Global Ukraine News

Without Any Chance. Afanasiev and Soloshenko on how FSB breaks its captives

Written by:  Oksana Kovalenko and Halyna Tytysh
Source: Ukrainska Pravda
Translator:  Tetyana Stadnyk

Released on June 14 political prisoners Gennadiy Afanasiev and Yuri Soloshenko met us at the hospital where they were taken right after their arrival in Ukraine.  Even relatives couldn’t meet them at the airport;  their first meeting took place in their hospital rooms.

“Too much excitement, we get over-exhausted … We’re accustomed that nothing happens to us – in the last years we were in prisons.  For us, all of this fuss creates a lot of stress,” say our speakers as if apologizing.

They have agreed to speak together – because after their experiences, they feel almost like family, though were not in the same cell in a Russian prison.

So the speak, and alternate flipping through their memories of the days of the past two years.  They support each other and instantly understand what is hard for us to imagine.

Gennadiy talks about his arrest, the beatings.  His mother, Olga Afanasieva, present in the room leaves in tears.

Then he recalls how he was forced to sign his testimony  – and Yuri holds his shoulders to calm him down and say, “No one knows what they would have done in the same situation.”

They sit side by side.

Twenty five year-old Gennadiy in a t-shirt with a trident and a trident pendant around his neck, and with a Ukrainian flag next to him.

“Friends gave these to me,” he says happily and immediately apologizes that will speak Ukrainian slowly, because he hasn’t used it for a long time.  To our offer to speak in a language that will be more convenient for him, he categorically refuses:  “No, in Ukrainian – it’s a matter of a principle.”

The intelligent  seventy-four year old Yuri, in a simple white t-shirt, hospital pants, and with a handkerchief that he continually twists in his hands.  When Gennadiy tells stories of torture,  Yuri’s eyes redden.

Both have upcoming medical exams and treatment, and a return to civilian life in Ukraine.  For the moment they aren’t looking that far forward:  questions about future plans several times hang in the air and remain unanswered.

They have a difficult time speaking;  their doctors won’t allow them to become disturbed.  But Gennadiy and Yuri speak a lot and emotionally.

“People should know about it,” they explain.

For the sake of those Ukrainians, who still remain in Russian prisons, we cannot publish some details.  However, we hope that one day this information will be made public.

Gennadiy Afansiev

Born in November 1990 in Simferopol.  Graduated from the the Faculty of Law at the Tavriya National University, worked as a photographer.  During the capture of the peninsula by Russia helped Ukrainian military who were in Crimea, participated in protests.  In 2014, when Gena was arrested, he was only 23 years old.  He is now 25.


May 9, 2014, I went to the Victory Day parade in Simferopol with a photograph of my great-grandfather .

Then went to see a friend, a girl, who lived nearby – in the city center.  But on the way, the guys in civilian clothes with guns attacked me and pushed me into a car. There were journalists nearby who filmed all of this.

In the car, I was thrown me, a bag was put on my head and I was driven away.

While driving, I was beaten in the stomach and head, they asked about different people, they would threaten that they will take me to a forest, that I would dig a grave for myself.

Finally, they brought me home;  they already knew where I live. They took the keys to the apartment, and so, with a bag on my head, brought me into the apartment, threw on the floor.  Searched for something at home, but found nothing. After this took me to the FSB in the Crimea, and then – to the temporary place of detention for 10 days.

Usually, they held people there for three days and then they would be transferred to the prison.  But I was kept there for 10 days – they needed this term.

I didn’t have a lawyer, but there was a very large number of investigators from Moscow and also extremely big guys from the Caucasus, FSB workers.  I was chained to an steel table.  First, they talked, threatened;  I didn’t say anything .

On the first day it was just beating.

They took me to the second floor – there were special people and the investigator.  Again they asked various questions.

Realizing that I don’t know the facts that interested them, they demanded that I give evidence against myself.  To confess that I allegedly wanted to blow up the Eternal Flame monument on May 9th.

This is absurd because I was amongst the people who were at the monument!  I was detained there and this was seen by a lot of people.

On the second floor, they put on boxing gloves and beat my head, so that there would be no bruises.

