Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 29.04.2018
Journalist Roman Sushchenko (left, 49) and farmer Volodymyr Balukh (right, 47) are loyal Ukrainians who are captives of Russia, the country that is invading Europe in Crimea and Donbas. They are men of free will and unshakeable courage. Vladimir Putin hates and fears them.
Roman Sushchenko is a journalist who was abducted by agents of the Putin regime when he was visiting Moscow from Paris. He has been illegally detained for a year and seven months. The Putin regime hates and fears Sushchenko because he was investigating the corrupt practices of the Russian oligarchy in France. Following the Soviet practice, Russia invents bogus criminal offences and charges its political prisoners with those. Roman Sushchenko has been threatened with being charged with espionage, although he is in an endless pre-trial detention in the hope that he will ‘confess’ to an imaginary crime.
On April 24, the Putin regime stripped Roman Sushchenko’s lawyer, Mark Feygin, of his right to practice law by the Moscow Chamber of Defence Lawyers. Roman Sushchenko was immediately placed in a solitary cell by his abductors. With all of their Ukrainian captives, it is typical of the Russians to severely restrict or to deny altogether access to legal aid, consular assistance, medical care, and family visits. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine protested about Russia’s actions against the Ukrainian journalist and his lawyer. Spokesperson Mariana Betsa wrote on Twitter: “Have sent a note to the Russian Federation to change the circumstances of the detention of Sushchenko. The obvious psychological pressure, in particular, and given the change of counsel.”
Mark Feygin managed to out-manoeuvre the persecutors of Roman Sushchenko: he obtained status as a representative of the European Court of Human Rights and got to see his client as a public defender, defined as “another person” in Russian Federation law. Roman Sushchenko was returned to the normal prison population.
Volodymyr Balukh started a hunger strike on March 19. He is a Ukrainian farmer who is a captive of the Russian occupation regime in Crimea. The Russians ‘convicted’ him of a crime it is impossible for him to have committed, with planted evidence and no witnesses. The Putin regime hates and fears Balukh because he flew a Ukrainian flag over his house – a simple and honest assertion that Crimea is Ukraine.
As of April 29, Volodymyr Balukh has been on a hunger strike for 42 days against the stupidity and illegality of his incarceration. His efforts have gained international recognition, and kept the world’s attention on Russia’s unprovoked invasion and illegitimate occupation of Crimea. While in Toronto for the Group of Seven ministerial meeting on April 22, Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, discussed with his colleagues the cases of Ukrainians illegally detained by Russia, in particular Volodymyr Balukh’s one. As Minister Klimkin wrote on Twitter: “Criminal Kremlin regime is trying to break this man for his open pro-Ukrainian position on #Crimea.”
Roman Sushchenko and Volodymyr Balukh are loyal Ukrainians and men who will not break. Sushchenko will not confess to a crime he did not commit. Balukh will not submit to punishment by the Russian invader-occupiers of his homeland. Unfortunately, the hysteria of Putin when he is confronted by people with moral integrity and free will is boundless. The only thing that will help Roman Sushchenko and Volodymyr Balukh and the many other hostages of the Putin regime is international attention that never lapses and always shines a light on Russia’s gross abuses of human rights.