Yuliya Latynina reports for Novaya Gazeta on a trial in Chechnya of Ukrainians Nikolai Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh who are accused of fighting on the side of Chechen militants against Russian soldiers in the 1996 war
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
–The Non-Hybrid War
–Kashin Explains His âLetter to Leadersâ on âFontanka Officeâ
–TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
–âI Was on Active Dutyâ: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
The prosecution claims that Dmitry Yarosh, head of Right Sector, an ultraright group banned in Russia whose members have fought in the war against Russia in Ukraine, also fought in the Chechen war — along with Oleh Tyahnybok and his brother Andriy, leaders of the Svoboda party, and even Arseny Yatsenyuk, the current prime minister of Ukraine. The jury has been selected and the trial is scheduled to open Monday.
Latynina calls the case “even more shocking than Savchenko’s” Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot, was detained by Russian-backed separatists and then accused of killing two Russian state journalists, is currently standing trial in Rostov.
In the spring of 2014, Stanislav Klykh, a Ukrainian nationalist, went to Chechnya to visit a girl he had met and then went missing. No news about his whereabouts was available for a year. According to his lawyer, Ilya Novikov, who is also one of Savchekno’s attorneys, Nikolai Karpyuk, Yarosh’s deputy in another ultranationalist organization, UNA/UNSO was lured into Russia for negotiations; Right Sector was told that “nearly Putin himself was personally inviting them for talks.” Karpyuk entered Russia at the Bryansk checkpoint. Latinina writes (translation by The Interpreter):
It may seem strange that a Right Sector representative would travel to Russia for talks, but Dmitro Yarosh loved to play with fire. Even during Maidan in Kiev, rumors were circulating that Yarosh had received several millions at Bankovaya [the presidential administration] in order to take his people off the square, but instead used this cash to buy weapons.
Cash really did turn up then at Right Sector, and if it was obtained in such a fashion, then it is not difficult to surmise that after that Yanukovych, trying to explain what happened to Putin somehow, would say that Yarosh got the cash from the damned Yankees.
But when Karpyuk went to Russia for these talks, he didn’t realize that investigators already had testimony about him and other Ukrainian nationalists from Aleksandr Malofeyev, an ex-con who had been sentenced in Novosibirsk to 23 years of labor colony for assault and murder. Malofeyev had nothing to lose, and cooperated with the investigation, providing information about Yatsenyuk, Tyahnybok, Yarosh, Dmitry Korchinsky and Aleksandr Muzychko (call sign Sashko Biliy) who was shot dead during a police raid in Rovno last year. Malofeyev, a Ukrainian himself, claimed all of these Ukrainian ultranationalists fought with the Chechen rebels against Russian federal forces in 1994. In the end, the court gave him an even higher sentence — 24 years.
Nothing was heard from Karpyuk and Klykh for a year, and their family feared they were killed. Now that they have surfaced as prisoners, both say they were tortured into giving confessions. Klykh said he recalls Yatsenyuk shooting from a Kalashnikov:
In that battle, there was a memorable moment, the constant movement of Yastenyuk from one firing position to another. Everyone had already taken their positions, but he was running back and forth. He had a soldier’s helmet on his head, which was wrapped up in something, a sweater perhaps, or something else, and there was something else inside. He feared for his life. After the battle Yatsenyuk was often among journalists, posing a lot, having his picture taken and giving interviews.”
The claim has given rise to numerous photoshopped pictures on social media of Yatsenyuk in a paratrooper’s helmet or turban and a long beard. His press secretary denied the claims, remarking on Facebook that Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of Russia’s Investigative Committee would get “a standing ovation from the Nazi propaganda machine” and that Bastrykin should get “a psychiatric evaluation.”
Bastrykin said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta that according to his agency’s files, Yatsenyuk took part in combat in 1994 and 1995 and also had tortured and executed Russian soldiers in Grozny in 1995. Yet he could not clarify whether Russia would open a criminal case against him.
According to his official biography, Yatsenyuk was a law student from 1991-1995 in Chernovtsi, Gordonua.com reports. Yatsenyuk obtained a law degree, a master’s degree in accounting, and a Ph.D. in economics. As RFE/RL reports, he is not known to have performed any military service.
Gordonua.com reports that the UNA/UNSO did in fact take part as volunteers in the war in Chechnya, but there is no record of Yatsenyuk’s participation in combat.
There are photos of Yatsenyuk circulating on social media in a paratrooper’s helmet with an RPG, but the context or authenticity of the photos are not clear.
We have cut out Yatsenyuk’s face, flipped it, resized it and placed it next to the (potentially fake) picture of him in a helmet:
There are significant similarities between the two pictures:
– Look at the curvature of his lip
– Look at the shadow of his facial stubble
– His glasses appear to be the exact same pair — the angles are the same, but also note the slightly whiter part of the arm just to left of his left eye.
Applying some filtering it’s possible that these are the same picture. At the very least this picture which reportedly shows Yatsenyuk in Chechnya shows that Yatsenyuk owns the same pair of glasses and looks nearly exactly the same as he did nearly 20 years ago.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said when the photo and allegations first surfaced (translation by The Interpreter):
“I don’t believe he’s a warrior, he’s not capable of fighting. I don’t consider him a man. He’s a real nerd.”
Latynina points out that Malofeyev’s testimony — dated March 4, 2014 —
appeared before President Petro Poroshenko was on the scene, Maidan had
just triumphed and Yatsenyuk and Tyahnikbok were the de-facto leaders
of Ukraine; Muzychko was still alive. Vitali Klitschko wasn’t mentioned
in the plot likely because there is TV footage from events such as the
Olympics in Atlanta that would prove he was boxing in the 1990s and not in
Latynina speculates that President Vladimir Putin
himself could have been the target of the disinformation about the
Ukrainians fighting in Chechnya; right at that time he was making a
decision about annexing the Crimea and launching the war “for
Novorossiya, which was threatened by genocide by Ukrainian fascists.”
Bastrykin makes up files — such as those on Savchenko which have been
refuted at trial by her attorneys — on his own to please Putin or
whether Putin or his aides direct Bastrykin to fabricate the cases, the
result is the same: a parade of show trials in recent months involving
Ukrainians which also include Oleg Sentsov, a film-maker best known for
his movie “Gamer” sentenced to 20 years on charges of plotting terrorism
and his co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller