Lawyer Valentin Rybin: The Case of the Odessa Massacre Scapegoats Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov Is Politically Motivated

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On October 12th a hearing on the case of Dolzhenkov-Mefedov, who are accused of organising an Odessa-Nikolaev auto rally on March 28th, 2014, took place in the Nikolaevsky central court.

As a reminder, Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov have been in custody in a pre-trial detention center for already more than 4 years – since May 7th, 2014. They were initially accused of organising mass riots in the center of Odessa on May 2nd, 2014, for which they faced imprisonment for a period of 5-8 years.

In September, 2017, all 19 accused persons in the case of “May 2” were acquitted, including Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov. But the employees of the SBU in the courtroom immediately brought new charges to Dolzhenkov and Mefedov for organising an Odessa-Nikolaev auto rally on March 28th, 2014. Now they are incriminated under part 1 of article 109 “infringement of territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine” and part 2 of article 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Under these new articles they face 10 years of imprisonment.

Defence lawyers note that the new charges are identical to the previous ones. Only the article has changed, and the video of a motor rally and flower-laying at a monument in Nikolaev, in which witnesses could confirm only the bearing of symbols in the spring of 2014 that still hadn’t been forbidden, is still the main proof of guilt.

The representative of the human rights platform “Uspishna Varta” communicated with the defence lawyer Valentin Rybin. Below is the detailed comment of the lawyer on the case’s prospects, the political component, the reliability of the evidential base of the case of Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov, and also about the course of the investigation into the attack on the lawyer.

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The video comment is available on the “Uspishna Varta” YouTube channel.

Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov have been in a pre-trial detention center since May, 2014. What is the reason for this?

“They are in a pre-trial detention center for known reasons. The matter is that after being acquitted by the Illichevsk city court on September 18th, 2017, they were once again detained directly in the hearing hall of the same court. They were shown suspicion of committing offences stipulates by articles 109 and 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. They are suspected of committing alleged actions for the purpose of violently seizing power and changing the territorial integrity of Ukraine during the Odessa-Nikolaev auto rally on March 28, 2018, devoted to the day of the liberation of Nikolaev from German fascist occupiers. This isn’t legal justification, but political, and the most important thing is that it is done to exhibit force to the citizens of Ukraine, thus influencing other members of society who don’t support the current course of the government of Ukraine.”

After the acquittal of the accused concerning the first case, they were handed the second indictment but with the same evidence. Today what proof does the prosecutor’s office have, why are they still being trialled?

“The prosecutor’s office doesn’t have any proof of the guilt of my clients, because these criminal proceedings against is purely politically motivated. Those actual circumstances that are imputed to them are absent as such. That’s why you won’t find proof that confirms factually absent circumstances, namely the commission of violent actions or the declaration of direct public appeals to commit such actions. It is precisely for this purpose that everything is being done to prolong the consideration of these criminal proceedings. Today we saw how 3 witnesses of the prosecution tried to describe something, and as a result it became clear that these witnesses in general weren’t present at the place where flowers were laid at the monument to Olshantsky’s Heroes. And they saw everything that happened courtesy of a video that was showed to them by the SBU during their interrogation. Thus, there isn’t and there won’t be any proof of guilt in these criminal proceedings. And the proof that was cooked up by the SBU in the Odessa region – having quickly fabricated this case and understanding that on September 18th – 2017 these people will be acquitted, only confirms the political motivation of these criminal proceedings and the desire of the authorities to by all means and methods keep Dolzhenkov and Mefedov under guard. And this, once again, is seen in the fact that in the indictment they are incriminated under articles that have no alternative [to detention – ed] at the moment in Ukraine, and according to them only one measure of restraint in the form of detention is possible.”

On May 31, 2017 you were attacked in Ilyichevsk. What stage is the investigation into this case currently at?

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“It is rather difficult for me to saying something concerning this case, because after this incident took place the corresponding criminal proceedings were entered into the unified register of pre-trial investigations, and that’s everything that was done concerning these proceedings. In July, 2017 I was called by the investigator, who expressed their desire to interrogate me as a witness over the phone, however I refused and asked to provide me with the corresponding summons, saying that I am ready to come and be interrogated not as a witness, but as a victim. However after this I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to contact the investigator. I didn’t receive any summons. I can assume that concerning these criminal proceedings no investigative actions took place, it was silently closed. And that’s why nobody is going to look for the truth there.”

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