On Monday, June 4, Ukrinform correspondent Roman Sushchenko was sentenced to 12 years in a high-security penal colony.
It should be noted that this strange case, which was heard behind closed doors due to "state secrets" announced therein, was uneven. It was either accelerated or slowed, which was apparently influenced by some unknown reasons of the Russian authorities. The same was seen in the final - a one-month pause between the last two court sessions. But then the time taken to prepare and write the sentence was only four working days.
We are trying to figure out the details of the final stage of the Sushchenko case with his public defender Mark Feygin.
Q: Could you tell some of the details of the June 4 session of the Moscow City Court?
A: It began with a slight delay – at about 15:40. First, they let in photographers who immediately started taking photos of Roman, and then other journalists entered. But there were still questions as to how it will be held further. Will the motivational part of the sentence be read out? If so, then it's likely that journalists would be asked to leave the courtroom. Or another option - reading out only the introductory and operative parts of the sentence. It all happened according to the second scenario. The motivational part was not read in the presence of journalists due to the fact that it contains "secret information."
Q: Please name the media that were present at the court session?
A: From what I noticed, it seems that there were all major Russian media, first of all propaganda ones. Foreign journalists also arrived - those from Deutsche Welle, Agence France-Presse, RTVI... But these are only those who could be identified by logos on professional equipment. I think there was still a certain number of writing journalists from abroad. Roman Tsymbalyuk was traditionally present. After the meeting, I gave a short interview to the UA:First team, which was also present. You know that I do not refuse to give comments to Ukrainian journalists, especially in a situation like this. It is also important that Ukrainian Consul Hennadiy Breskalenko was present at the session. I saw that he had time to talk with Roman personally, maybe not too long, briefly. I recall that Breskalenko will visit Sushchenko in the detention center on Tuesday (June 5). And I will probably be able to do it on Wednesday or Thursday.
Q: What will you do next in the Sushchenko case?
A: Well, we have not received the sentence yet. Therefore, I will file a "short complaint" on Tuesday. I will start writing the full text of a "big appeal" after the receipt of the verdict... In general, I want to reiterate that the time given for the writing of the sentence was unprecedentedly short (even taking into account the fact that the case is not very large - 12 volumes). If we do not count two days off, then it's actually only four full working days [the last session at which Sushchenko had the "last word" was on May 28]. I have no answers to the question why such a rush was shown now, at this stage. Well, I would like to believe that the motivational part of the sentence, which has not been announced, really exists, and that I will get it soon.
Q: A traditional question for such cases. Can it be appealed at the ECHR, and in what time?
A: I will remind you that for this it will be necessary to have the case considered in an appellate court in Russia. But this story in our case may be delayed for a long time. Summer has already begun. Experience shows that such stories are not considered during the summer period (moreover, I remind you that I do not have the full text of the sentence yet). Therefore, three months should not be taken into account, and it is probable that the passing of the second instance may be delayed for about half a year.
Q: How do you assess the sentence?
A: Again, a traditional warning is needed that the case is obviously politically motivated. If we consider exclusively the procedural side, then I would assess the declared prison term as a cautious compromise by the court, to be more precise, by the Russian authorities standing behind it. I will remind you that there could have been a 20-year prison term under this article [espionage]. The prosecution requested 14 years. The court gave 12 years. There is still hope that the verdict will be mitigated after an appeal to ten years - the lowest limit for this article. This is nevertheless a significant difference, as well as an indicator of work by the defense team and the arguments provided. But there are no acquittals in such politically motivated cases... On the other hand, everything needs to be done - and there is an opportunity for this - so that Sushchenko does not serve this prison term at all.
Q: What are the opportunities for this?
A: Good ones. Now the very fact of sentencing gives an opportunity to begin decisive talks on the exchange of Roman Sushchenko, to finalize them. For whom he is exchanged, in what format, and with which legal instruments are already additional questions. Kirill Vyshinsky is a possible option. Judging by how much he is mentioned in the Russian media, in principle, they are interested in his return... In general, the situation is such that we have an opportunity to further intensify international pressure on the Kremlin. I have already seen statements by Ukrainian officials about the verdict in the Sushchenko case, up to President Petro Poroshenko. This shows that Kyiv is ready for further negotiations, and it has something to say, something to offer.
Q: How could you predict further events?
A: I think that now, during the World Cup, there will be various multilateral consultations. Probably Roman will be visited by FSB operatives, who will put forward some proposals to him. After that, Hennadiy Breskalenko and I will come with consultations to Sushchenko. We will discuss everything in detail and agree on different issues so that the other side is not tempted to arrange some sort of a scam.
Oleg Kudrin, Riga
Photo by Olena Khudiakova, Roman Tsymbalyuk