Monitoring the case of Sergeyev and others (Sessions on January 28, 2020 and February 3, 2020)

On January 28, 2020, a session was held in the Kommunarsky District Court of Zaporozhye on the case of drivers from Makeevka Sergey Sergeyev and Andrey Gorban, as well as three employees of the Zaporizhzhya Social Security Administration – Victoria Voloshina, Anna Khokhotva and Yulia Semenyuk, accused of committing crimes under Part 1 of Article 255 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (creation of a criminal organization), Part 5 of Article 191 (misappropriation, embezzlement of property on an especially large scale or the seizure of it by abuse of official position by prior conspiracy by an organized group of persons), Part 2, 4 of Article 28 (commission of a crime by an organized group or criminal organization by prior conspiracy), Part 1 of Article 366 (official forgery), Part 1 of Article 258-3 (other assistance to the creation or activities of a terrorist group or terrorist organization), Part 2, 3 of Article 258-5 (financing of terrorism repeatedly or from selfish motives, or by prior conspiracy by a group of persons, or on an especially large scale).

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) monitor these lawsuits.

According to the defense, these accusations (which may lead to up to 15 years in prison) of the defendants are for the fact that the drivers arranged for the transportation of pensioners from uncontrolled part of the Eastern Ukraine to receive pensions, and the social service employees applied for these pensions. According to lawyers, such cases are being opened with the aim of reducing social payments to Ukrainian citizens living in uncontrolled territories. Criminal proceedings last more than two years.

The victim in the case is the Pension Fund, a representative of which was present and was questioned at this hearing. Among other things, he indicated that the amount of the claim was not considered by the Pension Fund – it was indicated to them by the Secret Service (SBU). During the interrogation of witnesses, no one testified against the accused. At the moment, all the materials of the case have been studied and all witnesses have been interrogated, it remains to investigate the latest material evidence – the buses belonging to drivers, which have been parked at the SBU compound for 3 years now. The prosecutor ignored two decisions of the court on the delivery of vehicles to the court.

The court considered the question of the technical feasibility of delivering vehicles to the court, since the letter of the colonel of the SBU indicated that there was no technical feasibility of delivering the vehicles to court and asked them to be examined on the territory of the SBU. Attorney Shostak A. in her objections noted that no documents confirming a technical malfunction were included in the SBU letter – expert examinations or any other. The SBU is responsible for the safety of the material evidence, but it is the prosecutor who must comply with the court order, that is, ensure that everyone attends the retreat that he is applying for. And for failure to comply with a court decision criminal liability is provided in accordance with Article 382 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The court noted that the prosecutor ignored twice and did not comply with the court decision on the obligation to ensure the delivery of physical evidence (two vehicles).

In addition, the lawyer Zelinskaya O. clearly listed examples of material evidence, for the study of which the court appoints a retreat, such as a building, a ship, military equipment at a military base, specifying that vehicles are not included in this list.

After a discussion in the deliberation room, the court decided for the third time to deliver the vehicles to a hearing.

During the interrogation of the accused, the deputy head of the social protection department – the head of the labor department A. Khothotova explained that she was accused of putting signatures on certificates to people who were not registered in the territory controlled by Ukraine and that the money went to terrorists. However, during the indicated period, she was on vacation (from June 1, 2016 to June 20, 2016) and noted that all the originals of the certificates were from people who are now in Donetsk and it is not known who is the signer of these certificates. She also noted that she was accused of illegally putting the stamp “indefinitely” on the certificates of immigrants, but from 08.06.2016, in accordance with new legislation, all certificates of internally displaced persons automatically became unlimited. She answered the questions of the prosecutor that she saw the drivers accused of this lawsuit and they helped internally displaced persons, it was easier to work with them, as volunteers helped turn the crowd into an organized queue. They never applied for signatures of any certificates, and their names were recognized only in this lawsuit. To the questions of the lawyer O. Zelinskaya, does the immigrant certificate give the right to receive a pension right away, she noted that it is necessary to go to a pension fund first. It is impossible to receive a pension automatically by reference, and that it must issue a certificate, even if the person did not present a document on the actual place of residence in Zaporozhye. The place of residence is indicated according to the person and is sufficient. The accused also noted that for some of the people indicated in the lawsuit, pensions are paid after the lawsuit has been filed, and even after the detention of Sergeyev and Gorban. And one woman received it six months ago.

At the hearing on February 3, 2020, the accused Yulia Semenyuk was questioned, who confirmed that she did not plead guilty in full and the court again raised the issue of the delivery of material evidence by the prosecution. The lawyers of the accused said that if the prosecutor does not provide the delivery of material evidence of the two vehicles as an obligation to fulfill the court decision, they will have to contact the state bureau of investigations with the aim of initiating a criminal case due to the prosecutor’s unwillingness to comply with the court decision.

The next hearing is scheduled for February 17, 2020.