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Translated by Lada Pyatnitskaya


What the 69-year-old Kharkov activist was given 6 years in jail for

The 69-year-old Kharkov activist, scientist Yuri Apukhtin must serve 6 years in a Ukrainian prison because he called for the restoration of the constitutional order in Ukraine, for the federalization of this country, and to fight against fascism. has repeatedly described this judicial farce. But now, when the full text of the decision of the Kiev district court of Kharkov is officially released, we may impartially appreciate this masterpiece of legal practice and ensure that Apukhtin was sentenced for his dissent, and not for committing the crimes attributed to him.

So, having analyzed the whole text of the sentence in detail, it can be stated that the head of the public movement “South-East” Yuri Apukhtin was thrown in jail for 6 years in connection with the fact that he:

  • Called for a referendum on the Federal structure of Ukraine and the status of the Russian language;

  • Called the Kiev government, which became such during the coup, “junta”, “corrupt”, and “gangsters”;

  • Called to fight against fascism and to unite the South-East of Ukraine at a rally in honour of Victory Day.

But, in fact, these are all the “crimes”! I’m not kidding at all! Exactly these three points made in the operative part of the decision of the court. There are neither violent actions of the “offender” nor incitement to violent actions — the court could not find any serious motives for this sentence, a 69-year-old scientist was accused only for his “thoughtcrime”, for his dissent.

Let’s analyze in detail each of these terrible “crimes”, which eventually led to a six-year sentence, and the “evidence” attached to the case.

The first episode of guilt imputed to Apukhtin is associated with the meeting on March 16th, 2014, where he called for a referendum on the federalization of the country. Video recording of this meeting and the speech of the leader of “South-East” can be found on the Internet in large numbers. And you, like it or not, will not find any calls of the activist for some violent or unlawful action. Yes, the court is quoting Apukhtin, who names the word “junta” – the power that came as a result of Maidan. He’s also criticizing the previous government, the Party of Regions, Yanukovych. And what – is the pronunciation of the word “junta” punishable by law? Then why weren’t the participants of euromaidan, who used more offensive words in relation to the authorities, convicted? How about Saakashvili, who calls the current government a “gang”, is he already sitting in jail?

The main episode that formed the basis of the charges is a meeting on April 8th, 2014, in the Central Square of Kharkov, which ended up with protesters’ trying to stop buses with the military personnel who arrived from Vinnytsa.

It should be noted here that the investigation and the court have actively tried to file charges that Apukhtin allegedly called on his supporters to block the buses with police officers, who had arrived to return control of previously captured regional administration. In support of these allegations the investigation milked the “testimony” of a witness, a representative of the “Kharkov self-defense Maidan”, who allegedly heard Apukhtin’s calls for disobedience with his own ears. And this “witness” said that he was filming the event on video. However, the investigation found that none of the video contains Apukhtin’s calls to attack law enforcement officers! The video footage of the storming of the Kharkov buses on April 8th can be found on YouTube from different angles. But you will find or hear the leader of the “South-East” nowhere in this footage. In any case, the court has not attached any of his quotes with such calls to the case! Probably, because they were not any?

In its decision, the court constantly refers to the testimony of one of those who directly participated in the pogrom of the buses and who allegedly also heard Apukhtin’s calls for these actions. And the judges did not seem to be troubled by the fact that this key witness (already sentenced at the time) recanted his testimony right in the courtroom. He said that the investigators forced him to incriminate the accused person, “with whom he is really unfamiliar and did not hear his calls for mass disturbances” (a quote from the verdict!).

Other witnesses of the events of April 8th (including the law enforcement officers themselves), having described the assault of the bus, directly admitted that “they neither saw Apukhtin nor recognized him”. But a number of the protesters confirmed that they had left the event together with the leader of “South-East” before the riots had started. Thus, we can safely say that Apukhtin had no relation to the mayhem of the buses.

And the third episode is Apukhtin’s speech in Kharkov on Victory Day in May in 2014. You can listen to his speech yourselves to ensure its absolute adequacy and compliance with all requirements of the law. Believe it or not, the court included even this quote in the verdict: “Victory Day of 1945! On this day our fathers and grandfathers snapped the neck of fascism! And in its lair in Berlin they showed what they are capable of”. I.e., apparently, in the court’s view, this phrase is also seditious and “threats the national security of Ukraine”?!

But most of all, the judges focused (constantly quoting this passage) that Apukhtin mentioned “people under the black uniform” in his speech. Despite the fact that he clearly pointed out, indicating that the militants tried to block cars with humanitarian cargo heading for Donbass. I’m quoting the statement referenced by the court, “We tried to come here and teach these people under the black uniform. They were trying not to let us in with humanitarian aid for Slavyansk. They blocked our way!” How can the passage about “the people under the black uniform” be inflated into a call for violent resistance against the authorities?! Especially considering the fact that the Blackshirts tried to block the road, and not Apukhtin! However, the expert engaged by the court managed to do it!

In some unimaginable way “an expert” ( already pointed out the name of the head of chair of the Russian language in Kharkov University Lyudmila Pedchenko) saw in Apukhtin’s words about the need to hold a referendum on the federalization of Ukraine “public calls for the violent change of the constitutional order”! Yeah, i.e. a legitimate referendum is “violent action” and not Maidan and the overthrow of the legitimate government in Kiev! But a lot of parties and high-level politicians have repeatedly proclaimed the same idea! And can we now consider Petro Poroshenko as a criminal for the fact that he publicly called for a referendum on the country’s accession to NATO? What will Kharkov court say on this issue?

Experts in the courtroom inflated to the category of “appeals to violent change of the constitutional order”, even the following (quoting the verdict verbatim), “Not to trust the local authorities, but to unite in the fight against ‘Nazis'”, “who are trying to send here all sorts of right-wing and left-wing sectors”. So you do not doubt, under the slogan “don’t trust the local authorities”, the court implied a sharp criticism of the Party of Regions and Kharkov supporters of Yanukovych by Apukhtin! If so, all the leaders of Maidan should urgently be sent to jail, using the decision of the Kiev district court of Kharkov as a precedent. And considering that Apukhtin mentioned specifically the names of the leaders of Kharkov Kernes and Dobkin, the current Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov, who was always fighting with them, has said enough for his own life imprisonment!

Is the call to resist the Nazis also a “crime”? According to the court, it already is! This passage is also summarized under the category of “crimes against national security and against public order and (wait for it!) morality as well”. I.e., anti-fascism is immoral now and “publicly unsafe”! Anyway, it was decided this way by the Kharkov judge Yana Gubskaya and her henchmen!

Summing up, we can say that the court did not find any calls of Apukhtin for illegal and violent actions. All those quotes that the court assessed as six years in prison are common slogans, which were repeatedly heard in the course of the political discourse in Ukraine in recent decades. These slogans (in particular, calls for a referendum on federalization and the Russian language, not to mention to fight against fascism) were used in programs of different political parties and by individual politicians, including presidential candidates. Using sharp words vis-a-vis the current government (“junta”) is a regular criticism of the government. And it’s much more mild compared to that which is now used by the winners of Maidan against one another.

Thus, the judges who made the verdict against an elderly activist solely for his views and criticism of the government and who grasped the charges against him from thin air, brought him into the category of political prisoners who have been sentenced solely for dissent and calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s constitutional order. I’d like to believe that the rule of law against Yuri Apukhtin will be restored and those persons who are responsible for the fabrication of this farcical process will be punished sooner or later.

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