A “Gang” Who Helped the Elderly in Donbass Receive Their Pensions Is Being Trialed in Zaporozhye for “Financing Terrorism”

Two drivers from Makeevka and also three employees of the Zaporozhye department of social protection were accused of financing terrorism. The drivers – for the fact that they transported pensioners in Zaporozhye so that they could receive their lawful pension; social service employees – for the fact that this pension was issued.

The narrative of the case was described by the journalist Pavel Volkov on his Facebook page.

Under the assumption of the SBU and prosecutor’s office, the defendants created a criminal organisation that allegedly took away pensions from Donetsk pensioners and transferred them to illegal armed groups. At the same time, the witnesses know nothing about such activity, and the pensioners never made statements about being deprived of money. There is also no fact of any transfer of money by the defendants to any terrorists.

Nevertheless, a number of articles of the Criminal Code, which in total assume up to 15 years of imprisonment, is imputed to prisoners.

The drivers Sergeyev and Gorban have been in a pre-trial detention center without a sentence for 2.5 years, and the other defendants were held under house arrest for up to 8 months and now are without a measure of restraint. On April 10th 2019 a hearing on the specified case took place in in the Kommunarsky court of Zaporozhye.

After the beginning of the ATO, the retired citizens of Ukraine who live on non-controlled territory (DPR) have been able to receive social payments in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers – after crossing the contact line. Not everybody has information about the existence of “illegal” points where it is possible to withdraw funds from pension cards directly in Donetsk or other non-controlled settlements in the “zone of the Operation of United Forces” (the official name Kiev gives to its genocide in Donbass).

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Owing to old age, it’s almost impossible for elderly people to endure standing in long queues at checkpoints for hours, information about pensioners dying at the contact line appears almost daily in the media. Therefore it’s not for the first year that the pensioners of Donbass have used the services of minibus drivers to reach settlements where they will be able to receive pensions. This obliged scheme was never a secret for anybody.

Witnesses spoke during court hearings. They know Gorban because he took out car insurance in their bank. One of the witnesses knows Sergeyev because they contacted him regarding the transportation of their pensioner godmother from Donbass. However, she issued her pension card independently and Sergeyev did not take away her money. They never saw the other defendants. They also did not see Sergeyev and Gorban bringing organised groups of persons into the bank and using the cards of other people (according to the witnesses, this is technically impossible). The pensioners themselves were engaged in this exclusively. The witnesses did not see Sergeyev and Gorban’s cars, and they did not see the defendants with someone else’s passport.

Also, it is reported that the SBU found 80,000 hryvnia in their cars, but in the search protocol they recorded a withdrawal of 12 million, the origin of which is unknown.

The lawyer filed a motion for the recognition of the evidence obtained by security officers with the violation of the right of defendants for a defence and also in connection with numerous violations of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine as obviously inadmissible. The lawyer also noted that the employees of the SBU did not allow a lawyer to access the site where the seized cars are parked and also did not provide access to the storage room where the allegedly confiscated millions should be stored.

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The defendant Gorban added that at least two weeks after his arrest, his car remained parked and not sealed at a site near the management of the SBU, which he saw with this own eyes when he was taken for an interrogation. What they could still have “found” there during this time is an open question.

At the same time, a specialist in court stated that the creation dates of the photos that were allegedly downloaded from the phones of the defendants are the dates when the defendants were in custody in a pre-trial detention center. The motion of the prosecutor was satisfied, but the hearing was adjourned until April 15th.

Having returned from the deliberation room, the collegium of judges decided to satisfy the motion of the lawyer and recognised the 2 cars, the mobile phones found inside them, and also the system unit from the computer as obviously inadmissible proof. Nevertheless they are still in a pre-trial detention center.

The lawyer Shostak reported that from her many motions over 2.5 years, this was the only one that was satisfied. She connected this to the appearance of representatives of the press and observers from international organisations in the hall of the hearing.

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