Memorial Human Rights Centre: Vladimir Domnin, a Russian citizen charged with fighting in the Donbass on the side of Ukraine, is a political prisoner

13 March 2020

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

We believe Domnin was in the zone of military conflict for a short time, did not take a direct part in the conflict and presents no danger to the public.

A Moscow resident of nationalist views, Vladimir Domnin has been charged with having taken part in the activity of an extremist organisation (Article 282.2, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code), undergoing training to take part in an unlawful armed group (Article 205.3) and also possession of weapons and ammunition (Article 222, Section 1). The charges laid against him allege Domnin joined the ranks of Right Sector, an organisation banned in Russia, underwent military training and thereafter took part in the activity of this organisation’s military structures in an area where an anti-terrorist operation was being conducted in the east of Ukraine. He has also been charged with possession of a pistol.

The political motivation for Domnin’s prosecution, in our view, relates directly to the official Russian position on the military conflict in the east of Ukraine. On the one hand, Moscow publicly denies its participation in the conflict. On the other, the Russian authorities have clearly taken an anti-Ukrainian stance. This is evident not only from statements by Russian officials and the anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the media, but in the provision of support to the separatist groups in the east of Ukraine and in the political prosecutions of Ukrainian citizens (Aleksandr ShumkovAndrei KolomietsAleksandr Marchenko and others) and Russian citizens who do not agree with government policy (the cases of Denis BakholdinDarya PoliudovaAndrei Bubeyev and others.)

Vladimir Domnin has admitted possession of a pistol. At the same time, there is no evidence to indicate that Domnin used the weapon or intended to use it for criminal ends. We therefore consider this charge should not prevent recognition of Domnin as a political prisoner in relation to the other charges.

In relation to the other charges, we believe Domnin’s guilt has not been proven. Indeed, three of the incidents that form part of the criminal case concern one and the same action. This is a flagrant violation of the basic legal principle according to which ‘no one can be held criminally responsible twice for one and the same offence’ (Article 6, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).

Domnin’s actions present no danger to the public since they happened on the territory of Ukraine and do not touch upon the interests of Russia. The defendant presents no danger for society after his return to the Russian Federation and did not plan acts of terrorism or other criminal actions. On the territory of Ukraine, Domnin did not take direct part in military action. According to the investigators, Domnin, while in the village of Marinka in Donetsk region, ‘repeatedly took the side of the guards…took part in the building of fortifications, engaged in activities related to parks and economic life…providing food and water supplies, and the provision of food for participants in the conflict.’

The charges against Domnin for involvement in Right Sector have no basis are unlawful since Right Sector was designated in Russia as extremist on the basis of extremely weak arguments and with the very serious violations of basic legal procedures.

Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Vladimir Domnin a political prisoner.

We urge that his prosecution under Article 205.3, Article 208 (Section 2), and Article 282.2 (Section 2) of the Russian Criminal Code be dropped, and also that a thorough and professional investigation with regard to the charge under Article 222 (Section 1) be conducted. We demand that reports of the use of violence against Domnin at the time of his detention, and of violations of his rights while in detention, be investigated.

You can read more about the case of Vladimir Domnin here.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

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Reprinted by kind permission of Memorial Human Rights Centre

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