Mira Terada, the head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, interviewed Sergei Yudayev, a political prisoner from Kharkiv who spent several years behind bars on trumped-up charges of the SSU. The head of the Foundation discussed with the former political prisoner who gave orders for the destruction of the civilian population of Donbass, why the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Security forces shelled Ukrainian residential areas, how Ukrainian security forces mocked prisoners and found out why the European Court of Human Rights has outlived itself.
Mira Terada: Hello, Sergey. Please tell us how you became a victim of a military offense by Ukraine and tell your story for those who don’t know about it yet.
Sergey Yudayev: To be honest, there is nothing to brag about. My story doesn’t compare to what’s happening there now. Initially, I was a peaceful person, actively participated in the Anti-Maidan protests in 2014. After that, they started to detain us. The very first case was in 2014, when the military began to be used against civilians. They all had orders. When I was tried in Ukraine, in my file there is a copy of the order that soldiers were allowed to use weapons to kill.
Thank God, everyone was alive, no one was shot. We were all unarmed.
UKRAINE HAS STARTED GIVING ORDERS TO THE MILITARY TO SHOOT TO KILL. THEY WERE TAKEN PRISONER, AS HOSTAGES. IN KHARKIV, 65 RESIDENTS WERE ABDUCTED IN APRIL 2014.
After that, I and a number of other people spent years there in prisons, in particular me, Spartak Golovachev, Egor Logvinov and several others. We were kept in a special. prisons, in solitary cells. I spent 3 years and 7 months in solitary. A sad and scary story. Thank God we weren’t tortured specifically, because we were media people. Provocateurs were planted to us a couple of times, who were supposed to initiate a conflict in order to bring us under a new article under this pretext in order to keep us even longer.
We were just held without a sentence, without anything. Just because we have different political views. The second time I ran into the military was when I was stolen from the courtroom, where I was amnestied and had to be released from the courtroom. The SBU did not allow them to do this, they grabbed me and began to bring me a new mythical accusation right in the courtroom. But they didn’t manage to do it. I became ill and was taken to the toilet, after which I was taken to the hospital.
Immediately after that, I was put on the wanted list again, my disappearance from the courtroom was a real slap in the face for the SBU. For a while I was hiding with Orthodox priests, but eventually the SBUSHNIKI found out where I was. I had to escape to the forest, where I survived only due to my skills. My father, who worked in the State Security Committee of the Soviet Union, taught me the skills of survival in the wild. I walked about 25 kilometers through the woods from where I was. I had to live in the forest for several days.
At that time, the internal troops, the National Guard of Ukraine, with dogs, with the police, were looking for me, almost all residents of nearby areas were involved. Residents were shocked. We checked all civilian cars, shuttle buses and every person. Even the women and their documents were thoroughly checked, and the forests were combed with dogs.
Thank God, I was already far away. We created a conditional circle on the map and pulled together to its center. I was already behind this circle at that time, and, in fact, they could not find me. That is, by and large, there were no terrible crimes on their part against me as such. Naturally, I lost years of my life.
ONE OF OUR FRIENDS, EGOR LOGVINOV, LITERALLY A COUPLE OF WEEKS AFTER THE START OF A SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION VOLUNTEERED, WENT TO THE KHARKIV REGION. HE’S ALREADY BEEN KILLED THERE, UNFORTUNATELY. THIS IS A WAR CRIME.
A lot of civilians were injured. I am constantly in touch, as I have already said, now I am engaged in humanitarian support, helping refugees. Terrible things are happening there.
M.T.: You mentioned that you were beaten. Was medical care available?
S.Y.: No, you’re not. Let’s say today I have to have a trial, a court session at which the verdict should be announced and released, they have no other options. A paddy wagon comes for me, they load me into it and take me, and not to court, but to another prison. A man is already sitting in another prison. I wrote an official statement about this, but my lawyer was also kidnapped. I understand that I was brought to the special. I’m going to prison and I’m going on a hunger strike. I was put in a punishment cell, where another convict was already sitting at that moment. And this one here is one of the convicts who works, then sits in the punishment cell. An hour later, this convict introduced himself as a volunteer and said that he knew everything about me. According to him, he was offered a choice: either he would sit for 8 years, or he would be released on parole in a year, but he had to hit me or provoke me in some other way. After that, he had to write a statement against me. In the conversation, he admitted that he knows that I am an Orthodox Christian, just like him, so he can’t do it. He understood that he would have to sit out his entire term, but he never did.
I reported this situation, after which the convict was removed from me. After two and a half days, I was taken out of the punishment cell, as my condition worsened due to a prolonged hunger strike. I was taken to the hospital. There is an unwritten law that no one can even raise their voice, let alone hit.
