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OpinionTrumped up case of "Ukrainian saboteurs" in Crimea

December 9 marks exactly one month since the arrest in Crimea of the so-called “Ukrainian saboteurs” in the occupied Crimea. This is the second batch of nearly a dozen people detained in the case into the alleged plot to carry out terrorist attacks on the peninsula. One of these people is the former contributing author of UNIAN news agency Dmytro Shtyblikov (he quit writing for the agency back in the days of the Maidan).

One of my colleagues has branded Putin's regime "Stalin-lite". And the offspring, its noticeable product have become criminal cases. Cases against journalists, cases against the Crimean Tatars, and now the case against "Ukrainian saboteurs."

The Crimean Human Rights Group says that in the latter case, all human rights are violated. The right to protection: a lawyer is not appointed or they are assigned by a state, and then they are forced to sign a nondisclosure deal; or the penitentiary authorities simply hide suspects from the lawyers hired by their families. We know nothing of the fate of the Putin’s Crimean hostages. We can only assume that they are being "influenced", so that the upcoming hearings pass without a hitch, according to the FSB scenario.

The case of "Ukrainian saboteurs" allows Russia to once again come close to the lows of inhumanity and injustice

When the first "saboteur", Yevgeny Panov, captured in August, spoke up about torture, he was transferred to Moscow’s Lefortovo pre-trial detention facility, which further complicated access of his relatives.

The case of "Ukrainian saboteurs" allows Russia to once again come close to the lows of inhumanity and injustice.

How is this investigation being going? Who gets into the circle of the accused? It looks like the Russian NKVD descendants are looking for at least someone who would fit the criteria of a "saboteur" by simply sifting through personal files of former Ukrainian military. A "Shtyblikov Group" is formed this way: say, there is a retired military driver - OK, bring him in! There is a retired military sapper - OK, grab him, too! There is a retired military analyst who used to serve in the intelligence - OK, will need him, as well. And from this entourage the FSB is molding a plot for its stories. About the alleged surveillance (here they will need a military analyst), about the alleged plot to carry out terrorist acts (here they will use the sapper and the driver), and a couple of former military servicemen are also put into this "gang" story (of course, it’s the analyst who gave them cash –“as he’s the smartest one”).

And the authors of these stories couldn’t care less that Volodymyr Dudka, the sapper, was raising his grandson, wishing one day to buy an apartment for him in Crimea, and he would never try to harm this "infrastructure", because it’s where his grandson lives and will live. The authors don’t care that military analyst Dmytro Shtyblikov has his own "female platoon": his mother, wife, and daughter, who for Dmytro are more precious than any commanders. Just as no one cares that both men had accepted the fact of the occupation, worked at defense industry in the already-annexed Crimea after being tested  and verified by the FSB.

Nevertheless, the Russian TV channels spin incriminating videos where “the saboteurs” are asked unambiguous questions: "How long have you served in intelligence? What kind of tasks of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine have you performed?" How could they ever resist if their children are at stake?...

When,following Dmytro’s arrest, I began writing desperate posts on Facebook (it was I who worked with him when he was the author and I was a journalist at UNIAN), his friends and colleagues started writing me. Then came his video confession, where he talked about his alleged work for the Ukrainian military intel after the annexation. Some of his friends analyzed the video showing the lack of logic and traces the impact of psychotropic substances, someone told me about his student years, and someone sent words of support. Viktor Ponomarenko called me. He used to be head of Military Intelligence Brigade in Perevalne, where Dmytro was under his command at the time.

"I met Dmytro in 1992, when Ukrainian military units started to be formed in Crimea. So, three lieutenants from Kyiv Military College came to me, Dmytro one of them. I served in Crimea, at first I was the commander of the reconnaissance company, and Dmytro was a platoon commander. And then I became the Head of the Intelligence Brigade in Perevalne, and he became the commander of the reconnaissance company,” Viktor Ponomarenko told me. “I don’t know how I can help, only tell you about him. He was a great leader and a great lad. They lived in the territory of the military town. The sights in Crimea are beautiful, but it’s difficult to serve there - try to do drills in that heat! But Dmytro was tough as the others. He was very athletic before being wounded. Until now, I’ve been cursing myself that I was not present at the shooting range that day… A firing accident happened, and he was wounded. I was seconded by the commanders and I missed those exercises. I still can’t forgive miself. Well, as for Dmytro, he accepted the [Ukrainian] independence because he lived in Crimea, where he had returned from Kyiv. You see, there were people who swore allegiance to Ukraine from the bottom of their heart, and there were those who chose to just stay there and serve the country. Dmytro was from the later group. He did not have such a keen sense of national identity, but he pledged allegiance and served faithfully. Any officer can do a lot for the formation of a soldier. People listened to him not because of his status, his will power or pressure, but because they respected him. Among my colleagues, there were different people. There were those whom I consider enemies. Dmytro chose not to fight for Ukraine, but he never became a traitor. If Dmytro can read these lines, I want him to know. I don’t blame him a bit for that confession video. Moreover, I admit that,when Dmytro was testifying that had "worked" under my command, all of that was pulled from him. And this means nothing. I'm safe. I understand what a difficult situation he found himself in. You cannot fight when your close relatives are around. He is a victim. He is a hostage of this situation. But he is never a traitor of Ukraine, and he is not an enemy of Russia."

The Ukrainian society is learning many things. Ukrainian government is learning to be combat-capable and learning to fight

It is difficult to draw conclusions in the case of Crimean saboteurs. And it is frightening to make predictions. It so happened that I talked about Dmytro with some retired intelligence officers. Talking about him, now and then we jumped onto a bigger topic of Crimea. Why did the annexation happen? ... It looked as though they wanted to speak up.

We (the elite) were not engaged in Crimea issue.

We (the elite) were not engaged in the issue of the army.

And the response of these experienced people to a question I never asked on why Dmytro chose not to flee Crimea in 2014 was the same: the people born there had nowhere to go.

The Ukrainian society is learning many things. Ukrainian government is learning to be combat-capable and learning to fight.

But, the most important of all things is to remain humane to our citizens. It’s for everyone who has a Ukrainian passport, who once pledged allegiance to the people of Ukraine, to know that thy will never be abandoned by their country. If the Crimean prisoners will not be the state’s concern, if we just swallow this massive repression, reducing our response to some occasional statements on individual cases, we will have less people ready to fight for our country.

One more thing. Those who believe that it is possible to live in a modern Russia or in the territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation and feel safe, provided that you are not "against Putin", you should know that you are wrong.

Lana Samohvalova for UNIAN

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