On 16 February, Dilyaver Berberov, a so-called ‘judge’ of the ‘Simferopol district court’, passed sentence to Vladyslav Yesypenko, a Ukrainian journalist who worked with Radio Liberty. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison in a colony of the general regime of imrpisonment and a fine of 110,000 RUB. Olena Prodolna, the prosecutor, demanded 11 years in prison for him.
Vladyslav Yesypenko, a Ukrainian citizen, was detained on 10 March 2021 in the Crimea by the Federal Security Bureau of the Russian Federation.
Yesypenko has been held in custody in a detention center in Simferopol since then. The Russian Federal Security Bureau accused the journalist of the illicit manufacturing of ammunition. More specifically, he is accused of ‘taking parts of an explosive from a hiding place’. Russian law enforcement agencies allege that Yesypenko aimed to pick up a grenade from a hiding place by order of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. Vitaliy Vlasov, an investigator of the Russian Federal Security Bureau, leads the investigation against Yesypenko and is involved in a number of politically motivated investigations in the occupied Crimea.
However, Yesypenko was detained for his political views after he attended a rally commemorating the birthday of Taras Shevchenko (famous Ukrainian poet) in Simferopol on 9 March 2021. Human rights defenders are confident that in fact Vladyslav Yespenko was prosecuted for his work as freelance journalist of Radio Liberty’s project Crimea.Realities, which covered human rights violations by the Russian occupying power in the Crimea.
After he was detained, Vladyslav Yesypenko was tortured numerous times to force him to confess. Yesypenko informed his lawyer that he was electrocuted, beaten, choked with a plastic bag, kept naked and death threats were made against him. His forced confession was broadcasted by the Russia-controlled TV-channel ‘Crimea 24’ on 18 March 2021.
Dmytro Dinze, Yesypenko’s defense lawyer, reported systematic violations during the trial. He states that during a hearing in September 2021 witnesses on the side of the prosecution appeared well-prepared: they knew legal terms and their testimonies on Yesypenko’s detention appeared memorised. During the hearing on 5 October, the court refused to interrogate the persons put forward by the defense. On 22 November, the so-called ‘Simferopol district court’ interrogated an expert in a closed court session who declared a grenade, which was allegedly discovered in the accused’s car, to be an improvised explosive device. However, this expert was not able to answer the defense lawyer’s questions as to the parameters he had applied to conclude that the grenade had been converted.
We believe that these facts demonstrate that Vladyslav Yesypenko was subjected to unlawful methods of investigation, including physical and psychological violence, his right to legal assistance was violated before and during the trial in order to prosecute him for political reasons.
We, representatives of human rights organizations, strongly condemn imprisonment of Vladyslav Yesypenko for his political position and his work as a journalist and we demand from the Russian Federation:
- to immediately and unconditionally release Vladyslav Yesypenko and all other political prisoners imprisoned in the occupied Crimea, City of Sevastopol and on the territory of the Russian Federation;
- to stop persecution of residents of the Crimea for their dissent with the occupation, express their political views and for their work as journalists;
- to stop implementation of Russian penal legislation in the occupied Crimea and the City of Sevastopol according to the international humanitarian law.
We are calling on governments of foreign states, international organizations, and in particular – members of the Crimea Platform to:
- to demand immediate release of Vladyslav Yesypenko from the Russian Federation;
- condemn actions of the Russian Federation regarding political prosecution of journalists and activists in the occupied Crimea;
- to enforce the pressure against Russia to force it to release all Ukrainian political prisoners and to stop persecution of Ukrainian citizens in the occupied Crimea;
- to implement personal sanctions against judges, investigators, representatives of penitentiary institutions, and persons who are responsible for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Crimea;
- to facilitate the work of international monitoring missions of UN, OSCE, and the Council of Europe with the mandate to monitor the situation of human rights to the occupied Crimea as permitted by Ukraine and in consultations with Ukrainian and international NGOs;
- to provide all-round financial, psychological and informational support to families of the Crimean political prisoners lies, in particular by engaging celebrities in the advocacy on behalf of victims of political persecution;
- to regularly stay in touch by means of correspondence and to provide consular support to the political prisoners of Crimea and their family members;
- to comprehensively use the instruments of the Crimea Platform and other mechanisms of international cooperation to stop political repressions in Crimea.
We are calling on the President of Ukraine, the Parliament of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol:
- ensure an effective investigation of the illegal imprisonment and persecution of Vladyslav Yesypenko, and all other violations of fundamental human rights in the occupied Crimea;
- to sign the draft Law on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning the Implementation of International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law Norms, no 2689, introducing due responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the occupied territories,
- to sign the draft Law On social and legal security of persons who have been recognized as having been deprived of personal freedom due to the armed aggression against Ukraine, and their families, no 6104;
- to initiate decisive actions within the framework of the Crimea Platform, aimed at combating political repressions in the Crimea and release of all Ukrainian citizens imprisoned for political reasons in the occupied Crime and the Russian Federation.
The Crimean Human Rights Group
ZMINA Human Rights Center
ALMENDA Civil Education Center
Center of Civil Liberties
Human Rights House Chernihiv
Association of Ukrainian Monitors on Human Rights Conduct in Law Enforcement
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
No Borders Project
Regional Center for Human Rights
Human Rights House Crimea
‘Akhalar’ Humanistic Technologies Center
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group