Kolmohorov case: Dangers of messy performance by prosecutors, judges

22:30, 08 November 2017
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Opinion

On Monday, the High Specialized Court of Ukraine released from custody a Ukrainian border guard Serhiy Kolmohorov, whom Mariupol judges sentenced to an incredibly severe sentence - 13 years in prison (for opening fire on a vehicle, whose driver ignored orders to stop. In the shooting, the passenger was killed.

However, generally speaking, the High Court took an ambiguous decision.

On the one hand, it returned the case for a review to the Mariupol court, the one which had initially sentenced the man. On the other hand, it refused to recognize Kolmohorov’s innocence. So it's very, very early to talk about the triumph of justice.

Most likely, the border guard, who honestly performed his duties and came to the defense of his Homeland at the peak of confrontation with Russia, was definitely facing a term, if not for the public outcry and indignation in social networks. After all, high-ranking and highly paid staff of the military prosecutor's office even after the High Court handed down its ruling, did not apologize to the people for their mistakes that led to the aforesaid sentence.

On the contrary, they were brazen enough to assert that the High Court, under the pressure of the public and people's deputies, had issued an illegitimate verdict.

Most likely, the border guard, who honestly performed his duties and came to the defense of his Homeland at the peak of confrontation with Russia, was definitely facing a term, if not for the public outcry and indignation in social networks

At the same time, the prosecutors hinted at the idea that no one will actually be reviewing the case thoroughly. After all, they claim that the guilt of the border guard has fully been proved - there is an expert conclusion that the victim’s mortal wound indicates the location from which only Kolmohorov could be shooting. Quite a doubtful proof of guilt, indeed, especially given that the bullet was never found, and the car was fired upon by more than one operative. That’s the primary notion.

Secondly, it is difficult to clearly determine whose bullet has become a deadly one for the passenger, as the car was moving at a high speed through a hilly terrain.

No less amusing in the context of the evidence of Kolmohorov's guilt is the fact that Colonel of the State Border Guard Service Oleksandr Didyk, as he claims, that night personally arrived at the site and conducted an official investigation into the legitimacy of the use of weapons by his subordinates. An appropriate document was even drawn, which was sent to the prosecutor's office. But, imagine that, Didyk was never invited to testify...

Personally, I was not even concerned with the superfluous efforts by military prosecutors – it was their cynicism in the interpretation of the actions of the border guards that amused me. It turns out that Kolmohorov committed a premeditated murder on a completely "peaceful territory". Dear prosecutors, are you out of your mind? Was Mariupol a peaceful city back in 2014?

Wasn’t it the time when the country was going through and discussing the Ilovaisk tragedy, while the hordes of Russian troops seized Novoazovsk and advanced their forces to Mariupol? Wasn’t it the time when Mariupol residents heard countless explosions of bombs and shells day and night? The Ukrainian netizens, as far as I remember, were really worried that Mariupol was about to be seized, that the city was surrounded, expecting attacks from the sea, etc. In fact, at that time there was not a single day without the reports on KIAs and WIAs among border guards near the very "peaceful" city on the Azov Sea coast. Our coast guard boats were being fired at, our observation posts were being destroyed ...

It turns out that Kolmohorov committed a premeditated murder on a completely "peaceful territory". Dear prosecutors, are you out of your mind? Was Mariupol a peaceful city back in 2014?

Imagine the situation: while the war is escalating, a rapid response team is ordered to stop the vehicle, which, after a 20-minute parking and "blinking" toward the sea, did not stop at the first checkpoint in the night time and keeps moving at a high speed toward Mariupol. And no one knows, who is in that car, or whether these people are armed. Try walking in these border guards’ shoes. How would you respond? Would you shoot? Or would you not?

Of course, there are also questions to the owner of the car. How could you go to the sea coast amid constant shellings? The victim says they wanted to have some good time with his wife at their favorite spot. But it is rather strange that this not completely logical explanation found sympathy with Prosecutor General Lutsenko and military prosecutor Matios. At the same time, both do not quite understand why the border guards and, in particular, Kolmohorov, began to shoot on a moving car, whose driver ignored the demands to stop. In this situation, when top prosecutors fail to grasp such obvious things, what can we say about their subordinates?

The Kolmohorov case is by no means an ordinary matter, and it’s not only about Kolmohorov. This is a matter of national importance, concerning all of us.

Of course, ideally, it’s the court that must fix all blunders of the investigation. But does anyone have any illusions about the kind of judges we have, especially in the front-line Mariupol? Are those judges for Ukraine or against it, secretly sympathizing with the separatists? After all, it is possible that such a judge can be afraid for their relatives who live in the occupied territory ...

In this context, it is interesting to note that as soon as MP Iryna Friz urged the SBU chief to check the judges who passed such a severe sentence to Kolmohorov for their possible cooperation with the separatists, as well as to check all their decisions, starting from 2014, the judges immediately snapped - they rolled out a claim to the Supreme Council of Justice, saying that the independent branch of power was under pressure.

By the way, it is surprising that no one writes similar complaints about the fact that some courts are very humane to separatists and keep releasing them from custody. The latest egregious case is the amnesty granted to Mr Yudaev by the Kyiv district court of Kharkiv. The man had been sentenced to 8 years in prison for taking part in the seizure of the Kharkiv regional administration in 2014. Naturally, he was freed and fled immediately ...

The Kolmohorov case is by no means an ordinary matter, and it’s not only about Kolmohorov. This is a matter of national importance, concerning all of us

If the society, authorities, the entire law enforcement system and courts cannot protect the one who protects this state with arms in his hands, our independence and statehood are not worth a penny.

Mykola Babych

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