Russia Denies Consular Access To Detained Ukrainian Journalist; Detainee In Crimea Tortured

October 6, 2016
Roman Sushchenko being escorted by Russian FSB officers.

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Russia Denies Consular Access To Detained Ukrainian Journalist; Detainee In Crimea Tortured

The Russian authorities are still denying Ukrainian consular officials access to Roman Sushchenko, a journalist detained in Moscow on charges of espionage.

Sushchenko was arrested on September 30, but this only became public after Russian human rights activists encountered him by chance in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center (SIZO) on Sunday night.

Sushchenko is the Paris correspondent for the Ukrainian state-owned Ukrinform news agency. His employers say that he was on holiday when he was detained.

This morning his lawyer, Mark Feygin, told Ukraine’s 112 television channel that he spoke last night with Hennadiy Breskalenko, Ukraine’s consul in Moscow, who told him that he had so far received no response from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) regarding his right to visit Sushchenko in jail.

Feygin has only managed to meet his client on one, brief occasion.

He has had difficulty in obtaining proper visits. 

“Yesterday I did not succeed in getting into the Lefortovo SIZO. There is a huge queue of lawyers there. I don’t see any kind of special action on the part of the SIZO administration. A number of lawyers are simply not getting inside the interrogation rooms because of the huge influx of investigators and lasers, who have been conduction investigative activities for a very long time. I am setting out now. I’m going to Lefortovo again today.”

Ihor Kotelyanets, brother of Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian citizen arrested by the occupying Russian authorities in Crimea in August, says that there are signs his brother has been tortured.

The Crimean Human Rights Group reports that Kotelyanets told them that his brother’s lawyer reported finding during a meeting that Panov’s hands bore scars and that there were multiple dark bruises on his right leg. Panov’s lawyer believed that these were evidence of torture.

Yesterday the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union reported that the European Court had received documents on Panov’s medical examinations from the Russian authorities which confirmed that he had suffered numerous injuries.

Mikhailo Tarakhkalo, director of strategic affairs at the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, said that an examination conducted by doctors on August 13 described a number of physical injuries. According to the report, Panov himself says that he was severely tortured by the occupying authorities up until August 12 in order to obtain confessions.

According to Kotelyanets, his brother did not know the identities of his torturers as they had placed an opaque bag over his head, tied up with tape. Panov himself said that he had been beaten by the FSB during his arrest on August 7, leaving him with a laceration on his forehead. 

From the Crimean Human Rights Group report:

For seven days his handcuffs were fixed tight, as a result of which Yevhen suffered severe pain. His cuffed hands were fastened under his knees, he was shoved with a baton, lifted up and beaten on his shins with a metal pipe. Panov also said that, after his arrested, he was beaten and torture was applied to his genitals.

They placed a bag over Panov’s head, because of this could not see. As a result, the Ukrainian lost is orientation in time and space, he didn’t know day from night, experiencing fear. In the period from the 7th to the 12th of August, Panov didn’t eat, he was given only water. This, according to Panov, was somewhere in the north of Crimea.

In Simferopol, the torture continued. They bound him to a chair with duct tape, attached cables to naked parts of his body and connected them to an electric current. Panov said that he cried out loudly in pain and asked them to stop the torture, but they only laughed at him. This continued for around 24 hours.

Panov believes that the aim of this torture was to force a confession out of him – that he was supposedly a Ukrainian saboteur who had come to Crimea to blow up houses and people, to poison water etc. After these tortures the Ukrainian was forced to incriminate himself and sign certain records. 

The Ukrainian military reports that Russia-backed forces conducted 40 attacks yesterday, using heavy mortars.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told reporters today that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed yesterday. Another soldier was wounded while a third suffered a concussion.

Meanwhile the Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk claim that Ukrainian forces last night shelled the Yasinovataya suburb of Donetsk, near Avdeyevka, with multiple-launch rocket launchers, tanks and artillery.

European Union diplomats are due to discuss the implementation of a visa-free regime for Ukrainians on October 27.

RFE/RL’s Brussels reporter, Rikard Jozwiak reports: 

— Pierre Vaux