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Take action: Ukraine must free kidnapped political prisoner Andrei Sokolov!

June 15 marks two months since the disappearance of the famous Russian left activist and political prisoner Andrei Sokolov, who was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Ukraine immediately after his release from the courtroom.

Andrei Sokolov, who comes from a poor family, joined the Russian left movement in the 1990s. In 1997 the young communist, who worked as a baker, was arrested for the first time for destroying a plaque memorializing the Czar’s family. Andrei spent two years in prison, and after his release, he was arrested again in 2000 on suspicion of mining the reception office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow. The charges were unsubstantiated, but weapons were planted on Sokolov and he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison. When he regained his freedom, the communist began working as a turner [lathe operator], despite the fact that in prison Andrei’s eyesight had greatly weakened. For many years he was under pressure from the Russian authorities, who detained him several times under false pretenses.

In the fall of 2014, Andrei Sokolov went to the Donbass, where he spent only two weeks in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). On December 16, 2014, he accidentally drove into a checkpoint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU), where he was arrested and charged with “aiding a terrorist organization.” From then until April 2016, Sokolov was held in Ukrainian prisons. According to the Russian’s lawyer, Valery Avzhenko, the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict the prisoner, and all the “proof” of his guilt was obtained under duress, in violation of the norms and requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Despite this, Andrei Sokolov agreed to a deal with the prosecution, which promised to release him in exchange for a confession of guilt.

On April 15, 2016, the court in Berdyansk, Ukraine, handed down a sentence of 2 years and 7 months imprisonment to the communist. As the Russian political prisoner spent nearly a year and a half in jail, this period was calculated on the principle of “two days served” for every day he was jailed, as provided under Ukrainian legislation. Thus, Sokolov had already officially served his sentence and was released from custody. However, upon leaving the courthouse, he was seized by four unidentified men, who took him away in a car.

Two months have passed, but the fate of the Russian communist remains unknown. Numerous requests from Andrei’s mother and representatives of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation went unanswered. According to human-rights activists and lawyers, Sokolov could have been kidnapped by Ukrainian far-right forces or taken to one of the secret prisons operated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In early June, the United Nations said that the Ukrainian authorities did not permit international observers to visit these prisons. According to the UN report, the prisoners there are held without charge or trial. Relatives and lawyers are not allowed to visit, and “methods of physical and psychological pressure” are used – in other words, torture.

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