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Vladimir Domnin, a Russian citizen charged with fighting in Donbass on the Ukrainian side, is a political prisoner, Memorial says


We believe Domnin was in the zone of armed conflict for a short period of time, did not take a direct part in the fighting, and presents no danger to society

A Moscow resident of nationalist persuasions, Vladimir Domnin, has been charged with having taken part in the activities of an extremist organisation (Part Two of Article 282.2), undergoing training to take part in an unlawful armed group (Article 205.3), taking part in an unlawful armed group (Part Two of Article 208), and possession of weapons and ammunition (Part One of Article 222). The charges laid against him allege Domnin joined the ranks of the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), an organisation banned in Russia, underwent military training, and thereafter took part in the activities of this organisation’s armed formations in the area where an anti-terrorist operation has been conducted in the east of Ukraine. He has also been charged with possession of a pistol.

The political motivation for Domnin’s prosecution, in our view, relates directly to the official Russian position on the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine. On the one hand, Moscow publicly denies its participation in the conflict. On the other, the Russian authorities have clearly taken an anti-Ukrainian stance. This is evident not only from statements by Russian officials and the anti-Ukrainian propaganda in the media, but in the provision of support to the separatist groups in the east of Ukraine and in the political prosecutions of Ukrainian citizens (Oleksandr Shumkov, Andrii Kolomiyets, Oleksandr Marchenko and others) and Russian citizens who do not agree with the government policy (the cases of Denis Bakholdin, Darya Polyudova, Andrei Bubeyev and others).

​Vladimir Domnin has admitted possession of a pistol. At the same time, there is no evidence to indicate that he used the weapon or intended to use it for criminal ends. We therefore consider this charge should not prevent recognition of Domnin as a political prisoner in relation to the other charges.

  • In relation to the other charges, we believe Domnin’s guilt has not been proven. Indeed, three of the episodes that form part of the criminal case concern one and the same action. This is a flagrant violation of the basic legal principle according to which ‘no one shall be held criminally responsible twice for one and the same offence’ (Part Two of Article 6, of the Russian Criminal Code).
  • Domnin’s actions present no danger to society since they happened on the territory of Ukraine and do not touch upon the interests of Russia. The defendant presents no danger for society after his return to the Russian Federation and did not plan acts of terrorism or other criminal actions. On the territory of Ukraine, Domnin did not take direct part in military action. According to the investigators, Domnin, while in the village of Marinka in the Donetsk region, ‘repeatedly mounted guard...took part in the building of fortifications, engaged in maintenance and economic activities...organising food and water supplies, and the provision of food for participants in the conflict.’
  • The charges against Domnin for involvement in the Pravy Sektor are unlawful since this organisation was designated as extremist in Russia on the basis of extremely weak arguments and with grave violations of basic legal procedures.

The Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with the international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Vladimir Domnin a political prisoner.

We urge that his prosecution under Article 205.3, Part Two of Article 208, and Part Two of Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code be dropped, and also that a thorough and professional investigation with regard to the charge under Part One of Article 222 be conducted. We demand that reports of the use of violence against Domnin at the time of his detention, and of violations of his rights while in detention, be investigated.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that the Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected].

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