Mr.Serhiy Tsyhipa, an independent journalist and activist, abducted in the occupied Nova Kakhovka in March, 2022, was convicted on “espionage” charge in October, 2023. He was awarded a custodial sentence to be served in the maximum security regime penal colony. For a detailed information on the trial and case of Serhiy Tsyhipa – go to Zlochyn.dp.ua.
The case of Serhiy Tsyhipa was heard in camera since as the Russian mass media state there was “sensitive government information” in the case files. According to the Russian security agencies, Mr.Tsyhipa “was passing the information on stations of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation units along their transfer routes in the SVO zone, and their sizes to SBU and ZSU”, TASS, Russian governmental information agency, reports. Serhiy Tsyhipa was accused of espionage (under RF CC Article 276) and harmful actions against the Russian Federation during the so called “SVO” in December, 2022. The punishment the Ukrainian could be imposed on under these articles might be at least a 10-year’s custodial sentence.
The case was being heard for three days, 4 to 6 October, 2023. Serhiy Tsyhipa’s lawyer informed that a prosecutor demanded a 19-years’ custodial sentence for the defendant. Though agreed with the lawyer in advance, Serhiy did not plead guilty in part. According to lawyer’s information, no last statement of the defendant was planned during the trial. Serhiy Tsyhipa said:
“I am a citizen of Ukraine. I love my country, my people. You have abducted me from my country. I did what I considered should be done! Yes, I covered the events that were happening in our city, because I am a journalist and I could not watch it silently. I learned about the fact that you had announced the SVO six months later, already in Crimea. I don’t care how many years you will sentence me to – two or twenty. I understand that this is a show case for you, you are trying to frighten people. I will become a free person only when the ZSU come here.”
The Kremlin media quickly spread information about the journalist’s trial and published photos from the session.
“The Russians have published these photos of my husband in cage, addressing implicitly those who have been waiting for the ZSU: see, this is what you will finish with. Thus, they are trying to frighten civilians in the occupation waiting for the ZSU to come, – Mrs Olena Tsyhipa, the convict’s wife, told Zlochyn.dp.ua. – In his age (Serhiy is 62 years old), without good conditions, meals, and medicines, each year may become the last. And he has made the right decision – to speak to the court, proudly holding his head. I am proud of my husband; he has remained the same as he was. And we are not giving up and we continue fighting for Serhiy”.
Mrs.Tsyhipa also mentioned that Serhiy had made a statement pointing out that everything he signed was signed under pressure and due to torture.
CASE OF Mr. TSYHIPA
Serhiy Tsyhipa is an independent journalist, blogger, writer, a chairman of NGO, a volunteer. The occupiers abducted him a year and a half ago from Nova Kakhovka for holding the information line in the city since the first days of occupation (he created “Information Self-Defence of Nova Kakhovka” project) and attending a pro-Ukrainian rally. The story of Mr.Tsyhipa was presented by Zlochyn.dp.ua in February, 2023, in the article “Captured by “Vodianyk”: Occupiers Are Keeping Ukrainian Journalist Serhiy Tsyhipa Hostage For Almost A Year”.
The Tsyhipa’s family had no news about him till the second half of April 2023. Only then the Russian central TV channels broadcast a propaganda spot introducing wizened and exhausted Serhiy as “a former IPSO officer”. Thus, the relatives first learned that the civilian POW was alive, and a bit later that he was being kept in jail in Simferopol.
After the forced disappearance of the husband, Olena Tsyhipa has been persistently appealing to human rights defenders, to the ombudsman. She gave interviews to Ukrainian and international journalists, spoke in Warsaw (OSCE) and Strasbourg (PACE). It was this persistence and wide publicity that helped her, in the end, move the case from a standstill. The case of Mr.Tsyhipa was sent to the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine, to the office of the ombudsman.
The Ukrainian side defines Serhiy Tsyhipa as a civilian hostage. To date, Serhiy is included in the lists for exchange. But currently, one of the major challenges is that, in terms of international law, abducted civilians shall not be detained so they cannot be exchanged. At the same time, Russia has been rudely abducting people. Unlike Ukraine, the Russian Federation is not a State Party to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. In addition, in 2019, the Russian Federation actually withdrew from the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of the Civilian Persons in Time of War, which provisions claim that “persons taking no active part in the hostilities … shall … be treated humanely” and prohibit taking of hostages.
As Ms. Olha Skrypnyk, Chairperson of the Crimean Human Rights Group Board, explained to Zlochyn.dp.ua media, there are no practical arrangements for exchanging and releasing the civilians today. And the present-day’s number of missed Ukrainians has reached at least 25,000, many of them being civilian hostages, in fact.
“We have only individual, fragmented cases. The challenge is how to force Russia to return a person. There are no arrangements in place at the moment. We are calling all international partners to seek for these arrangements. As for Serhiy Tsyhipa, he was sentenced unlawfully, to start with. Pursuant to the international law norms, Russia has no right to try. After the appeal he will be transported to the severe regime penal colony and the main issue is to survive. The matter is that there are no judicial, legal tools in force when we speak about Russia”, the human rights defender pointed out.
For security reasons the lawyer who works in Crimea does not announce the next steps. The only point mentioned is that a verdict of the Supreme Court of Crimea controlled by Russia will be appealed against.
 Special Military Operation (as Russia calls the war against Ukraine)
 Security Service of Ukraine
 Armed Forces of Ukraine