A Diabetic Political Prisoner Was Left in Jail in Ukraine, Despite the Risk of Catching Coronavirus

Friday, March 20, 2020, Belmak, Zaporozhye region. Despite the epidemic and the quarantine, one of the last political prisoners is still in custody in Ukraine. Andrey Tatarintsev, without a mask and antiseptics, is being driven in a non-disinfected police van 150 km from the Volnyansk jail.

The accused suffers from diabetes, which means that he is at risk of the coronavirus epidemic. Andrey was captured in the fall of 2017 and charged with assisting terrorists for transferring fuel to a blood transfusion station and a children’s hospital in the LPR in 2015. March 19th marked exactly 2.5 years (5 years according to the “law of Savchenko”) that Tatarintsev has been in prison. Medical care in the pre-trial detention center is not provided to him, which is equated to torture by the European court.

The journalist is to blame

There are no judges yet, and Andrey shares the news through the glass of the stuffy “aquarium”:

“I have run out of test strips for the blood glucose meter, there is no place to get them, and the doctors do not come. The last measurement of sugar was made in the courtroom 2 months ago. They didn’t give me any medicine, maybe they did it via convoy, I don’t know. We are currently in quarantine, and they should at least measure the sugar and temperature before going to court, but no.”

And food?

“They gave me a torn bag of cookies, it’s unknown who touched it, and a second bag containing prison bread, boiled egg, and cheese and butter. From all this, I can only have an egg.”

What are the sanitary conditions in the pre-trial detention center now?

“Nothing has changed, now it’s the same as it was before the quarantine. They just gave out masks to employees, that’s all. None of those detained in connection with the quarantine were checked, examined, or tested. A jail is a closed space. If someone arrives with a cough, then the whole prison coughs. Everyone has a cold, some have a fever, some have the flu — it’s common. The convoy has 8 masks for 13 people.”

How do they wear them? One after the other?

“I don’t know. Those who gets to the lockbox the first.”

The judges and the secretary entered, all without masks. The Prosecutor did not arrive, but participates in the meeting via video link.

“Who is present in the hall?” the presiding judge Malevanny immediately asked, although he had repeatedly seen the present person.

“Journalist.”

“Have you seen restrictions in connection with the quarantine that outsiders are not recommended to attend meetings?”

“But it’s not forbidden. I take the necessary measures, I wear a mask, gloves, and I have antiseptic gel.”

“So you knowingly allow the risk of infection of employees of the court and the accused?”

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“I am taking measures to prevent the spread of a possible virus.”

“After the meeting, please show the documents to the secretary, so that there is information about who the accused will contact in case of infection.”

Judges without masks, the convoy without masks, the police van in which everyone is transported is not disinfected, prisoners in the cell without masks and are not examined, but the risk of infection comes from a journalist, although the accused is a few meters away from him and behind glass.

Call an ambulance

The lawyer Vladimir Lyapin asks to call an ambulance.

“Who needs an ambulance?” said the judge with surprise, as if an ambulance wasn’t called for the patient Tatarintsev during every hearing.

“The accused. He hasn’t taken his medication since this morning.”

“Tatarintsev, are you feeling ill and can’t take part in the hearing?”

“Your honour,” Andrey gets up from the bench in the “aquarium”, “I want to be examined by a doctor, because the last measurement of sugar was done in the courtroom two months ago, and no drugs or dietary food was given to me.”

“I didn’t ask what you wanted, I asked how you felt.”

“Very bad.”

Zero response. The lawyer Lyapin shows the collegium of judges two bags of packed lunch.

“Your honour, there are torn packets of cookies, white bread, butter, and one egg. From all of this, he can only take an egg. He has diabetes. Is this bullying? This was issued as a diet meal for the whole day and without medication.”

“What do you want from me?”

“That you perform your duties of judicial control and provide what’s necessary to the accused in the courtroom.”

“Provide him with what, food?”

“His constitutional right.”

They whispered among themselves

“After finding out the circumstances about Tatarintsev’s state of health and the situation of quarantine, we consider it necessary to postpone the consideration of the case to the next time.”

“Will I get an ambulance?” Andrey asks modestly.

“The next hearing is scheduled for April 30th.”

“Your honour, I’m asking you to call an ambulance,” the lawyer repeats in a raised voice.

A muted scene.

“The person did not take medicine and says that he feels ill. I ask you to provide him with medical assistance,” says an indignant Lyapin through his teeth.

