03 Sep

Sentsov and Kolchenko vs. obliging perpetrators of Russia’s ideologically-motivated Terror

Solidarity events have been taking place over the last week to mark the second anniversary on August 25 of the sentences passed by a Russian ‘court’ on Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko.  The events are important to ensure that the two political prisoners, whom Russia has hidden as far away from the media and foreign diplomats as is possible, are not forgotten.  It is also an opportunity to remember the three Russian ‘judges’ – Sergei Arkadyevich MikhailyukViacheslav Alexeevich  Korsakov and Edward Vasilyevich Korobenko –  who knowingly sentenced two innocent men to 20 and 10 years, respectively.

There can be no question that they did not know.  The ‘trial’ had been followed with concern and condemnation far beyond Russia, and the renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre declared both men political prisoners soon after it began.

There was literally nothing to incriminate Sentsov and the one act that Kolchenko freely admitted taking part in was something that would normally get at very most a suspended sentence for hooliganism.

It is no justification, but at least during the Soviet Terror of 1937, the prosecutors, judges, etc. who took part in the torture and execution of innocent men were aware that they would pay with their lives for insubordination.  The ‘judges’, the ‘chief investigator’ Artem Burdin, prosecutor Igor Tkachenko and others who took part in this first stage in the ‘ideological terror’ unleashed since Russia’s invasion of Crimea lack even that pitiful excuse.  Burdin, a 54-year-old Russian, is the so-called senior investigator on ‘particularly important cases’ within the FSB [Russian security service] and is believed to have given the orders for Sentsov, Kolchenko and two other opponents of annexation to be tortured. He and Tkachenko might have missed out on promotion or fat bonuses had they refused to take part in the repression, no more than that.

Four FSB officers – Alexander Kulabukhov;  Sergei Markov; Dmitry Vasilkov and Alexander Zinchenko have been identified  as directly involved in the arrest and torture of, at least, Oleg Sentsov.  All four are former officers of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] and are, or until recently were, Ukrainian nationals.

A model letter to parliamentary representatives asking for all those implicated in the torture, trial and imprisonment of Sentsov and Kolchenko to be added to current sanctions lists can be found here.

Russia’s first Crimean show trial is indeed only the first, and it is for this reason too that it is vital that all those complicit in the persecution of innocent men know that their actions will be recorded and bring consequences.

It is telling that the occupation regime has taken to holding all the detention hearings, appeals, etc. of the 15 Crimean Muslims it is holding in indefinite custody behind closed doors.  Judge Marina Vladimirovna Kolotsei who on August 9 sentenced Server Karametov, a frail and ill 76-year-old Crimean Tatar to 15 days’ imprisonment for his defence of political prisoners, tried desperately to ensure that nobody used cameras or videos.

She and numerous other ‘judges’ handing down repressive sentences to order have a great deal to hide.  It is important that we prevent them from doing so.

See Blacklist exposes judges involved in political persecution in Russian-occupied Crimea

Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko

Sentsov, Kolchenko and two other opponents of Russian annexation – Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksiy Chyrniy – were seized by the Russian FSB in May 2014.  They were held incommunicado for three weeks, first in Crimea, then in Moscow, before any lawyer was allowed to see them.  This is of critical importance since there was literally no evidence of any ‘terrorist plot’ with the entire case, and eventually Sentsov’s 20-year sentence and Kolchenko’s 10 years, based solely on the ‘confessions’ of the other two men.  Later in court, Afanasyev found the courage to refuse to obey the FSB’s orders and to stand up and state that all previous testimony had been untrue and extracted through torture.  Sentsov had, from the outset, described the torture that he was subjected to, but had withstood.

This FSB ‘plot’ was chillingly Stalinist in many respects, including the total disregard for plausibility. In its first statement , the FSB claimed that the men had been planning terrorist attacks in Simferopol; Yalta and Sevastopol, with the aim being, for example, to destroy non-existent railway bridges.

