Political Prisoner Aleksandr Efremov: “I Have Never Traded My Conscience”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Aleksandr Efremov is a Ukrainian politician, People’s Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of three convocations, and the chairman of the Lugansk regional state administration. He was once considered to be one of the most influential functionaries of the Party of Regions.

On July 30th, 2016 Efremov was detained and has since spent more than two years in custody in the Starobelsk pre-trial detention center of the Lugansk region. The politician is charged with high treason, infringement of territorial integrity, creation of a terrorist organisation, and capturing state buildings.

The representative of the human rights platform “Uspishna Varta” managed to communicate with Aleksandr Efremov during the court session that took place in Starobelsk on September 25th, 2018.

We publish the full text of the interview in which the politician spoke about justice in Ukraine, imitation of a trial concerning his business, the public proposal of the Prosecutor-General Yury Lutsenko to make a deal with the investigation, and also about the vision of future state of Ukraine.

For the second consecutive week hearings have taken place in a very accelerated regime. How do you estimate the course of your case?

“I don’t see a case. I see that the court satisfies instructions that were received from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, simply pretending that it considers the case.

In reality, for more than two years I have asked the same question at each court session: show me at least one fact that proves the commission of an offense by me proceeding from which the prosecutor’s office had the right to show me this article [of the Criminal Code – ed]? In two years and two months not a single fact has been presented to the court, nor witnesses, nor something on paper, nor something on video.”

Do you feel some improvements in connection with judicial reform? Do they in general exist in Ukraine?

“If what I feel is called judicial reforms, then I can say that we in general have no justice in Ukraine. We have no court freedom today. After Poroshenko carried out so-called certification or even if he still is carrying it out, all judges are intimidated, all are afraid of losing their job and are guided from the Presidential Administration by the deputy head of the administration. In my opinion, this is known by the whole country. We have no court freedom. And judges who appear and who remember that they had an oath and in this case it is possible to address to them as ‘Your Honor’, are rare. In this case, this isn’t seen in the Starobelsk district.”

In similar political cases inconsistencies are seen very often. One journalist even had a cat that was considered as an “agent of the DPR”. Are there similar bizarre things in your case?

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“In my case the bizarre things are the following: the case was created in only 24 hours. And the materials from absolutely other cases that have no relation to my legal proceedings and to the articles [of the Criminal Code – ed] that are imputed to me were attached to my case. As a result of what they did, from 17 volumes, the prosecutor just threw 12 of them out of consideration via his own request in front of the court. How more bizarre could the case be…”

How did the employees of the pre-trial detention center and other law enforcement bodies treat you? You are a special prisoner?

“I don’t demand any special treatment. I am being held within the framework of the general law, which is customary. It is necessary to pay tribute to the fact that neither the escort that accompanies me, nor the employees of the pre-trial detention center violate the orders that they are supposed to observe. And in this regard I have no pretensions.”

Did the employees of the Prosecutor’s office or the SBU try to make contact with you? Did they offer some ways to solve this case?

“From the very beginning Lutsenko [the Prosecutor-General of Ukraine Yury Lutsenko] publicly stated to me that he will offer me a deal, to which I publicly answered by saying that I have nothing to trade, especially with Lutsenko. And I have never traded my conscience.”

You have been in solitary confinement for 2 years. How is both your physical and moral condition?

“I am not a supporter of discussing health, but if someone has been in solitary confinement for 2 years and 2 months, you can imagine yourself staying in a bathroom for at least one day. This is approximately the same conditions that I have. And for one and a half years I sat in such a cell that is approximately the same as a bathroom in modern day apartments in terms of size. And of course, being alone with oneself, with thoughts that one can have. As for health, I wouldn’t like to discuss it publicly, especially since there are certain problems. You know, there is such a wise thought, a popular saying, that if you want to describe your future to God, you will make him laugh. That’s why I wouldn’t want to speak about those future things that exist. I see one thing – that, unfortunately, the beautiful state that we inherited, with a beautiful territory and beautiful people, is today being destroyed. And if certain events do not happen during the upcoming elections, then I am afraid that we await a sad fate in general.”

At the time of Yanukovych many media outlets said that a large number of prisoners of conscience sit in the prisons and pre-trial detention centers of Ukraine. What do you think, is there now a similar problem in Ukraine?

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“Everything in the world is relative. 2×2=4 is rather closer to the truth than 2×2=28. If earlier, at the time of Yanukovych, some people were put in prison, then today hundreds if not thousands of people simply left our state in order to avoid the persecution of themselves and their families. But I can say only thing – Yanukovych never crossed a certain extreme line. For example, he didn’t pursue parents, he didn’t pursue children, etc.

The last materials that were shown to me by my lawyers here concerning a certain Pushkin [a SBU agent with the call sign “Pushkin” tried to recruit a journalist of “Strana” – ed] – it seems to me that they were shown on the website ‘strana.ua’, when he recruited a journalist and threatened his mother, in my opinion – surpassed all imaginable things. It’s not 1937 and even not the times of Andropov. What is happening today in Ukraine is too vast to comprehend. And it very much surprises me that international organisations, such as OSCE, the UN Commission on Human Rights, different human rights organisations and this same Angela Merkel – who earlier very actively expressed her opinions on different events when there was Yanukovych – are silent today as if have water in their mouth.”

Do you plan to remain in politics in the future?

“This doesn’t depend on me. First of all, it seems to me that we have to give an answer to the question of the future of our country. I already said that I have sad visions concerning what is happening. And if at the next elections a conclusion isn’t made directly by the people who are in the country, then we will speak about completely different things. I don’t belong to those people who at all costs want to be in power somewhere and aspire to it, I don’t relate to these people. I never in my life asked to be somewhere. And when I achieved something in life, I was always offered some work that I consider that I can execute. And if to simply set the aim of holding some position, then it seems to me that it isn’t completely correct or professional.”

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