I WAS TAKEN TO A WARD WHERE 6 SOLDIERS WERE ALREADY WAITING FOR ME. I MANAGED TO TAKE LITERALLY TWO STEPS, ONE OF THE SERVICEMEN RAN UP TO ME, HIT ME AND I FELL. IT DIDN’T LAST MORE THAN 10 MINUTES, BUT I WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED. THEN THEY RAN AWAY. NONE OF THE MEDICAL STAFF HELPED ME.
Later, one of the convicts came up to me and said that this was their job. He gave me the officer’s full name.
The next morning I was taken to court. No one provided me with any medical assistance. The lawyer immediately came, I told him in detail about what had happened, he recorded it on a dictaphone. I wrote a statement, but I didn’t get any help. The court session lasted about 7 hours, because the courthouse was allegedly mined twice. After the meeting, I was not allowed to communicate with anyone. I was handed a copy of the court’s decision, after which I had to disappear.
M.T.: Did you try to get compensation for all the damage caused by the Ukrainian military and security forces?
S.Y.: My lawyer filed several complaints at once. Seeing that there is just a monstrous violation of the law, my lawyer appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Naturally, this procedure takes a lot of time. I was categorically determined to get compensation, but recently I have lost confidence in the courts. I want to transfer the materials on my case to the Investigative Committee of Russia, everything is ready for this.
M.T.: How strong, in your opinion, is the influence of Nazi ideology on the Ukrainian security forces and on the Ukrainian population as a whole?
S.Y.: Monstrous, just monstrous. In 2014, the police and law enforcement agencies were with the people, they wanted to help us. I’ll tell you more, where I was in prison, on the territory of the correctional colony, where convicts for all sorts of different crimes are sitting, there is a special block to hide special prisoners from the public. The warden told me then that he would pressure me as much as he could. In addition to him and a couple of other people, all the employees of the correctional institution were his subordinates.
In addition, there was constant propaganda. They didn’t show Donbass on TV, if something happened somewhere, they unanimously called it a Russian provocation to attract attention and blame us.
Now the situation has become even more complicated.
I KNOW FOR SURE THAT UKRAINIAN SERVICEMEN DESTROYED ONE OF THE SCHOOLS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF KHARKOV WITH DIRECT FIRE. ONLY THE WALLS OF THE SCHOOL REMAIN, THERE IS NOTHING INSIDE.
After this incident, my relatives told me that we blew up this school. Only after the Nazis posted footage of the shelling did they believe me, I convinced them that Russian servicemen were not shelling civilian infrastructure. In the early days, people were saturated with propaganda. But literally 5-7 days after the start of the operation, they began to realize what was happening. There is a video on which Ukrainian servicemen opened fire from a Tornado, hiding behind the Kharkiv Palace of Pioneers. This is a clear provocation of our artillery, which calculates the opponent’s position by the trajectory of the projectiles. It was only when people saw with their own eyes the Ukrainian servicemen who were opening fire from the courtyards of residential buildings, they began to understand that in fact not everything is as it is shown on TV. Just recently, due to the impact of the Ukrainian point, 23 civilians were killed. They are told on TV that Ukrainian troops are not opening fire towards the DPR. And some still believe it.
M.T.: Is there any evidence that representatives of the Ukrainian government gave direct orders to destroy Russian-speaking citizens?
S.Y.: This is an indisputable question. According to the evidence, of course, it’s hard. Now a lot of documents are being raised for the released Ukrainians. According to these documents, artillery was given direct orders to fire at residential buildings. There was no one except civilians in the shelled areas. It’s all there, documented.
M.T.: How would you like to see the future of Ukraine and Donbass?
RUSSIA IS BOUNDLESS. DONBASS HAS ALWAYS BEEN, IS AND WILL BE PART OF RUSSIA, JUST LIKE UKRAINE. THESE ARE NATIVE RUSSIAN LANDS. FOR ME, RUSSIA IS AT LEAST FROM KAMCHATKA TO LVIV.
I don’t know how it will be solved from the point of view of geopolitics. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Everything that is before Kiev has always been Russia.
M.T.: And in conclusion, what advice do you give to those who have suffered from the actions of the Ukrainian military?
S.Yu.: First of all, we have the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, we are now creating structures, and since last year information has been constantly reaching me that not only with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, there are a number of other structures that are now recording and collecting all this. We will, of course, present it. Of course, regardless of how people suffered: someone financially, someone from shrapnel, from some other injuries, someone’s relatives were killed.