MikhailyukKorsakov and  Korobenko ignored the lack not merely of evidence, but of ‘terrorism’ in the charges, and passed the sentences Sentsov had been told to expect when he refused to ‘cooperate’.

Sentsov and Kolchenko responded by singing Ukraine’s national anthem.

A large number of prominent Russian writers, artists, human rights defenders and others in their turned issued a warning that “The country has again taken the road of political repression”.  They directly compared the fabricated trial to the political trials of the Soviet era, and asked:

“What is this, if not ideologically motivated state terror?  The aim is to intimidate and suppress any peaceful resistance in Crimea from those who regard themselves as citizens of Ukraine and oppose Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”

 

PLEASE write to Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and Oleksiy Chyrniy.  Your letters are an important message to the men and to Moscow that they are not forgotten.

If writing in Russian is a problem, there is a ‘crib’ below which you can also just add.  Photos or similar would be nice, and please avoid anything political or about their case since that will stop the letters getting through.  Maximum weight, by the way, is 100 g.  It’s also a good idea to give a return address for him to be able to reply.

‘Crib’ letter

Привет!

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.

[Hi, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  You are not forgotten.

Addresses

Oleg Sentsov

Russia, 677004, Republic of Yakutia, Yakutsk, 25 Ochichenko St, Prison No. 1

Sentsov, Oleg Gennadiyevich, born 1976

Oleksandr Kolchenko

Russia, 456612, Chelyabinsk oblast, Kopeisk, ul. Kemerovskaya, 20, Prison No. 6,

Kolchenko, Alexander Alexandrovych, born 1989

Oleksiy Chyrniy

RF, 346519, Rostov oblast, Shakhty, 10 Otkrytaya St. Prison No. 9 in Shakhty

Chyrniy, Alexei Vladimirovich, b. 1981  [the Russified version of his first name and patronymic is more likely to get through]

 

Source: web-site of Kharkiv Human Rights Group

05 May

Sasha Kolchenko’s mother visits her son in a prison

The visit was enabled owing to donations collected by the well-known Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan and his band, Zhadan i Sobaky. Larisa Kolchenko says her son Sasha (Alexander) has already adapted to rigid conditions of Chelyabinsk region and almost does not get sick. The information was provided by Russian human rights activist Yana Goncharova at her Facebook page. See her post below.

Remember how we together with Zhadan i Sobaky [“Zhadan and the Dogs”; collaboration of famous writer Serhiy Zhadan and “Dogs in Outher Space” ska-punk band] were collecting money for Sasha Kolchenko’s mother could visit her son the Russian colony? Finally, it happened !!! Larisa Kolchenko has just returned from a long meeting with Sasha.

It is still cold in Chelyabinsk, +7°C; Sasha has already adapted to these conditions and almost does not get sick, although sometimes he has a runny nose. The colony staff does not qualify this like an illness, anyway, there are no medicines to treat the convicts.
The high calorie diet, which he had for several months (as he said – these were just some extra grams of butter and milk), did not help him – weight deficiency is obvious.
Tundra is studying plumber program and would graduate soon. He also studies English and reads a lot. Sasha told me how he teaches the verbs of action, and reads [Philip Zimbardo’s] The Lucifer Effect. A decent book, he says. By the way, he began to put in order the prison library, because there are books like “Introduction to Gynecology” – I just wondered who needed such a book there?

By the way, the books that we collected for him on his birthday are still in the process of transferring to the library. They should still undergo a long procedure of censorship (maybe, someone wrote “hello” to him in the margin)? It is still unknown whether books in Ukrainian would be taken to the library.

He usually receives the letters, although not without difficulties – he constantly has to apply to the prison administration. And according to the internal (informal) rules, applying to the prison administration is unwelcomed. Therefore, he tries to do it infrequently. By the way, the letter of Alex Gaskarov [a recently released Russian left-wing social activist and Putin’s political prisoner] was half-censored by the censors (though it was posted by Takie Dela project as a sample of “how to write letters to political prisoners”).

