Chilling side to Russia’s claims about Yatsenyuk as Chechnya fighter)
The trial took place in Grozny, and there is evidence of witnesses being threatened and harassed by thugs, working for the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and it is likely that the jury members were also put under pressure. It is difficult to understand otherwise how they could have found men guilty of killings that either never happened, or that happened in different places and could not have been carried out by the two men, even if the latter had not had alibis.
On May 26, 2016, Judge Vakhit Ismailov at the court in Grozny sentenced Karpyuk to 22.5 years, Klykh to 20 years, with this later upheld by the Supreme Court, as have been all such politically-motivated trials against Ukrainians. Zoya Svetova, a prominent Russian rights activist has called the case “one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea”.
The falsification is, unfortunately, ongoing with Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk very briefly detained in December 2017 at Geneva Airport because of Russia putting him on the wanted list.
PLEASE WRITE TO MYKOLA KARPYUK AND STANISLAV KLYKH!
Even a single sentence or two will send an important message both to them, and to the Russian authorities, that they are not forgotten.
Mykola Karpyuk (please use the Russian version Nikolai, it has much more chance of passing the censor, the year of birth is needed)
Russian Federation 600020, Vladimir, No. 67 Bolshaya Nizhegorodskaya St., Prison No. 2 Vladimirsky Tsentral
Nikolai Andronovych Karpyuk, b. 1964
[In Russian: 600020 г. Владимир, ул Большая Нижегородская, д. 67, ФКУ Т-2 Владимирский централ, Карпюку, Николаю Андроновичу, г.р. 1964]
Russia has provided no clear information of any change in Klykh’s status, and for the moment we must assume that the following address is still current.
Russian Federation 457670, Chelyabinsk oblast, Verkhneuralsk, 1 Severnaya St, Prison for the Chelyabinsk oblast
Stanislav Romanovych Klykh, b. 1974
[In Russian: 457670, Челябинская обл., Верхнеуральск, Северная ул. 1, ФКУ Тюрьма ГУФСИН по Челябинской обл.
Клыху, Станиславу Романовичу, г.р. 1974]
If you are unable to write in Russian, the following would be quite sufficient (maybe with a picture or postcard)
Желаем здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеемся на скорое освобождение. Мы о Вас помним.
(we wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released. You are not forgotten.)
Read the original text at Human Rights in Ukraine.