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Russian Court Jails Ukrainian Hryb For Six Years; Father Laments 'Death Sentence'

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Ukrainian citizen Pavlo Hryb at his court hearing in Rostov-on-Don on March 22.

A Russian court has sentenced ailing 20-year-old Ukrainian Pavlo Hryb to six years in prison after convicting him of "promoting terrorism," a charge he contends was fabricated by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Pavlo Hryb's father, Ihor, condemned the March 22 verdict as a "death sentence for Pavlo...who needs an urgent medical operation in order to live."

"If there is no urgent action, we will see his death within a month," Ihor Hryb told Current Time, a Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

Ukraine denounced the March 22 verdict by the North Caucasus Regional Court, calling it "unlawful," and Hryb announced a hunger strike to protest the ruling as well as his treatment in jail and "everything that is happening."

Hryb said he had been "denied medical treatment" while in custody and that Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, had been prevented from visiting him.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded the "immediate reversal of the unlawful sentence" and called for Hryb's "release and unimpeded return to Ukraine." In a statement, it also urged Russian authorities to provide Hryb with medical treatment.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin blasted Russia as Ukraine's "invader" and an "aggressor state" that does not know the concepts of "mercy, humanity, and dignity."

"The Russian pseudo-judiciary has sentenced the seriously ill Pavlo Hryb to six years in prison," Klimkin tweeted. "I urge the civilized world to put pressure on the Russian Federation to ensure his speedy release."

'Bandits And Murderers'

On March 21, in his final statement at the trial in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Hryb asserted that the charge against him was fabricated by the Russian FSB and called its officers "bandits and murderers."

Hryb also wished "all the Ukrainian patriots" who are in Russian custody the strength to withstand their ordeals "decently, with truth and dignity," ending his statement by shouting "Glory to Ukraine!"

Hryb disappeared in August 2017 after he traveled to Belarus to meet a woman he met online.

Relatives believe he walked into a trap set by the FSB, which later told Ukraine that Hryb was being held in a detention center in Russia on suspicion of promoting terrorism.

Ihor Hryb said that his son was detained when he was returning from Belarus to Ukraine.

"When he was already walking with a ticket in his pocket to the railway station in order to leave [the Belarusian city of] Homel for Ukraine, he was seized by special service officers," he told Current Time.

"Either they were Belarusians, or it was the FSB. But in any case, it was done with the assistance of the Belarusian special services," he added.

Russian investigators accuse Hryb of using the Internet to try to convince a teenage girl in the Russian city of Sochi to set off a bomb at a high-school graduation ceremony.

Ihor Hryb has argued that Russia's case against his son was in retaliation for his Internet posts, which were openly critical of Moscow's interference in Ukraine.

In his statement at the trial, Hryb also said that "nobody would have thought" that Belarus might be "in fact, a dangerous country for Ukrainians," where Russia's secret services could abduct them.

Medical Condition

Hryb felt unwell during the hearing on March 21 and an ambulance was called to the courtroom.

His relatives and a doctor in Ukraine said earlier that he had a medical condition -- portal hypertension, a kind of high blood pressure.

Denisova said in January that Hryb's medical condition had worsened in Russian custody and that he needed a heart surgery.

The European Union has called on Moscow to release all Ukrainian citizens "illegally detained" both in Russia and in Ukraine's Russia-annexed Crimea.

The dozens of Ukrainians jailed or imprisoned in Russia for what Kyiv says are political reasons include film director Oleh Sentsov -- who opposed Russia's takeover of Crimea, is serving a 20-year sentence, and held a 145-day hunger strike in 2018 -- as well as 24 seamen seized by the Russian forces near the Kerch Strait in November.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, after sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.

Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

With reporting by Current Time, UNIAN, Dozhd, Hromadske, and Interfax
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