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (Ukrainian consul is not allowed) will write another request to get at allowance for a meeting with Kolchenko.

Larisa Kolchenko gave many thanks for helping to organize her trip, and especially to Sergiy Zhadan for his support.

Tundra [Kolchenko’s nickname] sends warm greetings to everyone. He says that he misses everyone and wants to return home.

07 Dec

Support for Sentsov and Kolchenko at DOCUDAYS UA festival in Uzhhorod

Viewers of the film Those Who Said No, shown at the festival of documentary films DOCUDAYS in Uzhhorod, joined the flashmob in support of the “Crimean hostages” – Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko. This was announced by the Solidarity Committee member Maxim Butkevitch.

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At each film screening, one can sign postcards for the political prisoners held in Russia, as well as purchase T-shirts and jerseys of the Solidarity Committee; the collected money will go to support the prisoners and, among other things, to help in the organization of a visit of Alexander’s mother.

Previously, the initiative “Help Sasha meet his mother” was joined by a lot of people in Ukraine, including Zhadan and Dogs band as part of the latter’s #PSYchotour.

Photos: Valentin Klepakov

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26 Nov

Solidarity actions with Alexandr Kolchenko held in Kyiv, Ternopil, Krakow, and Berlin

Solidarity actions took place in Kyiv, Ternopil, Krakow, and Berlin to honor the birthday of political prisoner Alexandr Kolchenko (26 September).

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One of the actions took place in Kyiv at the monument to the philosopher author Grigory Skovoroda (Kontraktova Square). The event was organized by the “Solidarity Committee” (support group for the “Crimean Hostages”).

Committee activist and human rights defender Maksym Butkevych noted that this time the 27th birthday of Kolchenko coincided with the mourning day of remembrance of the Holodomor [the Great Famine of 1932-1933] victims. “Therefore, marking this birthday in a festive way would be quite inappropriate. Instead, at the current solidarity action we decided to express the hope that this land will never be hungry again; we decided to feed random people, whom we meet at one of the central squares of Kyiv, under the slogan “Food Not Repression” [or “Food Not Jails”]; and inform them about Sasha,” said Butkevych. He implied that Tundra [Alexandr Kolchenko], in line with his anarchist philosophy, himself has participated in similar activities, “Food Not Bombs”, distributing vegetarian food to people in need in Simferopol”.

Alexander’s mother Larisa Kolchenko, former fellow political prisoner Gennady Afanasiev, human rights activists Alexandra Nazarova and Alexandra Dvoretska, lawyer Eugenia Zakrevskaya, and a number of Sasha’s friends and comrades also spoke at the event. Organizers said that the collective photo taken during the rally will be sent to Alexander Kolchenko.

On the same day, solidarity rallies took place in Krakow and Berlin. On Saturday, “Zhadan and the Dogs” band [collaboration of famous writer Serhiy Zhadan and “Dogs in Outher Space” ska band], which previously joined “Give Sasha meeting with his mother” campaign, held a solidarity event in Ternopil. Musicians hang a «Free Kolchenko!» banner on the stage at the gig.

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Solidarity Committee member Maksym Butkevych speaks at Kyiv rally

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Banner with Sentsov and Kolchenko at Kyiv demo

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Food Not Jails at Kyiv demo

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Former political prisoner of the “Crimean Four” case Gennady Afanasiev speaking at Kyiv rally

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Outline of the Crimean peninsula with a refernce to Kolchenko’s nickname (Tundra) and his anarchist political beliefs

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Picket of the Russian embassy in Berlin

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Krakow

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Food Not Bombs at Krakow demo

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Serhiy Zhadan: writer, poet, singer, and campaigner for Kolchenko’s release

ZhadanTernopil

Serhiy Zhadan’s press conference in Ternopil

 

25 Nov

Solidarity with Olexandr Kolchenko: Call for the International Action Day

 

On 26 November 2016 (Saturday) Olexandr (Sasha) Kolchenko, an anarchist and civic rights activist from Crimea, will turn 27. It will be his third birthday in Russian jail.

