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Crimean Court Jails Maidan Activist

Jailed Maidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko
Jailed Maidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko

SIMFEROPOL -- A court in the Crimean capital has sentenced a Maidan activist to four years and two months in jail over an attack on a security troop 15 months ago, at the height of the unrest that ultimately unseated Ukraine's president.

The Kyiv District Court in Simferopol on May 15 found local resident Oleksandr Kostenko guilty of attacking a Ukrainian security officer in Kyiv in February 2014 during protests in the Ukrainian capital against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Crimea was forcibly occupied and annexed a month later by Russia, which characterizes the Maidan outbreak and Yanukovych's ouster as a Western-backed "coup."

This latest conviction, by a Russian court on a peninsula that Russia now regards as its own, comes against a backdrop of retaliation against Moscow's critics since its seizure of Crimea and its fueling of anti-Kyiv separatism in eastern Ukraine.

Kostenko was also found guilty of illegally obtaining, keeping, and carrying parts of a firearm.

During hearings that lasted a month, a witness whose identity was not disclosed testified that Kostenko led a group that "tortured Ukrainian law-enforcement officials" in a raid on the Kyiv City Administration building during the pro-European protests.

Kostenko rejected the testimony and charges and pleaded not guilty.

His lawyer, Viktor Sotnikov, has called the prosecution politically motivated.

He asked the court to postpone the verdict and sentencing, citing his client's poor health.

But that request was rejected, after which Kostenko's lawyer and relatives left the courtroom to protest the trial.

Sotnikov later told journalists that his client will appeal the conviction.

"We will refer to the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea. I will also file complaints against the investigative committee personnel, who refused to launch investigations into Kostenko's claims that he was tortured while in custody," Sotnikov said.

Kostenko was arrested in Crimea on February 8 and charged with intentionally inflicting bodily harm on a security officer.

A majority of UN member nations consider Russia's annexation of Crimea illegal.

With reporting by Interfax and RIA