‘I am guilty of loving Ukraine! ’

In the Russian Federation, a mother of two children from Melitopol was given 9 years in prison.
Iryna Skachko01 May 2024UA DE EN ES FR RU

Суд над Яніною Акуловою, Антоном Жуковським та Дмитром Сергєєвим. Фото: “Меморіал” Le procès de Yanina Akoulova, Anton Joukovski et Dmytro Sergueïev. Photo : « Memorial » Суд над Яниной Акуловой, Антоном Жуковским и Дмитрием Сергеевым. Фото: “Мемориал”

The trial of Yanina Akulova, Anton Zhukovskyi and Dmytro Serhieiev. Photo: “Memorial”

Three abducted civilians from Melitopol were convicted in Rostov-on-Don. Anton Zhukovskyi, Dmytro Serhieiev, and Yanina Akulova were accused of terrorism, organizing a terrorist group, and manufacturing and storing explosives and weapons.

The Memorial Society reported the verdict of the Southern District Military Court. Anton Zhukovskyi and Dmytro Serhieiev were sentenced to 15 years of strict regime, and Yanina Akulova to 9 years in a general regime colony. In addition, all three were also fined: the men must pay 800 thousand rubles, and the woman must pay 700 thousand. And this is for a crime in which there is not a single victim because no one committed it.

As stated in an article by the Center for Investigative Journalism, all three were kidnapped by the occupiers in Melitopol in October 2022. A few weeks later, at the end of November, a video spread across social networks in which they “confessed” that they were going to cause an explosion at a local market, and also allegedly, “on 18 September they blew up a car with citizens of the Russian Federation: Mykhailo Shchetynin and Serhii Horbunov” (both held positions in the occupation administration of Melitopol). However, subsequently, the “terrorist attack with a car” was never mentioned in the court case.

In the video released in November 2022, Yanina Akulova is wearing a medical mask. Journalists assume that the Russians did this to hide the signs of beatings on the woman’s face. Later, 23 November appeared in the criminal case as the day the Melitopol residents were detained. In fact, they had been in Russian torture chambers since 11 October without charges, without informing their families about the whereabouts of the detainees, without legal protection.

In an interview with Public, Yanina Akulova’s mother said that her daughter was beaten: “What they were told, they had to agree with. They all repeated in unison what they were told. Our daughter Yana said they beat her severely. And then... Well, what could be in captivity? They didn’t pat her on the shoulder there. She told me: ‘They beat me so much that it didn’t matter anymore. What they gave me, I signed.’ She said the wounds did not heal for two months, and then when everything had healed a little, they were sent to Moscow.”

As the investigation “established,” following a tip from “an unidentified employee of the Ukrainian special services” (call sign “Brother”), Anton Zhukovskyi and Dmytro Serhieiev found a cache of explosives. Then, they tried to deliver the components of the explosive device to the Riga market in Melitopol. They were traveling in Yanina Akulova’s car (she was driving). On the way, they were detained.

Zhukovskyi and Serhieiev admitted in court that they really intended to carry out an explosion, not during the day, but at night when the market was empty. Akulova, a mother of two children, did not know anything at all; she simply gave a ride to her friends who were unable to call a taxi.

“My client’s guilt was proven only by his confession, but the confession itself cannot be the basis for a sentence,” — Dmytro Serhieiev’s defense lawyer emphasized at the trial. The defendant himself did not admit his guilt. “I do not plead guilty to being a terrorist. If you had not come to my land with war, I would not have done what I did,” — he said.

“We are not terrorists. We are simply citizens who love our country... When the war came to us, we and our families, like millions of others, suffered from it, and when we were offered to help our state, we agreed to it without hesitation. Still, at the same time, we did not sign up for the murder, especially of civilians,” — Anton Zhukovskyi said at the trial. “As for Akulova, I want to emphasize once again that Serhieiev and I initially decided not to involve her in this and not to tell her about our plans. She could not have known about our affairs, and the fact that she ended up in the car with us that evening was an accident.”

“Russia separated me from my children; I’m here in Rostov, I’m sitting in a pre-trial detention center for no clear reason — because I gave the fellows a ride because I wrote to ‘Brother’ that we have no contact. Perhaps I am guilty because I love my state, Ukraine — if it’s my fault, let it be. The main thing is that I am a patriot at heart and will remain one for the rest of my life. I will not deny this, your honor, and I said it all,” — Yanina said in her last word.

Also this week, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced two more Ukrainian citizens. Residents of Berdiansk Volodymyr Kryvtsun and Vitalii Rastorhuiev were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in a maximum security colony for “preparation for an act of international terrorism.” They were allegedly going to blow up the official car of the city “mayor,” Oleksandr Saulenko, installed by the invaders. The Berdyansk residents were detained on 13 July 2022. Subsequently, a new date of detention appeared in court documents — 29 December 2022. The men were first kept in the building of the Berdyansk city police department and then taken to Crimea, to the notorious Simferopol pre-trial detention center No. 2. In September last year, both men were transported to Rostov.

More than eight thousand Ukrainians, both military and civilian, remain in Russian captivity. These are only those whose location has been confirmed. At the same time, tens of thousands of people, both civilians and prisoners of war, are missing in action.

The OSCE Mission has prepared a report on the results of its investigation into Russia’s illegal detention of Ukrainian civilians. “In the vast majority of cases of detention of civilians by the Russian Federation, they are clear cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which is a violation of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, as well as OSCE commitments,”— Ukrinform quotes one of the report’s authors, Veronika Belikova. Russia’s massive, widespread, and systematic practice of kidnapping civilians has been going on for ten years, involving thousands of people. In Russian captivity, prisoners are brutally tortured and kept in conditions that amount to torture.

Let us remind you that the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has created a hotline regarding missing persons. If you are a relative or know about prisoners of war, civilian prisoners, or missing civilians in occupied territory, call 0 800 20 24 02 (free).

We cannot guarantee that we will determine your loved one’s location. However, over the years of our work, our specialists have been able to detect more than 30% of the people reported to us.

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