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In May 2014 Olexandr (together with a film maker Oleh Sentsov and two more persons) was arrested by officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), shipped from Crimean territory to Russia and accused of “preparing terrorist attacks”. Kolchenko has been ultimately sentenced to 10 years of the high security prison camp, and Sentsov – to 20 years.

Olexandr and Oleh, their friends and human rights defenders insist that the case against them is fabricated. They were put behind bars for active participation in protests against Russia’s ’ilitary invasion in Crimea.

“Solidarity Committee” initiative from Kyiv, Ukraine, holds a support action for Olexandr Kolchenko on 26 November – and calls all those who do not want to indifferently stand by to join in solidarity. By street protests, petitions or other events and actions we suggest to greet Sasha with his birthday and to show Russian authorities that he is not forgotten, and that activists demand his immediate release. Every next person’s efforts and participation increase a chance that Olexandr celebrates his next birthday as a free person, with his comrades and friends.

More on the case: http://solidarityua.info/en/

“Solidarity Committee”

20 Oct

Solidarity with Sentsov and Kolchenko from Paris

Paris, October 9: Syrian, Ukrainian, Russian and French activists held a joint protest against the military aggression of the Russian Federation in Syria and Ukraine.

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Photo – Pierre Rimbaud.

The protest was scheduled for the day of Vladimir Putin’s planned arrival in Paris opening “Orthodox spiritual and cultural center.” The visit was ultimately canceled.

The protest, however, took place. There were different slogans, like “Long live the struggle of the Syrian and Ukrainian peoples! Long live freedom and democracy in Syria and Ukraine! Putin is the culprit! Say no to cooperation with dictators! International solidarity!”

Maksym Butkevych, Solidarity Committee representative, held a speech during the protest. He stressed the importance to remember the victims of repression and the prisoners, the strong need to support them, particularly mentioning Alexander Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov. Maksym Butkevych called for solidarity with refugees and immigrants. The rally ended with general chanting «La solidarité internationale!» (“International solidarity!”)

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The text of the protesters (in French, Arabic, and Ukrainian) is available on the FB page of the event.

30 Sep

Alexander Kolchenko’s Guide to Life

Crimean left-wing activist, anarchist and anti-fascist Alexander Kolchenko, nicknamed Tundra, has spent two years in Russian prisons. Russian authorities charged him, as well as film director Oleg Sentsov and several other activists, of allegedly preparing terrorist attacks in Crimea and igniting the office of the ruling party, “United Russia”. Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the article on terrorism. We have gathered his views on life, politics, and the world today stated in his letters, interviews, and speeches.

