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.
Олександр Олександрович Кольченко
|Alma mater||Taurida National V.I. Vernadsky University (TNU) (dropped out)|
|Known for||arrest, criminal prosecution by Russian authorities|
|Criminal charge||arson, terrorism|
|Criminal penalty||10 years in prison|
|Criminal status||serving his sentence|
|Awards||Order for Courage|
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. 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. But they refused to testify in court. Afanasyev announced that his testimonies had been given under torture.
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. 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.
Both Kolchenko and his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, are adamant that the only real charge against Kolchenko can be classified as hooliganism or vandalism. 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.
Russian authorities denied Sentsov and Kolchenko Ukrainian consular assistance, claiming that they were Russian citizens. 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". 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. Kolchenko has sent a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights against Russian citizenship forcibly having been conferred on him.
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. When the verdict was pronounced, Kolchenko and Sentsov started to sing the Ukrainian National Anthem.
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, US Mission to the OSCE, Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights, FIDH - Center for Civil Liberties Human Rights in Ukraine, Open Democracy, No Borders Network, European Trade Unions, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Group of Resistance to Political repressions in Russia have condemned political persecution of Kolchenko and called for his release. 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". 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. The information about how to support Olexandr Kolchenko is available in German, Italian, French and Spanish. The social media campaign uses the hashtag #freeKolchenko.
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. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine urged the Russian Federation to immediately release Oleg Sentsov and Olexandr Kolchenko. The sentencing of Kolchenko was condemned by the US Department of State  and the European Union. 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.
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.
On 7 September 2019, in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, Russia released Olexandr Kolchenko and same day he returned to Kyiv where he - and other returning prisoners - was welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The swap and release of prisoners was welcomed by American, French and German leaders and leaders of international organizations such as NATO, OSCE and regional (European Parliament).
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