He believes that empires always fall, and he knows for certain that right now a new world is under construction. Russian “authorities” label him a terrorist, but we get used to the gibberish of the empire. About the “accusation”, life in the penal colony, the end of the Russian system and changes that have happened for five years behind the bars – the way Olexandr Kolchenko himself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.
About the prosecution and the end of the regime
During his final statement in the “court”, Kolchenko had immediately assured: he denies charges of terrorism. After all, this case is fabricated and politically motivated. Back then Olexandr said this, and now the whole world is still speaking of it. Except for Russia, of course.
“As for the formulation of the investigation and prosecution, in general, it is perfect, “Took part in the arson aimed at destabilization of the Republic of Crimea authorities in order to influence the decision of the authorities of the Russian Federation on the withdrawal of the Crimean republic from it.” If you follow the logic of this charge, it turns out, if you use condoms, it is aimed at destabilization of the demographic situation in the country, and the defense of the country as a whole; if you criticize an official, it is aimed at undermining the image of your country on the international arena. Well, the list of such formulations can be eternal.”
At the same time, Olexandr emphasized – he and other political prisoners are accused of terrorism by people who threaten and torture in order to obtain testimony.
“Throwing us behind the bars, this regime is approaching its own end, and those people who believed in law and order yesterday, today, after watching such trials, are losing that faith. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, those people who are in this very 86% will put an end to this authoritarian regime.”
About the hunger strike
Olexandr had started his hunger strike to support Oleg Sentsov. His only requirement was to release Oleg, while the director was starving in order to release other political prisoners. Subsequently, Kolchenko wrote a letter, stressing that he overestimated himself, thus he ends the hunger strike, in order not to endanger the health in vain.
“Hunger strike with demands put before the state is aimed at a state that wants to minimize the risks for reputation, its loss. It is unlikely that reputation of modern Russia can be tarnished somehow – after the annexation of the Crimea, fomenting of the war in the south-east of Ukraine, the publication of the results of an investigation into the Malaysian Boeing downing, and so on.
Despite all of it, now, after the results of the investigation were published, Emmanuel Macron went to Russia, signed contracts, and asked about Oleg Sentsov like it’s not a big deal. Thus, we are in the situation, when leaders of European countries which participate in the Normandy format are not interested in intensifying the pressure on Russia.
And it scares, especially since I have to spend six more years in this country (if Putin is not dismissed earlier). The thing that scares, even more, is that after the publications in Novaya Gazeta about Russian prisons – about the city of Klintsy, Bryansk region and about the legendary “Omsk Seven” (though I heard about it earlier, on my way to prison). I really want to believe that I am mistaken speaking about Oleg Sentsov. And I hope that he won’t be angry with me because I surrendered so quickly.”
A letter to Sentsov
In addition, Olexandr wrote a letter to Oleg, when he also stopped his hunger strike. Turning to Sentsov, Kolchenko emphasizes: empires always fall, above all, don’t lose hope.
“Hi, Oleg! I’m really sorry to say that the goal you had stated is not achieved even partially. At the end of a week-long hunger strike, it seemed to me that all that we’re doing is in vain, even though, in my heart, I hoped that I was wrong. The whole period of your hunger strike I tried to follow the news about you; I’m very worried about you. It is very difficult to put up with the idea that being here, you, like a grain of sand – powerless, you can affect nothing. It’s very difficult for me to imagine how tired and frustrated you feel. Do not lose hope and remember that empires always fall, the tyrant will be overthrown. The confidence in it is only increasing each day. Take care of yourself.”
About life in the penal colony
In the spring, journalists managed to talk with the political prisoner. Back then, they recalled that the Russian Civic monitoring committee concluded that Olexandr lives almost like in the resort. Kolchenko himself admits – having heard about this, he was outraged with the arrogance.
“I have time to read before lunch, after it I have a walk, go to the gym. I’m all right, but everything is not like it was shown by these human rights defenders with low social responsibility. They, of course, can be attributed to the same category of human rights defenders who compare hunger strike with intermittent fasting.
Of course, I can’t deny the violation of the rules, for which I was placed in solitary confinement, it is an obvious thing. But this does not mean that I consider their punishment a fair one. In general, I don’t know by which principle they are guided when choosing a punishment – reprimand, 3, 7, 10 or 15 days. After all, “human rights activists” themselves wrote that for the same violation for which I was put there on New Year eve, the next time the administration was limited to oral reprimand. And this arbitrariness, they probably perceive as something normal and just.”
About relationships with other prisoners
Olexandr says that in most cases there are no conflicts. However, sometimes someone still acts as an “expert on the Crimea”.
“Sometimes, there are disputes over “Russian Crimea” with some narrow-minded. When this happens and the opponent is left with no arguments, they like to say that we – Ukrainian youth – were taught history from the other textbooks, we are “brainwashed”.
But this is probably an exception. Here, we have a multinational team (for a time in our cell for eight people, there were representatives of six nationalities: Russians, Bashkir, Tatar, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian (it’s me) and Chinese). Well, here, people are not separated by race or nation.”
About the past through the prism of five years in prison
Currently, the detained activist is convinced – for the past five years, he has hardly changed as if he is preserved in a tin. He says that it’s hard to judge about himself, however, he tells about the past all the same. He stresses: the attitude towards all the events hasn’t changed, back then he knew what Russia is.
“No, for these five years my attitude towards those events has not changed. I knew what modern Russia is like. Because we had to go on demonstrations in memory of our comrades from the anti-fascist movement that were killed for their beliefs by Nazi bastards; to take part in actions of solidarity with friends detained in the Russian Federation.
What has happened to the Crimea for the last five years is nothing to compare with any other region of Russia, perhaps, it’s worse only in Chechnya. I remember, right after the so-called “referendum”, a pair of friends from Crimea offered me to move with them to Lviv to settle down there. However, I refused the offer, for there was my family, the girl I was in love with back then, friends, whom I loved very much. Now I would probably take advantage of that opportunity, because, not in a prison I would be more useful – both for the family and for the movement.”
About Ukrainian news he’s trying to follow
Olexandr assures: now he’s worried about the growth of far-right in Ukraine who call themselves Banderites.
“Most of all, I am worried about the growth of extreme right who, because of some misunderstanding, call themselves ‘Banderites’. The problem of far-right violence can’t be solved with the help of law enforcement agencies. As the history of many countries shows, very often the cops and far-right are on one side of the barricades. It’s not surprising, for both of them advocate for the interests of the ruling class. Society must learn to defend itself independently, as it happened during the Maidan.”
Appeal to political prisoners
Having the opportunity to turn to the other prisoners of Kremlin, Olexandr stresses – the liberation may be delayed for years, perhaps until Putin is overthrown. However, all of this is not in vain.
“Perhaps some of us will have to serve their entire time. But everything that has happened and is happening is not for nothing. On the other hand, the fierce struggle continues, at this very time a new world is being built – a world where there will be no master nor slave nor prisoners. We should be ready to swell the ranks of these builders of the free world.
It is necessary to use time spent in prisons with the maximum benefit. In general, try to live a more fulfilling and bright life, at least to spite enemies. Speaking to the Ukrainians – greetings from Taras Shevchenko, ‘Battle on – and win your battle!’ “
By Dmytro Zhuravel
The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.