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Jailed Activist's Supporters Target Ukrainian President's Office With Flares, Graffiti
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KYIV -- Police in Kyiv have launched a probe into protests by supporters of Serhiy Sternenko, the controversial former leader of a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group who was sentenced to seven years in prison on robbery and illegal weapons charges last month in a high-profile abduction case.

The Kyiv police department said on March 21 that the investigations were being launched into hooliganism and the damage done to the building of the president's office by Sternenko's supporters the previous day.

According to the police statement, one of the protesters, an individual born in 1995 whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested for possessing an illegal weapon.

On March 20, hundreds of Sternenko's supporters rallied in front of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office with torches and fire-crackers demanding the immediate release of Sternenko and several other pro-Ukrainian activists.

During the rallies, the walls of the building were painted with graffiti while firecrackers and flash grenades were thrown into the building’s windows.

The president's office estimated damages caused by the protesters to the late-19th century building at 2 million hryvnyas ($71,500).

A court in Kyiv on February 23 found Sternenko, who once led the Right Sector group in the city of Odesa, guilty of kidnapping, robbery and the possession of an illegal weapon in a case involving the abduction of a local lawmaker in 2015.

The court at the time ruled that, due to the statute of limitations, Sternenko could not be sentenced for kidnapping. It did, however, sentence him to seven years in prison on the other two charges.

Sternenko is also a suspect in another high-profile case that has been challenged by his supporters for years.

He is accused of premeditated murder and of possessing an illegal-bladed weapon in the killing of a man almost three years ago.

Serhiy Sternenko (file photo)
Serhiy Sternenko (file photo)

Sternenko claims he acted in self-defense while being attacked by two men late in the evening on May 26, 2018.

As he fought off the attackers, suffering numerous head injuries and a cut to his arm in the process, Sternenko injured one of the assailants who later died in hospital.

Investigators say that, after Sternenko defended himself using his knife, the attackers fled the scene. But Sternenko, whose life and health were no longer in danger, then reportedly chased one of them and stabbed him several times, inflicting wounds that led to the man's death, investigators say.

The attack was the third against Sternenko in three months.

Aleksei Navalny's attorney Vyacheslav Gimadi told reporters that the March 22 ruling will be appealed. (file photo)

A military court in Moscow has rejected a lawsuit filed by jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny against the Main Military Investigative Directorate (GVSU) over its refusal to launch an investigation into his poisoning in Siberia with a nerve agent last August.

Judge Andrei Tolkachenko of the 235th Garrison Military Court, ruled on March 22 that "the GVSU's decision" not to launch a probe into Navalny’s poisoning was "legal and well-grounded," and that Navalny's lawsuit was "not worth considering."

Navalny's attorney Vyacheslav Gimadi, who is representing him at the hearing, said the ruling will be appealed.

Earlier at the hearing, Judge Tolkachenko revealed that Siberian Transport Police had refused to launch a probe into Navalny’s poisoning due to the "absence of a criminal act," adding that the decision not to start an investigation was made on February 10.

Gimadi stated that neither Navalny nor his lawyers had been informed of that decision.

Navalny's complaint stems from August last year when he fell violently ill on a plane while traveling in Siberia. The aircraft made an emergency landing and Navalny was rushed to hospital where doctors worked to keep the Kremlin critic alive.

After several days in hospital and officials saying they had not found any evidence of poisoning, Navalny, in a critical condition, was flown from Siberia to Germany where he was diagnosed with ingesting what was confirmed by several European labs as a Novichok-type chemical nerve agent.

Navalny's lawyers filed a lawsuit against several officers of the Federal Security Service who were implicated by the Bellingcat investigative group in Navalny's poisoning.

However, the GVSU refused to launch a probe into the attack and Navalny's lawyers filed another lawsuit, this time against the investigative directorate’s inactivity in the case.

5 Things To Know About Russian Opposition Leader Aleksei Navalny
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The anti-corruption campaigner has accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering the poison attack, but Russian authorities have denied any involvement.

After receiving treatment in Germany, Navalny returned on January 17 to Moscow, where he was immediately arrested.

On February 2, a court in Moscow ruled that, while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an older embezzlement case that is widely considered politically motivated.

His suspended 3 1/2 year sentence was converted into jail time, though the court reduced that amount to just over 2 1/2 years for time already served in detention.

The court hearing began on March 16, but the judge immediately postponed it until March 22 after Navalny refused to take part in the hearing via a video link from a correctional facility in the Vladimir region where he is being held.

Navalny’s detention set off a wave of national protests and a crackdown against his supporters.

The European Union and the United State have imposed a series of sanctions against Russia over Navalny's poisoning and subsequent detention.

With reporting by TASS, Meduza, and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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