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Olexandr Olexandrovych Kolchenko (Ukrainian: Олександр Олександрович Кольченко, Russian: Александр Александрович Кольченко, nicknamed "Tundra", born November 26, 1989) is a Ukrainian left-wing and trade union activist, antifascist, anarchist, ecologist, archaeologist, who has been convicted of terrorism by the Russian administration of Crimea in 2014.

Olexandr Kolchenko
Olexandr Kolchenko, Ukrainian political prisoner in Russia, 2015.JPG
Native name
Олександр Олександрович Кольченко
Born (1989-11-26) November 26, 1989 (age 29)
Alma materTaurida National V.I. Vernadsky University (TNU) (dropped out)
Known forarrest, criminal prosecution by Russian authorities
Criminal chargearson, terrorism
Criminal penalty10 years in prison
Criminal statusserving his sentence
AwardsOrder for Courage Order for Bravery 1st Class of Ukraine.gif

Olexandr Kolchenko and three more Crimean pro-Ukrainian activists: Olexiy Chyrniy, Gennadiy Afanasyev and Oleg Sentsov are united by a common criminal case of the so-called "Crimean terrorists". All four have been arrested and imprisoned in Russia after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.


Born in a working-class family, Olexandr Kolchenko worked as a loader at the post while studying tourism management at the geographic faculty of Tavrida National University in Simferopol. He became a supporter of anarchist, antifascist and internationalist ideas. Since 2007, Kolchenko has been an active militant of the local antifascist movement. He staged numerous street protests against manifestations of fascism in the region, and participated in clashes with both Ukrainian and pro-Russian far right. He also organized actions of solidarity with Russian antifascists who fell victims of the neo-Nazi terror or government repression, including Anastasia Baburova and Ivan Khutorskoy.

From 2010 to 2013, Kolchenko was an active member of the independent trade union "Student Action" composed of socialists and anarchists advocating free education, student rights, and autonomy of universities. He was involved to numerous events and public campaigns to protect workers' rights and the environment. He was supporting the struggles of Crimean Trolleybus employees and protesting against construction of a contaminant port in Crimea.

Persecution and arrestEdit

Olexandr Kolchenko was detained on May 16, 2014 in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine. He was convicted of arson of the offices of Russian political organizations and planning the bombing of the Soviet Memorial monument in Crimea. On May 23, 2014 Olexandr was convoyed to Moscow and imprisoned in the Lefortovo prison.

Despite his left-wing and antifascist affiliations, he has been accused of belonging to the Ukrainian ultranationalist organization Right Sector and of plotting terrorist attacks.

In June 2015 the investigation of the Kolchenko and Sentsov criminal case was finished and the case went to trial. On July 31, 2015 the Rostov-on-Don military court started hearings on this case.[1] Olexandr Kolchenko stood trial together with Oleg Sentsov.

The accusation against Kolchenko and Sentsov is primarily based on evidence given by two other so-calles "Crimean terrorists", Chyrniy and Afanasyev, broadcast on Russian television.[2] But they refused to testify in court. Afanasyev announced that his testimonies had been given under torture.[3]


Olexandr Kolchenko rejects all charges of terrorism. Kolchenko fully admits to held guard on the street while a Molotov cocktail was hurled at a building housing pro-Russian organizations (namely United Russia ruling party, formerly Crimean Party of Regions, and Russian Community of Crimea NGO), but denies that this was terrorism.[4][5] The attack was committed at night when the participants understood the office to be empty and there was no intention to put anybody's life in danger. According to the human rights organization Memorial, similar attacks on party offices in Russia to this date have been punished as arson or "hooliganism" and not as terrorism.[6]

Both Kolchenko and his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, are adamant that the only real charge against Kolchenko can be classified as hooliganism or vandalism.[7] Kolchenko also refuted belonging to the political party Right Sector which is banned in Russia. Right Sector itself has released a press statement stating that the four individuals considered by Russia as "Crimean terrorists" have nothing to do with the party.[1]

Russian authorities denied Sentsov and Kolchenko Ukrainian consular assistance, claiming that they were Russian citizens.[8] Following the annexation of Crimea, Kolchenko and Sentsov had not signed the document stating that they did not wish to change citizenship. In other words, these accused men have been ″united with Russia″ along with the Crimean peninsula".[9] In turn, the State Migration Service of Ukraine confirmed Kolchenko's Ukrainian citizenship and the Kyiv Prosecutor's Office opened a case regarding the abduction of a Ukrainian citizen Olexandr Kolchenko.

