Ukrainian anti-fascist sentenced to prison in Russia

An appeals court in Moscow on Aug. 22 upheld the 13-year sentence imposed on Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, in what Amnesty International called "a grave miscarriage of justice." Butkevych had been convicted in a "sham trial" by a de facto court in the Russian-occupied "Luhansk People's Republic" in Ukraine, which Moscow has unilaterally declared annexed territory. A platoon leader in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Butkevych was taken captive in March and charged with war crimes. Amnesty dismisses the case as "a reprisal by Russia for his civic activism and his prominent human rights work." Before the invasion, Butkevych led a Ukrainian NGO helping refugees find asylum in the country, and had long been a frontline opponent of the militant right in both Ukraine and Russia.

Amnesty International found that Butkevych's conviction was based on coerced self-incrimination on video, and believes he may have been subject to torture. A Russian media campaign has since smeared Butkevych as a "Nazi" intent on killing civilians.

Butkevych's activist career began in the 1990s, when he helped launch the anarchist-oriented student union Direct Action. For years, he was a key organizer of the annual commemoration event in Kyiv for Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, two Russian anti-fascists murdered in Moscow in 2009. He later founded the No Borders Project, which provides legal assistance for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Following Butkevych's conviction, two other captured Ukrainian soldiers, Vladyslav Shel and Viktor Pokhozei, were also found guilty of war crimes charges—this time by a court in the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic." (Amnesty International, openDemocracy

Amnesty protests 'unlawful trials' of Ukrainian soldiers

Amnesty International reports that Russia has sentenced 33 Ukrainian soldiers in the Supreme Court of the Luhansk People's Republic for alleged "war crimes."

Russian authorities captured the soldiers as prisoners of war. Their sentences range from 27 to 29 years. They are charged with crimes including the use of artillery resulting in one civilian death, one injury and damage to 42 houses.

Amnesty denounced the sentencing, calling it unlawful. Anna Wright, a researcher at Amnesty, stated:

While there must be accountability for all human rights violations and war crimes committed by either side during the entirety of this conflict, prisoners of war cannot be prosecuted for merely taking part in hostilities. The war crime in this instance is by Russian authorities, who have not given prisoners of war fair and regular trials.

She added: "Russia must respect the rights of captured Ukrainian soldiers and end such sham trials." (Jurist)