sasha

Some people blamed me for participating in Maidan. I believe that it was a significant historical event for my country. How could I miss it? I could not leave my job for a long time, so I decided to go there [to Kyiv] on the weekend. I planned to go back on Monday, so I took underpants and a sweater (it was really cold then), and some cans to feed people. Everyone helped each other on the Maidan; for example, I was cleaning the snow. I was just amazed! People helped each other, and there were no bosses. What a brilliant self-organization! What did I do there? Upon coming to the Maidan, I have felt what homeland means. All the people helped each other: from a flimsy girl to an old grandmother. It was the triumph of justice. Actually, the upper classes could not take the control, and the lower classes did not want to obey or live in an old way. The idea of ​​freedom was in the air!
***
I was against the war, against the violence. My actions were directed against the party “United Russia,” which voted in favor of sending troops [to annex Crimea]. I took it as a signal that the Russian troops would invade the territory of the whole country, and a full-scale war would begin. The referendum took place a month before the stuff we are charged with, and we just could not influence it. The March vote gave the green light to the people who then took part in the Donbas hostilities.
***
I have not been involved in any terrorist community. I was born and grew up in Simferopol, I studied at school here, then went to the High School of Service and Tourism. After that I worked at “Nova Poshta” (“New Post”) delivery service, and then in the online printing industry (until March 20, 2014). Before detention, I also studied at the Taurida National University, the Faculty of Geography.
***
I have nothing in common with [Ukraine’s far-right organization] Pravyi Sector. I am an anarchist and anti-fascist, that’s why I do not share any kind of nationalist beliefs. I think that nationalism, even in its “common” one form, carries dangers and threats to freedom, equality, and fraternity.
***
In high school, when studying history of the Civil War in Russia and Ukraine, I wondered why the school textbook pay so much attention to Bolsheviks, the White movement, and the Directory of the UNR [Ukrainian People’s Republic], and only a couple of paragraphs were dedicated to Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine [Nestor Makhno’s anarchist Black Army]. I began to read the literature about Makhnovshchina, and anarchism in general. In addition, I had to take part in street fights against neo-Nazis; I met with people from other cities who had similar views, interests, and leisure activities.
***
In this country, elections do not work. Even in those countries, where they might influence something, these changes are not fundamental. Oppression and exploitation system, police, prisons are not abolished by decrees of authorities… Well, I cannot tell you much about anarchist alternatives to prisons, but it is clear to me – especially after what I have seen here – that the prison does not contribute to “correcting” the individual, rather it does the contrary. Many people get into prisons by false accusations, and often their jailers are not innocent.
***
Expressing my skepticism about the elections, I don’t mean that it’s necessary to minimize or eliminate the political participation as such. Rather, on the contrary, we should participate in political and civic life every day, not just on the election day. In my opinion, it is very naïve to believe that by throwing the ballot in the ballot box you decide the fate of the country, especially in a country like Russia.
As one of my friends wrote recently: the revolutionary perspective is beyond the electoral system.
***
In music, I have an extensive range of preferences: punk rock, psychobilly, hardcore, hip-hop, Oi! .., etc. But now I like best the Jamaican motifs: ska, reggae, dub. I like Trojan Records collections very much.
Speaking about the films, I prefer comedies. For example, The Big Lebowski, Black Dynamite, Fantozzi contro tutti, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Four Lions, Big Nothing, Pain & Gain.
***
I have heard Banda Bassotti to come to Donbas. It is a very cool band, but, apparently, guys from “Borotba” brainwashed some European Left.
***
As for the Internet wars – I think you are paying too much attention to details and take them too personally. Even in the Internet, there are a lot of things much more interesting, not to mention the real life around. Perhaps the current economic situation and the actions of the authorities make people a little bit soberer.
***
It seems to me that you cannot turn up trumps always and everywhere – in fishing, in hockey, in fray etc – sooner or later, the luck will expire. And, probably, it is very difficult to live in the world as if you’re an island of awesome in a sea of morons.
***
I still adhere to the anarchist communist views. However, I am also interested in theoretical concepts and experience of the struggle of the Left SRs [Socialist Revolutionaries, a radical party of Russian revolutions centered on agrarian socialism], the Maximalist SRs, syndicalists, communists of workers’ councils, autonomists, left-wing nationalists, etc. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine, I took an anti-war internationalist position and, unlike other some so-called “leftists,” did not support any of the parties. Unfortunately, a more constructive position could not be formed due to the lack of information. For me it was strange to read that some so-called comrades write about me on the Internet: they say had I not been put behind the bars, I would now be fighting in the ATO zone as part of a volunteer battalion. These comrades browbeat me even more unpleasantly than the investigators and the prosecutors did.
[Explaining why he was singing the Ukrainian anthem together with Oleg Sentsov upon hearing their verdicts:] I am not trying to flirt neither with the Ukrainian government nor with the patriotic feelings of my compatriots. It’s just that after winter of 2013-2014, I started to perceive the Ukrainian national anthem in a different way, with the same awe as the “L’Internationale,” “Warszawianka,” “Power In A Union,” “Solidarity Forever,” “Which Side Are You On?”, “Bella, ciao!”, “Comrades, Let’s Bravely March” [a late 19th century Russian revolutionary song] etc. After seeing how people on Independence Square in Kyiv, all to [wo]man take off the hats and sing the national anthem … It was very hard! Prior to this experience, for me, this anthem was only one of the state symbols of Ukraine and its singing was just a ritual, not bearing any meaning. During the events of  2013-2014 winter, every line gained the meaning. “Souls and bodies we’ll lay down, all for our freedom.” For many people and for me in particular, these words have become something more than a line of the national anthem.
***
In a conversation with Oleg Sentsov I said that I would like to ask my friends to send me The Adventures of Chipollino by Gianni Rodari. He was surprised: “Why? We are living in a fairy tale already.” During the transfer, one man told about the horrors of this special regime in one of the regions. And almost half of those 20 prisoners who heard it, far from being sentimental or impressible, were on the verge of crying. Horrible things.
***
It looks like I do not have great perspectives, but I still hope that in the near future I will get the opportunity to meet personally with each of those who support me.