“We’ve found that he can’t take part in the hearing.”

“I need a doctor.”

“We’ve already decided that he can’t…”

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“And then what?”

“Next, we must consider the feasibility of detention…”

“You can not consider anything before providing medical care, especially if the hearing has already been postponed!”

A muted scene.

“Your honour, are you kidding me?”

“I can’t understand, is his life a joke?” the lawyer asks like speaking to the wall, without waiting for a reaction to his previous remark. “Are you kidding me?”

“We’re not kidding.”

“No, you’re kidding me.”

“I inform you that we are currently resolving a legal issue…”

“Call him an ambulance, and then solve the issue.”

“When the judges will go to the conference room, there will be time to provide the necessary assistance.”

“Your honour, I’m challenging you because this is already out of bounds. You systematically violate Tatarintsev’s right to medical care and put his life at risk by your actions.”

The judges go to the conference room and, returning, reject the challenge, without explaining their decision. But the lawyer Lyapin, realising that there is nothing to lose, declares another challenge to another member of the collegium.

“Judge Khodko, being an investigative judge, according to the letter of the head of the SBU’s anti-corruption department Vyazovchenko, seized the property of his colleague, a judge of another court, who has no relation to the specified criminal proceedings, in respect of which no suspicion was raised, no investigative actions were carried out. The decision was not legal, which was confirmed on March 13th this year by the Prosecutor’s refusal to support the state prosecution and then by the decision of the Council of Prosecutors to bring the Prosecutor to justice. Judge Khodko made decisions in the interests of the SBU. There is every reason to doubt its objectivity even now. Written evidence will be provided at the next meeting.”

The challenge is without consideration until the next hearing. An ambulance paramedic appears in the courtroom and measures the blood pressure and sugar level of Tatarintsev.

“What did you find?” asks the judge Malevanny

“Increased sugar, more than 12 at a rate of up to 6, and increased blood pressure. He needs to consult an endocrinologist. He should take pills or insulin on time and eat on time. The defendant doesn’t have any pills, and neither do I. Sugar control can be done only in a hospital setting.”

“Is this diet food?” the lawyer asks, showing packages with cookies, bread and other products issued in the pre-trial detention center.

“I don’t think so. A person does not know what their sugar level is, but they have been given food that can increase it. This way you can put yourself in a coma. This is the third time I’ve come here, and the situation is the same.”

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Right to speak

The court lets the paramedic go, the patient’s serious condition was recorded, medical assistance was not provided, and Tatarintsev was not sent to the hospital on the recommendation of an ambulance officer. But the judge does only what all of this was started for, the only interesting thing for the collegium and the Prosecutor – he announces the consideration of prolonging the measure of restraint. The Prosecutor begins to say by the video link the following: “Tatarintsev, being a radical person who does not accept the state power in Ukraine, colluded with the terrorist organisations of the DPR and LPR…”

“Will we provide medical assistance?” the lawyer interrupts.

“Please don’t interrupt,” judge Malevanny says, as if there is something in the Prosecutor’s motion, which he reads out for the tenth time without changing a word in it, that cannot be omitted.

The Prosecutor continues to speak, in violation of the procedural code, only listing the standard risks prescribed in the code, but without supporting his words with any documentary evidence of their existence.

“The defense’s opinion,” the judge says.

“Does my opinion matter?” the lawyer Lyapin says ironically

“You have the right to speak.”

“Oh, I see. I believe that this collegium cannot make a legal decision, because for a long time it has been establishing at each session that the court’s decision to provide medical care and proper dietary nutrition to a person suffering from diabetes has not been fulfilled, but it does not take any action on this issue. Listening to the same speech of the Prosecutor for 2.5 years, when Tatarintsev is in custody, is a mockery of justice. Given his state of health, it is impossible to continue to keep a person in jail. He is almost the last Ukrainian citizen to be held in custody on political charges. When representatives of the Ukrainian authorities meet with representatives of the LPR and DPR to discuss issues of peaceful settlement, no one considers these organisations to be terrorists, but in the imaginary world of the Prosecutor they are terrorists.

They extend the detention for another two months without bail and promise to send a letter to the pre-trial detention center asking whether Tatarintsev can be medically treated there.

“So you have already done this, and what is the result?” Andrey’s voice breaks through the thick glass like a voice crying in the desert.

The court departs in silence.


Pavel Volkov

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