Kharkov Terrorist Attack: The Suspects Were Made to Testify Whilst Being Tortured

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On the first anniversary of Euromaidan on February 22nd, 2015 in Kharkov there was an act of terrorism near Sports Palace, where Ukrainian nationalists gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of their victory and the “discharge” of Viktor Yanukovych’s from power. As a result of an explosion 4 persons were killed. Charges were brought to three Kharkov citizens, who were put in a colony already before the court handed down a sentence.

The Security Service of Ukraine reported on the exposure of a loud crime without delay: three residents of Kharkov who earlier were Antimaidan activists were arrested. They have remained behind bars up to this very day without a court sentence, and they face life imprisonment. The correspondent of “” talked to Dmitry Tikhonenkov, the lawyer of one of the political prisoners – Viktor Tetyutsky, about the essence and prospects of this case.

Mr Tikhonenkov, tell us, please: where and in what conditions are the accused currently being kept?

“Today all three of the accused – Viktor Tetyutsky, Sergey Bashlykov, and Vladimir Dvornikov – are in the Kharkov pre-trial detention center. Bashlykov and Dvornikov were transferred there rather recently, and before this they were being kept in a colony. Nobody explained why things happened like this, I didn’t receive a clear response to any of my lawyer’s requests. Apparently, a certain commission decided to transfer them.”

How is this possible – after all, they are only suspects?

“In prison there are special cells that are registered for a pre-trial detention center. They are there not as condemned, but as being assigned to a court case. I don’t understand what guided those who kept them there.”

What is imputed to the defendants, how did the investigation and the transfer of the case to the court take place?

“This event (the act of terrorism near Sports Palace in Kharkov) took place on February 22nd, 2015. Four days later Tetyutsky, Bashlykov, and Dvornikov were detained. During a search, employees of the SBU planted weapons, ammunition, and other illegal things. That’s why the accused are charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine — part 3 of article 258 (commission of an act of terrorism by a group of persons that led to the death of people and to other serious consequences) and article 263 (illegal storage of weapons and ammunition). It should also be noted that they were tortured, beaten, and they were forced to make a confession, which became the foundation of the charges. The investigation was completed in a very short period of time — less than in 2 months, and only one possibility was considered. Then the case was brought to trial — probably, they were very much in a hurry to make a report. It is at this stage that I became involved in this process. Initially I had a feeling that they were trying to drag out the process in every possible way: at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 the collegium of judges was replaced, and the case started to be considered anew, from the very beginning. Almost a whole year was spent studying the case papers, now they have moved on to interrogating the victims and witnesses.”

What are the grounds for such wild charges?

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“Real proof of the guilt of the accused is absent, and the facts that the prosecutor’s office tries to work with are doubtful. After the judiciary collegium was replaced, the case papers were for some reason studied selectively, and not in full: the prosecutor filed a motion to study only those parts that, from his point of view, prove the guilt of the defendants. The court satisfied this motion, and we started to study only what was specified by the prosecution. After the witnesses have been interrogated, we, of course, will try to obtain a return to the materials that haven’t been studied, so that they are also taken into account, since they confirm the innocence of the suspects.”

Were direct testimonies made by the witnesses against the defendants?

“One of the witnesses claimed that they allegedly identified Tetyutsky’s car near the place of the explosion, he was interrogated three times, and every time confused the details of his testimony. We paid attention to these contradictions, because in a very short period of time the car managed to be in the completely other end of the city, which is physically impossible.”

What other contradictions in the prosecution’s narrative can you pick out?

“The evidential base is also being constructed on the data of a wiretap – organised after the accused was detained in a pre-trial detention center – of a conversation that happened not ‘before’, but ‘after’ the explosion. In order to carry out this wiretap the Court of Appeal was supposed to make a ruling, which this didn’t happen. That’s why such proof is obviously illegal. We asked to present such a ruling, but the prosecutor brought some paper only a year later, and then I submitted lawyer’s inquiries regarding carrying out secret investigative actions concerning my client Viktor Tetyutsky. And I received a clear answer: these actions weren’t carried out within the timeframe that the prosecutor works in. Besides this, I have an answer from the administration of the pre-trial detention center, where it is specified that the SBU didn’t seek permission for the wiretap. The court had to make a ruling about the recognition of such proof as inadmissible, which is what we filed a motion for, but in the end solving this issue was postponed until sentencing.”

Just how correct is the reference to the testimony from the pretrial investigation, especially the one that was forced out via torture?

“The prosecutor’s office asked to carry out a psychological examination concerning the evidence given during a pretrial investigation, but this is totally ludicrous. The court has no right to rely on the protocol of an interrogation from the pretrial investigation, since all the accused refused all initial testimonies, having stated that they were made whilst being tortured. They highlighted the fact that they signed all documents without looking, and that nobody admitted their guilt. That’s why only what will be said by them directly in the conference hall will have relevance. Thereby, the prosecution shows that, except the text of a testimony, they have nothing to hook them on.”

Have you tried to raise the question about torture concerning the suspects?

“I received all necessary certificates confirming the numerous bodily injuries my client received after detention. After we submitted a statement to the Military Prosecutor’s Office, and they initiated a criminal case upon this fact. But its investigation doesn’t progress, nobody was handed suspicion. They say that allegedly it is difficult to interrogate these or those SBU employees because of the secret nature of their work.”

Are the facts specified by you illuminated in the Ukrainian media?

“Unfortunately, the information is distorted. The position of the prosecutor’s office and the lawyer of the victims is mainly presented. My position isn’t reflected in the information field, separate phrases are being extracted, thus the essence of what is happening is lost.”

Is pressure put on the judges by representatives of nationalist organisations?

“Court sessions are regularly visited by representatives of the ‘Azov‘ civil corps. They shout out various bad things towards the accused and try to provoke them. This mainly happens before hearings or during recesses. But the trial itself takes place in a more or less quiet environment. Also, representatives of the UN and OSCE are aware of the situation. They are present at practically all hearings, they carry out monitoring and document events.”

Have any of the relatives of the accused received threats?

“On the Internet the real persecution of the wife of Tetyutsky was unleashed, like saying that she is the wife of the ‘enemy of the people’. She repeatedly received threats on social networks, because of which she recently left the country. But we didn’t make it public in order not to create excess tension for the family.”

What further prospects does this case have? Is a not guilty verdict possible?

“Certainly, I will try to achieve the full acquittal of Tetyutsky. After the prosecution’s witnesses have been heard, we will present our witnesses, and we will obtain the studying of all the case papers and the carrying out of several examinations. There are no doubts that the prosecutor will ask for life imprisonment for all, although I see no reason for the court to make such a verdict.”

Have the persons involved in the case received offers to obtain freedom by means of participating in an exchange between Ukraine and the DPR-LPR?

“All three persons were offered to participate in an exchange, and they gave their written consent. However, they weren’t included in the lists of the last exchange, which happened in December, 2017. And in general, it is a mystery to me what principle is used to form these lists.”

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