You can write a letter to Alexander Kolchenko:
Alexander Kolchenko (born) 456612, ul. Kemerovskaya 20, IK-6, Kopeysk, Chelyabinskaya oblast, Russia

Avtonom.org (11 August 2016)
21 Sep

Human rights activist of the Solidarity Committee spoke at the UN meeting wearing a “Free Sentsov and Kolchenko!” T-shirt

Human rights activist Maksym Butkevytch, member of “Solidarity Committee” – an initiative group of support of the Crimean political prisoners (Sentsov-Kolchenko), delivered a report on the situation in Ukraine in the Geneva office of UN. He wore a shirt with a special call on the release of the Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko, who have been illegally held in Russia since 2014.

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Human rights activist Maksym Butkevytch, member of “Solidarity Committee” – an initiative group of support of the Crimean political prisoners (Sentsov-Kolchenko), delivered a report on the situation in Ukraine in the Geneva office of UN. He had a shirt on himwith a special callon the release of the Crimean political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko, who have been illegally held in Russia since 2014.

In his interview with Krym.Realii, Butkevytch noted that these T-shirts should be worn at international events, as the human rights-themed prints are a good reminder of the issue of Crimean political prisoners.

For more than a year, “Solidarity Committee” has been distributing the T-shirts dedicated to the “Crimean hostages,” calling for their release and printing the web address of the site dedicated to the issue. This is not self-promotion: these t-shirts are used to collect donations to support children and the families of the hostages, and most importantly – tore mind about Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko and the need to support them, to remind about the actions of the occupation regime,” said Maksym Butkevytch.

He added that human rights defenders have repeatedly pointed out that only an international campaign of solidarity can bring hope for the release of political prisoners.

“We see more and more people in these T-shirts, are not only in Kyiv. For example, the head of the Green faction of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms recently told me how she got this T-shirt; European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitrios Avramopoulos asked to send him such a T-shirt. This T-shirt is not just a piece of clothing, it is a statement. It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate site for wearing this t-shirt than an event at the United Nations office, visited by Russian and Ukrainian journalists,” he noted.

Earlier, on September 20, in his report Maksym Butkevytch said that the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the subsequent move of the people from Crimea to the mainland of Ukraine, attracted interest of the Ukrainians to the culture and religion of the Crimean Tatars.

19-20 September, a seminar on “Role of media in fighting against the propaganda of national, racial, and religious hatred” was held in Geneva office of the UN.

August 25, 2015 the North Caucasus District Military Court sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in a strict regime colony. Sentsov is accused of preparing terrorist attack, planning bombings at the “Eternal Flame” memorial and the monument to Lenin in Simpefopol. Russian investigators accused Alexander Kolchenko, Crimean activist, anti-fascist, of cooperation with Sentsov. Kolchenko was sentenced to 10 years of the colony.

Alexander Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov pleaded not guilty. Human rights organizations believe these unfounded accusation and politically motivated. Russian human rights center “Memorial” has recognized them as political prisoners.

Krym.Realii (20 September 2016)