According to his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, Kolchenko was illegally issued with a Russian passport, dated May 26, 2014, when he was already in detention.[10] Kolchenko has sent a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights against Russian citizenship forcibly having been conferred on him.[11]


On August 25, 2015 the board of military judges chaired by the judge Sergey Mikhailyuk sentenced Olexandr Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov to 10 and 20 years respectively.[12] When the verdict was pronounced, Kolchenko and Sentsov started to sing the Ukrainian National Anthem.[13]

Support and reactionsEdit

The highly politicized trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko has resonated not only in Ukraine but also worldwide. Many prominent world organizations advocating human rights and democratic movement such as OSCE,[14] US Mission to the OSCE,[15] Amnesty International,[16] International Federation of Human Rights, FIDH - Center for Civil Liberties Human Rights in Ukraine,[17] Open Democracy, No Borders Network, European Trade Unions, the European Court of Human Rights,[18] and the Group of Resistance to Political repressions in Russia have condemned political persecution of Kolchenko and called for his release.[19] Kolchenko's name was mentioned in an OSCE PA resolution condemning Russia's continuing actions in Ukraine. These organizations call on Russia to "immediately release and return to Ukraine detained pilot Nadiya Savchenko, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Olexandr Kolchenko and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens".[14] The Active Generation: The web activists network, The Committee of Solidarity with the "Crimean hostages" and the International Solidarity Campaign for Olexandr Kolchenko run an ongoing multinational supporting campaign for the political prisoner.[20] The information about how to support Olexandr Kolchenko is available in German, Italian, French and Spanish. The social media campaign uses the hashtag #freeKolchenko.

Political aspectEdit

The Memorial Human Rights Center and Amnesty International have recognized Olexandr Kolchenko as a political prisoner. He was open about his opposition to the occupation of Crimea by Russia, prompting a fierce reaction from the Russian authorities.[21] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine urged the Russian Federation to immediately release Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko.[22] The sentencing of Kolchenko was condemned by the US Department of State [23] and the European Union.[24] Kolchenko′s lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, compared the verdict to one from the times of Stalin′s Great Terror. She intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Russia and to the European Court of Human Rights.[25]


The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko awarded Olexandr Kolchenko an Order for Courage First Class (Ukrainian: Орден «За мужність») for personal courage and dedication in upholding constitutional rights and freedoms for the integrity of the Ukrainian state on September 24, 2015.[26]


On 7 September 2019, in a prisoner swap with Ukraine,[27][28][29][30] Russia released Olexandr Kolchenko and same day he returned to Kyiv where he - and other returning prisoners - was welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.[31][32]

The swap and release of prisoners was welcomed by American,[33] French and German leaders and leaders of international organizations such as NATO,[34] OSCE[35] and regional (European Parliament).[36][37]


