Yesterday, the court announced the verdict in the trial against escapee “president” Viktor Yanukovych. 13 years in prison, this sentence may seem to someone too mild, especially considering the fact that the prosecution failed to prove that “legitimate president” encroached on the territorial integrity of the country. Opinion found out what defence plans, why the court partially exonerated Yanukovych, how fair the punishment is and whether the ex-president will be behind the bars again.

What is the position of ex-president’s defence?

Although 13 years is not the maximum which was demanded by the prosecution, Yanukovych’s defence, of course, doesn’t agree with the verdict. Thus, one of the ex-president’s lawyers, Oleksandr Horoshynskyi, described his intention to file appeals and the hope that “justice will be achieved.”

“Of course, we, the defence, will appeal within the verdict, which is not voiced in favour of our client, and we hope that we will be able to achieve the justice in the case,” Horoshynskyi commented.

Another lawyer of Yanukovych, Vitaliy Serdyuk, considers the verdict illegal and politically motivated. According to him, the decision of the court won’t come into force, because there is appeal ahead.

This is the verdict of authorities, not the people. Ordinary people, as well as European and American human rights defenders, experts and politicians don’t believe in legality, objectivity, and this court.

Regarding the legal matters, the court refuted the allegations against Viktor Yanukovych in an attack on the territorial integrity of Ukraine (Crimea). The verdict will still not come into force – an appeal will be filed because we consider all allegations to be politically motivated and unjustified,” wrote Vitaliy Serdyuk.

Was everything incriminated and how fair was the verdict?

Dmytro Sinchenko, chairman of the NGO Association of Political Sciences, is convinced that the prosecution has fulfilled its task since everything that was possible to prove was incriminated.

“I think that he was incriminated with everything that could be proved. Since the defence will clearly reach the highest international courts in its appeals, our court was supposed to consider the case extremely carefully and as objectively as possible. Hence, we have “mitigating circumstances” and a supposedly mild verdict. However, 13 years – this is actually a lot for an elderly man. Moreover, it’s unknown if he will be alive when this sentence will be executed,” Sinchenko explained to Opinion.

Lilia Brudnytska, expert of the Center for Structural Political Science “Vybir”, commenting on the verdict of the court for the Opinion, on the contrary, stressed that it is extremely difficult to characterize it as justice: Moscow is unlikely to extradite the ex-president, and therefore the imprisonment is relatively conditional.

“It is difficult to say how fair the verdict is since the only fair punishment for such a crime is its de facto realization: that is if Yanukovych was in prison for even a few years, and with round-the-clock monitoring, I think, a lot of people would feel complete satisfaction. At the moment, Viktor Yanukovych is in Moscow, Russia won’t extradite him, so, with similar success, the court could impose a thousand years of punishment. Moral one,” says Brudnytska.

The ex-head of the SBU Valentyn Nalyvaichenko also disagrees with the fairness of the sentence. According to him the ex-president of Ukraine deserves lifetime imprisonment with the confiscation of all of his property and funds.

I consider Yanukovych’s sentence of 13 years behind the bars insufficient. Just punishment for embezzlements, the murder of citizens during the Revolution of Dignity, state betrayal, which led to the annexation of the Crimea and the occupation of the Donbas, should be life imprisonment and confiscation of all of his property and funds. I will struggle for the inevitability of the severe punishment of both Yanukovych and his sycophants,” Nalyvaichenko emphasized.

Instead, the political expert Dmytro Franchuk spoke about the insufficiency of the verdict in absentia, explaining that such practice is not perfect and is rarely applied in the practice of European states.
A lot of experts believe that the procedure of sentencing in absentia is imperfect and gives all chances to Viktor Yanukovych to win the case against Ukraine in the European Court of Human Rights. In European states, they treat out-of-court proceedings very carefully. For example, in Austria and Germany proceedings in absentia are possible, but the penalty is negligible – either two years, as in Austria, or impossible at all, as in Germany. The Russian Federation will not extradite escapee to law enforcement,” added Dmytro Franchuk in his commentary.

