On May 29, at the Obolonskyi District Court in Kyiv, the preparatory session for the trial of fugitive former president Viktor Yanukovych lasted for 9 hours. Currently located in Russia, as of November 28, 2016, Yanukovych has been suspected of high treason, complicity in premeditated actions committed with the goal of changing the state border of Ukraine, and of complicity in the waging of aggressive war. The first court proceedings accusing former president Yanukovych of treason took place on May 4.
During the session on May 29, Yanukovych’s attorneys insisted that the court return the indictment to the Prosecutor General’s Office. They explained that they do not agree with most of the evidence in the case.
Furthermore, the attorneys objected to Viktor Yanukovych being suspected. In their opinion, the suspicion was presented to him with violations of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. They also pointed out that Yanukovych could not be suspected, since he did not end his powers as the President of Ukraine de jure, and there is no impeachment procedure in Ukraine. They also consider what the Verkhovna Rada did at the end of February 2014 [announced Yanukovych an illegitimate president] unconstitutional.
The Prosecutor General’s Office has not accepted the attorneys’ motions. Representatives of the prosecution told reporters that the court should rule in their favor and start Yanukovych’s trial in absentia.
“From the prosecution’s side I will evaluate a number of motions, statements and complaints about intentional delay. A significant number of the motions which have been voiced by the defense are not based on reality,” said Ruslan Kravchenko, prosecutor of the military department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine (GPU).
He also announced that the Prosecutor General’s Office would motion to the Obolonskyi District Court for Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov to be questioned. The Prosecutor General’s Office does not, however, consider it necessary to question current President Petro Poroshenko. The official said that during the pre-trial investigations, Avakov, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk were questioned as witnesses. In this regard Kravchenko said that the Prosecutor General’s Office will ask the court to question Avakov and other officials during the court proceedings.
Yanukovych has made a motion to the court, asking to be given a video conference, but on his own terms. Yanukovych wanted the Obolonskyi Court to turn to the court in Rostov and the Russian Ministry of Justice. In his opinion, this would correspond to the International Convention on Legal Aid.
Yanukovych’s defense has also opposed the involvement of a jury in the designation of case processing. The attorneys insist that it should be considered by three professional courts. Attorney Vitaly Serdyuk pointed out that almost 70% of the names of the jurors at the site of the Kyiv Municipal State Administration are those of former employees of law enforcement agencies, and thus the defense has doubts about their impartiality.
On the evening of May 29, the court announced a break in the preparatory court session until June 16. This decision was made by presiding judge Vladislav Devyatko. Attorney Vitaly Serdyuk came forward with motions, starting at 10 in the morning, and was beginning to lose his voice by the end of the day.
“I would ask to carry over. Both the prosecutor and the defense need to rest. I insist on a recess. There is a lot of material, but already only a little voice,” he observed. The prosecutors, however, insisted that the court session be continued.
“The court understands the difficulty of the case and the difficulty of giving proof, and so we understand you. The court considers that you are losing your ability to speak,” judge Devyatko told attorney Serdyuk.
Initially the court wanted to announce a recess until June 8, but Serdyuk asked for it to last until June 16, because he will not be in the country between the 5th and 16th of June. Eventually the court accepted the attorney’s arguments and scheduled the session for 9 a.m. on June 16.