The Case of the Ukrainian Entrepreneur Andrey Tatarintsev

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

17/02/2019 (by Pavel Volkov)

Persecution in Ukraine of oppositional politicians, journalists, and public figures aren’t surprising any more. In addition to the media, it is annually spoken about in the reports of the UN, OSCE, and other international organisations. But political repression against people who in general have nothing to do with politics at all – this can seem like news.

The public absolutely is not aware of the case of the businessman Andrey Tatarintsev, who has been on trial for one and a half years under political articles [charges of “separatism” – ed] at first in Kiev, and now in Belmak (formerly Kuybyshevo) of the Zaporozhye region. Yesterday, on February 15th 2019, another hearing was held, and concerning its results I was able to talk to the lawyer of the accused Vladimir Lyapin.

According to him, Andrey Nikolaevich Tatarintsev, being a civilian, is accused by the military prosecutor’s office under article 437 (planning, preparing, unleashing, and waging a war of aggression), article 438 (violation of laws and the customs of war), and article 258-3 (assisting a terrorist organisation). The lawyer claims that during the investigation, for the purpose of there being no alternative to being in a pre-trial detention center, Tatarintsev was charged with joining the LPR organisation in 2014, receiving firearms there, and participating in military operations in Snezhnoye (Donetsk Region), however none of this found confirmation and didn’t end up in the indictment. But in the indictment it is specified that he assisted the LPR terrorist organisation via his business activity.

V. Lyapin reported that Andrey Tatarintsev was engaged in the purchase and sale of fuels and lubricants in the Lugansk region even prior to the conflict in the East of Ukraine. He had a small base – several tanks of diesel and gasoline. After the beginning of the conflict and the loss of control of this territory by Ukraine, he continued to work in order to support his wife and small child. In 2015 on non-controlled territory he was robbed – several cargo vehicles and a car were taken away from him. Besides this, according to the testimonies that the accused gave in the investigative office, initially Chechens arrived at his base, and, having put everyone under the gun, took away his diesel fuel. Then the militia of the LPR appeared with the demand to regularly give two cubes of fuel for a station of blood transfusion and a children’s hospital. Thus, Tatarintsev, under the threat of the use of weapons, and under the threat of the security of his family being in jeopardy, he was obliged to continue his business activity, without which it was impossible to obtain the necessary fuel.

After a while, in the same 2015, because of the impossibility to live on territories that aren’t controlled by Ukraine, he made the decision to move to Kiev with his wife and child. The lawyer noticed that in 2017, within the framework of secret investigative actions in Kiev, the investigator of the SBU came to Tatarintsev’s place and allegedly induced him to have a straight talk and recorded everything on a dictophone. After a while he was detained. And although the events that he is linked with concern 2014-2015, the protocol of detention was formulated as article 208 – “During the commission of a crime”. I.e., 3 years later after the events, the person is detained “during the commission of a crime”. According to the lawyer Lyapin, such actions became the norm in political cases.

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The lawyer affirms that Tatarintsev never took up arms, but was surviving, being involved in what he could and is able to do, and it is precisely his business activity that is imputed to him under the article stipulating assisting a terrorist organisation. During a court session in the Kuibyshevsky district court of the Zaporozhye region V. Lyapin noted that Belmak (formerly Kuybyshevo) “is a large nodal railway station. I purposefully went to check it out – several echelons with goods pass both towards the DPR and back every day. Coal and many other things are creating commodity turnover here. And to my question ‘what’s the difference between the business activity that was conducted by Tatarintsev and those who today sent three echelons to the DPR’ and receive money for it’, the prosecutor hid his eyes and we didn’t receive an answer. I understand this as here, most likely, the employees of the SBU have some mercenary motives”.

Concerning the question about assisting a terrorist organisation, the lawyer filed a number of documents, namely the answers of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Verkhovna Rada, National Security and Defence Council, SBU, and other government bodies, that confirm that the DPR and LPR aren’t today recognised as terrorist organisations in the order established by the law of Ukraine. The prosecutor, as proof of terrorist activity, tried to file information reports about shelling, the capture of vehicles, etc. Although the procedure of recognising an organisation as a terrorist one is written down in black and white – the Prosecutor-General must appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine with a claim. And only after a court decision are there legal consequences – the property of the organisation will be confiscated and people can be punished for participating in its activity. The DPR and LPR also weren’t recognised as terrorist structures by any international organisation – including the UN and OSCE.

Concerning the charges against Tatarintsev under articles 437, 438 (planning, preparing, unleashing, and waging a war of aggression, violating the laws and customs of war) for the alleged beating up of Ukrainian prisoners of war, the lawyer doesn’t agree with the qualification because the persons who were taking part at that time in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) can’t be prisoners of war since military operations weren’t being carried out in Ukraine, not to mention a war of aggression. These people are involved in criminal proceedings simply as victims, and only the investigator and prosecutor recognise them as prisoners of war. V. Lyapin draws attention to that fact that besides the protocols of the identification of the victims, there isn’t any proof that Tatarintsev beat them up. According to the victims there were 10 people in the premises of the military registration and enlistment office in Snezhnoye, where Ukrainian military personnel were kept and where, according to the prosecution, they were beaten up by Tatarintsev. However, only three confirm that the beating took place. The lawyer places an emphasis on the fact that despite the continuous tapping of the phone of Tatarintsev by SBU employees, the mobile operators “Kievstar”, “Vodafone”, and “Layf” declared that it is impossible to establish his location exactly when the crime imputed to the accused took place.

