Freedom for Maksym Butkevych!
Russian conviction amounts to a disguised death sentence
European Network of Solidarity with Ukraine
On Friday 10 March, Russian media reported that three Ukrainian prisoners of war, including Maksym Butkevych, were "convicted" of war crimes by the "supreme courts" of the Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" of the Russian Federation and sentenced to 13 years for Maksym, 18.5 years for Vladislav Chel and 8.5 years for Viktor Prokhozei. These "convictions" heralded others.
Maksym Butkevych is a very famous prisoner, known in Ukraine but also internationally for years, as a defender of migrants - he had collaborated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - as a defender of human rights, as an anti-fascist. He coordinated the European campaign in defence of the Crimean prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Alexandr Koltchenko, who will be released from Russian prisons in 2019. He is a long-time student and civil society activist in Ukraine, advocating libertarian ideas for a world without domination and oppression. He is also a well-known journalist: he founded Hromadske Radio, collaborated with BBC World Service and several Ukrainian channels. A convinced anti-militarist, he had nevertheless decided to join the Ukrainian army for the defence of the people and civilians, in March 2022, and had taken part in the liberation of Boutcha.
A disguised death sentence
Imprisoned since June 2022, Russian propaganda portrayed him as a "Nazi" and a "fascist", slanders aimed at preparing the "Moscow trial" in Luhansk held on 10 March 2023. He was accused of firing a rocket launcher at civilians in Severodonetsk on 4 June 2022. According to 12 Ukrainian and Belarusian human rights organisations, Hromadske Radio and the human rights centre Zmina, his unit was never deployed in Severodonetsk.
This infamous accusation is designed to make a human rights defender known in both Ukraine and Russia look like a "Nazi". As Amnesty International points out, the real violation of the "law of war" is the lack of any fair trial for prisoners of war. And the sentence of 13 years in the cellars of the Luhansk regime, if applied to Maksym and his fellow prisoners, amounts to a disguised death sentence.
The French Committee of theEuropean Network of Solidarity with Ukraine (ENSU) had already launched a campaign last autumn, during which many democratic, political, associative and trade union organisations, elected representatives and personalities had taken a stand to demand the release of Maksym Buktevitch. All these structures and personalities must make their voices heard again: it is urgent! The pressure of democratic public opinion is indispensable to save Maksym and the other prisoners condemned by the puppet courts or who are in the hands of the Russian army.
They can be saved. Their release must become a symbol of the cause of truth against the "triumphant lie that passes" (Jaurès), for truth and justice! Freedom for Maksym Butkevych and other prisoners of the Russian army!