Yanukovych didn’t encroach on territorial integrity?

According to the court decision, the court found Viktor Yanukovych guilty of treason and waging war against Ukraine, but… exonerate him as for the article on the encroachment on territorial integrity. The defence of the escapee president successfully uses this “achievement” in its rhetoric, however, the prosecution side thinks the other way. Thus, the first deputy of the military prosecutor of the Central region of Ukraine, Maksym Krym, is convinced that the combination of pieces of evidence shows that the defendant fully understood the consequences.

“We believe that the court, deciding on the issue of the presence of the crime, provided for by Art. 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine decided that the defendant didn’t realize or did not want the consequences that we have today. However, our position was that the totality of evidence suggests the existence of criminal offense, and that, while addressing the President of the Russian Federation, Yanukovych understood the possibility of the onset of these consequences and wanted them,” said the prosecution.

So will ex-president be punished?

Answering this question, Dmytro Sinchenko stressed that we would be able to obtain full access to traitors and collaborators only… after winning the war, hence the main question is whether Yanukovych will live to this day.

I think sooner or later we will win the war with Russia. We will win together with our allies. Whether with the help of arms, diplomacy or economics… Then and only then, we will be able not only to liberate our occupied territories, not only to release our hostages and prisoners but also to gain access to our traitors and collaborators who are now hiding in the territory of the enemy country. Will Yanukovych live to this day – nobody knows. Especially considering that in Russia witnesses don’t live for a long time,” says the specialist.

At the same time, the head of the parliamentary faction “Petro Poroshenko Bloc” Artur Herasimov believes that the former president of Ukraine will still be punished, as the verdict will put additional pressure on the Kremlin and will be communicated to international partners.
“Now there are fully legally grounded documents that will make Yanukovych arrest possible. And he will be arrested. Because evil will always be punished. He is in the Russian Federation. Russians don’t extradite him now. But now, when there is a verdict, it will be communicated to international partners. It would mean additional pressure on Kremlin from the perspective of the fact that people who ordered the deaths of a civilian population whose orders killed unarmed people in the center of Kyiv should be punished,” Herasimov assured on the air of Channel 5.

What are the next steps of Ukraine?

According to Yuriy Shulipa, a lawyer and director of the International Union Institute of National Policy, a verdict can be used to prove the numerous violations made by Russia at the international level. The expert believes that it is possible to prove that Russia has tried to implement its scenarios through an intermediary – Viktor Yanukovych.

“After the conviction of Viktor Yanukovych is legally valid, the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine should send this judgment and certain materials of the criminal case to the Hague International Criminal Court, as evidence that through Yanukovych and other collaborators Ukraine was under the external control of Russia. It is important to provide the International Criminal Court with evidence of Russian interference with Ukraine’s domestic policy and its internal affairs.   This factor plays an important role in strengthening the position of accusations against Russia and personally the President of the Russian Federation, V. Putin, as well as his collective gang, not only in starting the aggressive war against Ukraine and the temporary occupation of part of its sovereign territories, but also in interfering in Ukrainian internal affairs, which caused Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Also, V. Yanukovych’s sentence should be sent to the foreign policy departments of the guarantor-states of the territorial integrity of Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum, in particular, the United States and Great Britain. This verdict is evidence that, contrary to the provisions of paragraph 3 of the Budapest memorandum, Russia during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych put economic pressure on Ukraine. Russia, through Viktor Yanukovych and his puppets, violated Ukraine’s political independence and thus subjugated Ukraine’s inherent sovereignty to its own criminal interests and thereby provided itself with various political, humanitarian, informational, military and economic benefits over Ukraine. In turn, the United States and the United Kingdom, contrary to their commitment under the Budapest Memorandum, didn’t take appropriate measures to neutralize the above-mentioned criminal acts against Ukraine,” said Shulipa.

By Dmytro Zhuravel

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