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V. Lyapin doesn’t deny that Ukrainian military personnel could have at that time been in Snezhnoye and subjected to a beating, but from the indictment it is absolutely unclear how Tatarintsev is connected to it.

But the most terrible thing isn’t even this. The matter is that Tatarintsev in general shouldn’t be in a pre-trial detention center. He has type 2 diabetes, which is confirmed by all the necessary documents that are at the court’s disposal. At the same time, the accused doesn’t receive medical care, which is equated to torture by the ruling of the ECHR. When he found himself in a SBU isolation cell one and a half years ago his blood sugar level was 6, with the norm being 5. Before this the accused passed through treatment, was insulin-dependent, then moved on to tablets. Then he was examined and his diagnosis was confirmed, but his treatment wasn’t started. During this time, under the ruling of the Kuibyshevsky court, one more examination was carried out in the Zaporozhye regional hospital, which also confirmed the diagnosis and increased the dosage of medicine that he didn’t receive and doesn’t receive.

The lawyer invited an expert doctor-endocrinologist with 15 years of experience to a hearing on February 15th 2019. The doctor performed an examination and recognised the condition of the defendant as extremely unsatisfactory because his blood sugar level was more than 17, with the norm being 5. The irreversible consequences that happen in cases of diabetes already began in his extremities. The doctor was interrogated in the courtroom by the collegium of judges, prosecutor, and defence and declared that the defendant needs treatment, consisting of taking the necessary medicines, the correct lifestyle, and a strict diet. It is necessary for him to eat 5-6 times per day and to eat strictly regulated food, which is impossible in the conditions of a pre-trial detention center. Semolina was brought to Tatarintsev as dietary food, which, according to the doctor, is contraindicated for diabetes. Besides this, the doctor in the pre-trial detention center didn’t even have a glucose meter to measure the patient’s sugar level.

“If something happens, nobody will help”

said the lawyer

During the court session the accused also doesn’t receive food. V. Lyapin explained that on the day of the hearing Tatarintsev couldn’t have either breakfast nor dinner, i.e. a person with severe diabetes spent the whole day without food.

With all that said, the prosecutor called into question the diagnosis of the doctor-endocrinologist, since he was allegedly “bought”. An ambulance was called and measured sugar levels with their glucose meter – it was 17.3, and his pressure was 180/100. The ambulance didn’t have the tablets to lower the sugar level.

“The person hasn’t received treatment for 1.5 years, his blood sugar increased from 6 to 17. The pre-trial detention center gave an official answer – they have no doctor or equipment. He should have physical therapy because his vessels suffer and his blood circulation worsens. In the pre-trial detention center there is no physical therapy office. The person actually decays alive,” pleaded the lawyer to mass media, human rights activists, and court appeals.

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Despite his very serious condition, the prosecutor over and over again submits motions for the extension of his measure of restraint in the form of being held in a pre-trial detention center on the grounds that according to article 258-3 this measure has no alternative, and also that the defendant allegedly has “very close connections in business activity” in Snezhnoye and he might flee. The lawyer explains that all the property of Tatarintsev was arrested and his passports were confiscated – there is nowhere he can go and he has no need to go anywhere. It is specified in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau protocol that the investigator proposed to exchange him for Ukrainian prisoner of war, but he refused, motivating this decision by the fact that he wants to live in Ukraine.

His wife is a citizen of Russia – she couldn’t cope, everything was arrested, the business was take away, she has nothing to earn a living with and support the child, she was obliged to go to her parents’ place in Russia. There isn’t anybody who could deliver medicines. And despite this the prosecutor cynically says: ‘After all, his wife is in the Russian Federation, he can go to her’. It’s not clear to me how he can do this without documents. And the most important thing is that the collegium of judges agrees with him. They directly wrote in the ruling that his wife is in the Russian Federation. It is the apogee of cynicism. When during the last hearing I presented the answer of the pre-trial detention center – that there is no doctor and medical equipment to treat diabetes, they wrote: ‘carry out an examination and give treatment’. How? Today the doctor and ambulance said that he can fall into a coma, which he may not leave. There aren’t any specialists either in Volnyansk (where the pre-trial detention center is) nor in Belmak, and at the same time with such a diagnosis they prolong the measure of restraint imposed on him in the form of detention,” said the indignant lawyer of Lyapin.

He says that in these circumstances there isn’t even the opportunity to challenge the decision-making collegium, since in the Kuibyshevsky court there are only 4 acting judges, and 3 of them are participating in the collegium concerning the case of Tatarintsev. Hearings, as is the norm in proceedings under political articles, are held once per month, and sometimes even less often, which doesn’t help the observance of rationality concerning the timeframe of considering the case.

In this regard the lawyer, on behalf of his client, asks for the help of the Red Cross, the UN, OSCE, and other Ukrainian and international human rights organisations for the purpose of providing the accused with medical care, and also for the purpose of organising the monitoring of court sessions and publicly highlighting a trial that involves the violation of fundamental human rights.

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