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Ukrainian Court Frees Former Far-Right Leader From Prison

Serhiy Sternenko
Serhiy Sternenko

A Ukrainian court on May 31 commuted the prison sentence of a controversial former leader of a far-right paramilitary group and set him free on probation.

Serhiy Sternenko, who once led the Right Sector group in the city of Odesa, was found guilty in February of kidnapping, robbery, and the possession of an illegal weapon in the case of the abduction of a local lawmaker in 2015.

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

After he was sentenced, hundreds of Sternenko's supporters violently protested in front of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office in Kyiv, demanding he be freed.

In the May 31 decision, an Odesa appeals court acquitted Sternenko of robbery and sentenced him to three years in prison for possession of an illegal weapon. But the prison time was dropped in favor of a one-year suspended sentence. The court upheld the kidnapping verdict.

Sternenko and his supporters say his legal troubles are politically motivated because he is a critic of top Ukrainian officials, particularly in Odesa.

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 possession of an illegal bladed weapon in the killing of a man almost three years ago.

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

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