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Ukrainian Jailed On Sabotage Charges In Russia-Controlled Crimea


Ukrainian Andriy Zakhtey

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The top Russian court in Ukraine's Moscow-controlled Crimea region has sentenced Ukrainian national Andriy Zakhtey to 6 1/2 years in prison on sabotage charges that Kyiv contends are unfounded.

The tribunal, which Russia calls the Supreme Court of Crimea, issued the sentence after convicting Zakhtey of plotting sabotage, illegal weapons carrying, illegal purchase of state awards, and documents forgery.

In addition to the prison sentence, the court fined Zakhtey 220,000 rubles ($3,900).

Russian authorities arrested Zakhtey and another Ukrainian national, Yevhen Panov, in August and charged them with being a "saboteur group" that planned a series of terrorist attacks on the peninsula.

Zakhtey pleaded guilty in an agreement with investigators that stipulated that he would not be represented by a lawyer. Details of the deal were unclear, but it may have enabled him to avoid a longer prison sentence.

Panov is expected to be tried separately.

Kyiv has rejected Russian charges against the two men and has called their arrests "a provocation."

Russia has prosecuted and imprisoned several Ukrainians on what rights activists say are trumped up, politically motivated charges since Moscow seized control of the Crimea region in March 2014.

In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

The list included filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian prison after being convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in a trial supporters called absurd, and reporter Roman Sushchenko, held in Moscow on suspicion of espionage.

The list, which the parliament statement said was not complete, also included several leaders of the Crimean Tatar minority, which rights groups say has faced abuse and discrimination since Russia's takeover.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's government moved swiftly to seize control over Crimea after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power in Kyiv by the pro-European Maidan protest movement.

Russia sent troops without insignia to the Black Sea peninsula, orchestrated a takeover of government buildings, and staged a referendum that was widely considered illegitimate by the international community.

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