  1. ^ a b Litoy, Alexandr. "The Crimean Terrorists". Open Democracy. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ "В Крыму обезврежены диверсанты "Правого Сектора", которые собирались устроить теракты на День Победы". Первый Канал (in Russian). Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Key Prosecution Witness Against Ukrainian Filmmaker Sentsov Withdrew His Testimony". Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  4. ^ Coynash, Halya. "Sentsov-Kolchenko Trial<Crimea And What Russia Has To Hide". Human Rights In Ukraine. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  5. ^ Coynash, Halya. "Oleksandr Kolchenko: 10 years for opposing Russia's invasion of Crimea". Human Rights In Ukraine. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  6. ^ The Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev political prisoners. Memorial, August 31, 2015.
  7. ^ Coynash, Halya. "Sentsov & Kolchenko Face 20-year Sentences For Non-Existent Terrorism". Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Ukrainians Illegally Detained in Russia and in the occupied Crimea - MFA of Ukraine". Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  9. ^ Litoy, Alexandr. "The Crimean Terrorists". Open Democracy. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Imprisoned Crimean Activist takes Russia to Strasbourg over forced citizenship". Права Людини в Україні. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  11. ^ "Svetlana Sidorkina – The Russian Reader". Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  12. ^ Ukrayinska Pravda. "From the Russian Foreign Ministry could knock as received Ukrainian passports Russia". Ukrayinska Pravda (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  13. ^ Открытая Россия. ""Ще не вмерла" вместо ответа судье. Сенцов и Кольченко спели Гимн Украины". Youtube (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  14. ^ a b ″OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopts resolution condemning Russia's continuing actions in Ukraine″. OSCE PA.
  15. ^ Ambassador Daniel B. Baer. ″On the Detention of Nadiya Savchenko (who upon returning to the Ukraine was accused to have personally planned an attack with mortars and hand grenades at the Ukrainian parliament), Oleg Sentsov, and Oleksandr Kolchenko″. US Mission to the OSCE.
  16. ^ "Russian Federation: Overturn the Convictions of Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko (UA 170/15) Urgent Action". Amnesty International. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Liberté pour Alexandr Koltchenko, antifasciste de Crimée, kidnappé et emprisonné par l'Etat russe". FIDH (in French). Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  18. ^ "PRESS RELEASE EU-Ukraine hold Human Rights Dialogue". EU External Action. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Repressions against Crimean activists: political context". Автономное действие (in Russian and English). Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Кампнія Солідарності з Україною". Кампнія Солідарності з Україною. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  21. ^ "Sentsov & Kolchenko declared political prisoners as rot exposed in Russia's Crimean 'terrorist' trial". Права Людини в Україні. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  22. ^ "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine urges the Russian Federation to immediately release Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko". The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  23. ^ "Sentencing of Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko Press Statement". US Department of State. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  24. ^ "STATEMENT Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini on the sentencing by a Russian court of Ukrainian citizens O. Sentsov and O. Kolchenko". European Union External Action. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  25. ^ "Адвокаты хотят вернуть Сенцова и Кольченко на Украину". Радио Свобода (in Russian). Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  26. ^ "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №556/2015 Про нагородження орденом «За мужність»". President of Ukraine. Official website. (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  27. ^ CNN, Denis Lapin, Olga Pavlova, Bianca Britton and Sarah Dean. "Film director Oleg Sentsov and MH17 suspect among those freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap". CNN. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  28. ^ Gershkovich, Evan (2019-09-07). "Signaling Readiness for Thaw, Russia and Ukraine Swap Prisoners". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  29. ^ "Reuters: Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 2019-09-07. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  30. ^ "Filmmaker Sentsov, 24 Ukrainian sailors in Russia-Ukraine prisoner..." Reuters. 2019-09-07. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  31. ^ "President: Together with all Ukraine we will return not only people, but also our territories". Official website of the President of Ukraine. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  32. ^ "What we know about 35 Ukrainian political prisoners released from Russia | KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice". KyivPost. 2019-09-06. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  33. ^ "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  34. ^ NATO (2019-09-07). "Statement by NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu". NATO. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  35. ^ OSCE (2019-09-07). "OSCE Media Freedom Representative welcomes release of Sentsov, Sushchenko and Vyshinsky, thanks both countries for this achievement". OSCE - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  36. ^ Nechepurenko, Karasz, Ivan, Palko (2019-09-07). "Russia and Ukraine Swap Dozens of Prisoners, 'the First Step to Stop the War'". The New York Times.
  37. ^ Englund, Will (2019-09-07). "Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners in bid to ease tension between the two nations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-09-07.

External linksEdit