For more than two months, the whereabouts of Russian citizen Andrei Sokolov, who was convicted in Ukraine in April 2016 of helping the authorities of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), have remained unknown to his family, comrades and lawyers.
Andrei Sokolov went to the Donbass in December 2014. Sokolov spent only two weeks -- from December 4 to 15 – in the territory controlled by the DPR. On December 16, while traveling from Donetsk to Gorlovka, Sokolov accidentally drove into a checkpoint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU), where he was arrested.
Sokolov was charged under Part 1, Art. 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (assisting a terrorist organization): in Donetsk, he allegedly helped organize the repair and manufacture of armaments. Sokolov’s lawyer Valery Avzhenko argues that there was not enough evidence obtained in the investigation to convict Sokolov, and that what had been obtained was in violation of the norms and requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
However, despite the theoretical possibility of an acquittal, Sokolov agreed to a deal with the prosecution: in exchange for a guilty plea, he received a lenient sentence of imprisonment for a term of 2 years and 7 months from April 15 onwards. By that time Sokolov had already spent nearly a year and a half in jail, so that under the “Law of Nadiya Savchenko," his term was counted by the formula "two days served for each day of confinement." It turned out that under this formula Sokolov had already served his sentence, and he was released from custody in the courtroom.
But not for long: Immediately after Sokolov’s release, he was kidnapped by four men and driven away in an unknown direction in a black Volkswagen. Since then, there has been no communication from him to his mother, his lawyer or the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. "Two months have passed, and I don’t know anything about my son,” Andrei Sokolov’s mother Tatyana Shabalin told Timer’s correspondent.
Presumably, the "kidnappers" of Andrei Sokolov were employees of the Ukrainian special services: perhaps he was going to be exchanged by the authorities for government troops held in the unrecognized DPR. However, the fact remains that at the present time, Andrei Sokolov is cleared by the Ukrainian justice system, and the Ukrainian authorities have no right to detain or hold him.
It is worth noting that Sokolov’s case is not the only one of its kind: previously in Odessa, Russian citizen Vladimir Alexey Bezobarzov disappeared under similar circumstances. Timer has information on at least one other similar case. According to unconfirmed information, all the "missing" are illegally detained in one of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)’s secret prisons, allegedly in the Kharkov region.
Andrei Sokolov in jail in Mariupol