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Did Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Fight In Chechnya In 1990s?

Russian Prosecutor General's Office

Russian Prosecutor General's Office

"Indeed, some time ago the RF Prosecutor General's Office was assigned to send material to the National Central Bureau of Interpol by the Interior Ministry of Russia to declare Arseniy Yatsenyuk on the international wanted list [on murder charges in Chechnya].”

False evidence outside 'testimony' extracted under torture.

On March 27 of this year, the Essentuki City Court issued a warrant for Yatsenyuk's arrest in absentia on three counts of participation in an armed group and murder, claiming without evidence that Yatsenyuk had ostensibly fought in Chechnya against Russia in 1994-1995. This was the basis for the request to Interpol.

Ukrainian Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko wrote on his Facebook page April 28 that there was "no grounds for such statements or evidence whatsoever" and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry declared the Russian request "obviously absurd and deliberately unproven".

Back in 2015, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee had claimed in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta about Russian cases against a number of prominent Ukrainian figures that Yatsenyuk had fought alongside the Chechen insurgents in the war in Chechnya in 1994-1995 and had supposedly killed 30 Russian POWs with a machine gun and wounded 13 others.

Sputnik claimed that Yatsenyuk was a member of several "illegal gangs" at the time.

Yatsenyuk himself has denied the claims, saying he was at law school at Chernivtsi University in Ukraine at the time, and also working in a student law firm.

As Radio Svoboda reported, Yatsenyuk said in a Facebook post on March 27 that Russia had "reached a new low" in efforts to discredit disliked Ukrainian political figures, calling the charges "total and obsessive nonsense."

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported that the incongruous claims about Yatsenuk, which provoked a lot of hilarity and photo shop images on social media, were based on testimony obtained by torture from two Ukrainian citizens in Russian custody, Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh, themselves charged with fighting in the 1990s in Chechnya, which they deny.

Karpyuk was abducted and taken by force to Russia in March 2014, and Klykh was arrested after coming to Russia to visit a woman he met in Crimea. They were held incommunicado for over a year, denied lawyers of their choice, and said they gave testimony after being tortured with electric shock and psychotropic drugs, according to Amnesty International. They were ultimately sentenced to 22 and 20 years of prison, respectively. Amnesty International condemned the sentences as "grossly unfair."

No other information aside from these accounts extracted by torture has been supplied by the Russian judicial system regarding its claims concerning Yatsenyuk.

Russia has repeatedly misused Interpol's system of international alerts to try to settle scores with its political enemies. As the New York Times reported last year, Russia tried unsuccessfully to get Interpol to issue arrest orders against William Browder, an investor who has campaigned over the killing of his jailed Moscow lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.

While Russia only unilaterally files the requests to declare persons "wanted," it often misleadingly reports the action as a decision already made by Interpol to recognize a case. This has been done reportedly in the case of former Yukos owner and political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky; ultimately Interpol rejected Russia's request.

Interpol has not yet made a public response to Russia’s request regarding Yatsenyuk. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said April 29 that he had appealed to Interpol and they had evidently dismissed Russia’s claim.