Ukrainian activist Vladimir Balukh gives final word in Crimean court

In his speech, Balukh pointed out that the reason for his imprisonment is not the ammunition which was allegedly found in his possession, but his principled position with respect to the “occupation of his homeland”, reported the Crimean Human Rights Group on their website.

“The origins of this are not at all in some cartridges, not in some substance which the court inexplicably identified as explosive, there is no basis for this at all. The decision has been made to ‘take me out’ since the moment of the Crimea’s occupation. And the situation surrounding me has been dragging on for a long time already, probably since 1999, when I first took part in elections not only as a candidate, but as a member of the county’s electoral commission. Since then I have worked in all the elections in commissions, whether district or county. The reason lies in the principled nature of my position,” he said.

Balukh called Russia’s prosecution against him “a clear example of how the state machine can work.” According to him, “the occupation of Crimea was only a ‘starting point’”.

“I had a choice. If I went against my conscience, forgot my principles, in order to avoid going to prison, it would be enough just to confess my guilt, to become morally bankrupt. And this person here, who is sitting opposite me, would not be asking for five years one month, but for something like 2-3 years, perhaps, of probation,” Balukh said.

“Anyway, I don’t want life on earth to end, I don’t want my descendants one day, the children of all Ukraine, to reproach me for having cold feet, for showing weakness. Yes, there were objective reasons, nobody wants to experience what I am experiencing now. Anyone can understand, but I have still lived the best years of my life, and at such an age I can’t let myself show cowardice,” he added.

Vladimir Balukh is a resident of the Serebryanka village in the Razdolnensk region of the Crimea. After the peninsula’s annexation, he said publicly that the inclusion of the Crimea in Russia is illegal. As a sign of protest, he raised the state flag of Ukraine on the roof of his house. After this the “authorities” of the peninsula began to persecute him. The flag was subsequently torn down, and there were attempts to accuse him of stealing spare parts from a T-74 tractor and a VAZ car.
Later, Russian FSB officials said that 90 cartridges and several blocks of TNT were discovered in the attic of the house where Balukh was living. Balukh was sentenced to community service.

He is currently being tried under two articles – for storing weaponry, ammunition and explosives. During the debate, the advocates read out evidence of Balukh’s innocence for more than an hour, but the prosecutor spent only one minute reading his statement. He said that in his opinion the guilt had been completely proven and requested five years and one month of imprisonment for the activist. The “court” will make its ruling on August 4.

  Crimea, Vladimir Balukh, Russia, Ukraine, political prisoners