Ukrainian woman sentenced to 12 years in Russian prison for singing Ukrainian anthem and launching balloons

Maryna LisnychukNews
Ukrainian woman sentenced to 12 years in Moscow prison for launching balloons. Source: Mediazona

A Russian military court has sentenced a 35-year-old Ukrainian woman, Khrystyna Lyubashenko, who was deceived into coming from Switzerland to Moscow to hold a "protest", to 12 years in prison for singing the Ukrainian anthem and launching balloons with a white, blue, and white "flag."

Initially, she was only charged with hooliganism, but later the charges were increased. The story was reported by the Russian online media outlet Mediazona, which is on the Kremlin's list of "foreign agents" and works in partnership with a human rights group to protect the rights of prisoners.

It is noted that after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Khrystyna and her family left Kyiv for Switzerland. She allegedly lacked money to live on, so she succumbed to the persuasion of a neighbor there named Vitaliy Yurchenko, who posed as a refugee from Ukraine, to go to Russia and hold a "peaceful action against the war" for a reward without specifying details. Later, threats and blackmail were added to the promises of money.

According to lawyer Lyudmila Posmitnaya, it was this man who bought the woman a one-way ticket and rented an apartment in Dolgoprudny near Moscow. The Ukrainian woman arrived there on May 5, 2023. After that, Yurchenko blackmailed her with children and forced her to follow his instructions. He also carefully controlled her movements (all their correspondence was included in the case file). Three days later, the woman was detained at the planned place of the "action", where offcers of the Center "E" were waiting for her.

Ukrainian woman sentenced to 12 years in Russian prison for singing Ukrainian anthem and launching balloons

According to the Russian investigation, on that day, the Ukrainian woman put speakers on the window of her rented apartment in Dolgoprudny and loudly played a "recording with an anti-war speech" and the Ukrainian anthem. The security forces stated that this was the dissemination of "fakes" about the Russian army (paragraphs "B" and "E" of Part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

"On the same day, Lyubashenko took a taxi to Vorobyovy Gory in Moscow and launched balloons into the sky with a white, blue and white flag tied to them. The investigation regarded this as "participation in a terrorist organization" (part 2 of Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code) .The white, blue and white flag is used by many Russian anti-war activists, but the security forces consider it the flag of the Freedom of Russia Legion, which is recognized as a "terrorist organization," the Russian publication said.

The Ukrainian woman's lawyer noted that the cloth, which the woman had sewn herself on the instructions of the blackmailer, was attached to the balls at one end, so it was difficult to see the stripes and recognize the flag. The court interrogated the Russian operative who detained Khrystyna. He stated that he had received information from his superiors in advance that "a certain person would organize a protest action" in Moscow, but at the same time claimed that she was spotted on Vorobyovy Gory by accident.

The only "evidence" of the woman's guilt was the interrogation protocols of May 10 last year with "grateful testimony" obtained illegally. After all, the interrogation took place in a detention center without a computer or printer, but the testimony was typed, not handwritten. In addition, the interests of the Ukrainian woman were represented by a lawyer from the Rostov region of the Russian Federation, Vasily Domoradsky, whom she or her family had not hired, "by agreement".

"The investigator came to Lyubashenko with pre-drafted interrogation protocols and a puppet lawyer. Without reading and delving into the text of the pre-drafted testimony, she signed these protocols, as both the investigator and the lawyer convinced her that nothing would happen to her, the case would soon be sent to court, she would receive a suspended sentence for hooliganism, and she would return to her home," the human rights activist said.

The Ukrainian citizen was held in a Russian detention center for more than a year, and the case itself took only two days. Thus, on June 18, 2024, the Second Western District Military Court of Moscow sentenced her to 12 years in prison, finding her guilty of spreading "fakes" and "participation in a terrorist organization". It is noteworthy that the Russian prosecutor demanded an even longer sentence of 15 years in prison, allegedly taking into account mitigating circumstances: she had no previous convictions, had young children, and a sick mother and grandfather.

"At every mention of her daughters and sick mother, the defendant's lips began to tremble in the courtroom," the journalists emphasized.

The Ukrainian woman's lawyer asked the court to close the case due to the lack of evidence of a crime. Initially, she was indeed charged with hooliganism, but later the charges were strengthened. Khrystyna Lyubashenko pleads not guilty, she spoke in Ukrainian in court and said. "I think it is clear to all of you how this case was made."

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