Moment of Truth: Returning to the Case of Ukrainian Political Prisoner Logunov

On November 18th a court hearing concerning the appeal of the oldest political prisoner in Ukraine, the 85-year-old Mekhti Logunov, is due to take place. This trial has been repeatedly postponed under various false pretexts, raising suspicion that the trial of the elderly person was being delayed by the authorities on purpose – in the expectation of his death in the worst prison conditions.

We remind that the Kharkov scientist and inventor Mekhti Logunov was convicted by the Frunzensky District Court of the city of Kharkov at the end of July 2018 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment under Article 111 (state treason). The case was considered in a closed session, and only third-party listeners were allowed to observe sentencing. Such a harsh, effectively death sentence for an elderly person shocked the public. No one could explain how an old and unrelated man could have caused substantial damage to Ukraine’s security and almost destroyed its defence capabilities. It can be assumed, however, that the district court acted not on its own will and has to take into account some extraneous circumstances in its excessive sentence.

Mekhti Logunov was arrested on August 17th 2017, and until that time (approximately since 2016) he was involved in operational proceedings of the SBU. The reason for this was Logunov’s active civil position. As a scientist he engaged in ecology, burial, recycling of garbage and industrial waste, he immediately focused his attention to an extremely unpleasant and dangerous fact for all of Ukraine: during one of his first visits to the United States, Petro Poroshenko reached an agreement with then President Obama on the dumping of radioactive waste from US nuclear power plants in Ukraine. Logunov knew exactly that at that time Ukraine did not have a technical-technological base for processing these wastes (the project of the Central Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel – appeared later), and Mekhti Logunov started to work on the issue in the technical plane.

For advice he turned to the well-known Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology (UIPT), as it is one of the few Ukrainian research institutes that was scientifically engaged in the problem of processing and disposal of radioactive waste. These reports were open-ended and did not represent state secrets, but only the staff of the institute could properly guide them. After that, the SBU became interested in Logunov’s activities, established surveillance of him, but nothing suspicious and illegal in his actions was recorded. The “compromising” factor was the anti-war position of the well-known scientist and periodic trips to Russia, where his old and needy mother-in-law lives.

Logunov, thus in the field of view of special services, was under scrutiny for quite a long time, and monitoring continued “just to be sure”. This case came when the so-called “missile scandal” broke out in the United States. On August 14th 2017 The New York Times published a large article about the supply of missile technologies from Ukraine to the DPRK and the possible connection to the Ukrainian state-owned enterprise “Yuzhmash”.

Literally on the same day, Poroshenko had an extremely unpleasant conversation with Donald Trump. Petro officially visited the “Yuzhmash” plant with Kolomoisky (the former Governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region at the time), who was directly responsible for the possible leakage of secret data to the DPRK both as the President of Ukraine and as a person with personal knowledge of the position in the strategic enterprise. Poroshenko needed to be rehabilitated as soon as possible in the eyes of “American partners”, so he ordered the head of the Security Service, Vasily Gritsak, to sweep away all “suspicious” persons in Ukraine within three days. He even reported the start of extensive operational activities publicly on his Facebook page.

That is why on August 17th and later Ukraine saw a new wave of arrests of people who, for some reason, had already come to the attention of the SBU; Many detentions in those days were evidenced by news reports on the website of the Security Service of Ukraine. After the arrests and trials, the accused had only two options – either to confess their guilt unconditionally or go to prison for a period of 12-15 years under Article 111. Logunov did not admit his guilt in the fabricated case, for which he received a monstrous man-eating sentence.

In August 2018 an appeal was filed by the lawyer Dmitry Tikhonenko within the established time frame. But, unfortunately, the Ukrainian Criminal Procedure Code does not clearly establish the maximum time limits for the consideration of decisions in criminal cases by the Court of Appeal (60 days are given only in relation to sentences concerning economic cases). Formally in connection with this and under various pretexts, the case of Logunov has been delayed by the Kharkov Court of Appeal for more than a year.

During the time that passed, the well-being of the elderly person has deteriorated dramatically, Logunov has lost a dozen and a half teeth, and now even elementary food intake is a huge problem for him. In fact, the forthcoming hearing of the court on the falsified case of the previous government is an examination of the new one: is it really ready to defend human rights and comply with the Constitution and Ukraine’s international obligations, or will it continue the mindless policy of its predecessors, which President Zelensky himself spoke about in an extremely unflattering way.

Konstantin Kevorkian

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