This was the first day.

I was taken for the night to a place of temporary detention.  All 10 days while I was in this place I was not allowed to sleep, eat, did not even have toilet paper, there was nothing. Some kind of basement, it was very cold.

During the first 5 days they used … just a pack over my head, they choked me …

(Gennadiy pauses, continues in a moment).

This needs to be said.  People need to know what is happening.  Because I am not the only one.  I have seen many similar examples, this was done to those, who they needed.

They brought Oleksiy Cherniy in my prison cell, who said in my presence that I was a such-and-such.

We met with him previously.  At the beginning of the occupation of the Crimea, I organized a group to provide medical help for our soldiers, who were surrounded by Russians.

It is in this group that Cherniy and I met.

So, Cherniy testified against me and the guys.

This was psychological pressure:  when a person testifies against you, the investigators say that you have nowhere to go, nothing can be done.

Investigators said that I didn’t have a chance.  “You’ll get 20-25 years.  You can admit your guilt, and then you’ll get less.

I decided that if someone testified against me, and it was only about the arson – so I signed the deposition.

I didn’t testify against any one, I only admitted my own guilt.

Then they became interested in Olexandr Kolchenko and Oleh Sentsov.  Cherniy had testified against them.

After that, serious torture began.

They put a gas mask with a hose on my head, opened the bottom valve and  sprayed cans there;  I started vomiting, you would begin to choke in this, because you’re in a mask .

When you start choking, they remove the mask, give you smelling salts, then repeat everything.

They continued by attaching electrical wires to the genitals, and would send a charge.  If strangulation was survivable, this was a different kind of pain. YES, in this way the FSB would force you to sign documents.

Simply sign, and that’s all.

I realized what was there. I saw what was written.  But I did not write it myself, everything was already prepared, the entire text.

Almost at the end, when they demanded that we agree to the deal, they undressed me, put on the floor, some people held me – and circled my body with a soldering iron;  I was told what would happen if the soldering iron gets under me.

The most important thing – I have a mom – and they threatened to get to her.  This had an effect …

I blame myself for not being stronger. I retracted my words, but … I signed those documents, and I was moved to Moscow.  Using the same threats, they forced me to speak on television, to say what they needed.  I remembered what they did with me in last days – and I did not believe that someone could protect me, to prevent that from happening again.  So I just repeated what they told me to say.

I was told, “You shall quietly sit in a prison near your home where it’s warm and nice, but if not – you will be moved to very bad places.”  I believed they would do it.

When human rights activists visited me, I was wary of them.  Well, if I I tell these people what happened.  And what would happen then?  I don’t know.


During the first year, year and a half, a terrible battle took place in my soul because of the false evidence I gave against the innocent guys.

I managed to control myself until their trial because I believed that if I expose myself, they will do something to make sure that I won’t get taken to court at all.

I wanted for it to be a surprise at the court. And it happened.

I already decided that this it, this is the end. Wrote a letter of apology for all my sins to all my friends, to my mother – and went to court.

Immediately after this statement, FSB operatives beat me in Rostov.  Because there were lawyers and defenders, they were able to record all the injuries that were inflicted on me.

The Russians fulfilled their promise, they took me to a modern-day Gulag in the Komi Republic, Russia’s only such penal colony. Actually, I wasn’t even in the colony, but in an austere barrack.

I can not explain it to you, you weren’t there, you can’t understand.

And the transfer to the penal colony itself was very difficult.  The temperature outside is 40-45 degrees, wagons become so hot that they need to cool them with fire engines.  Inside – no water, no toilets.  These general conditions for a Russian prisoner.  They live like this, like animals, can’t say it in any other way.

I was transferred to the penal colony.  A blade in my things.

We sued, but they refused even to show a video of that night.  They said:  “It has nothing to do with the case.”  No witnesses, no protection, simply refused and that’s all.  Because of this blade, I was immediately moved to an isolation punishment cell, and then to strick regime barracks.

It was a huge barrack.  About a meter, meter and a half there are steel bars with patrol guards.  It’s like being in a zoo;  there are people all around you and they can see everything you do. And with you there are 100 persons in a space of 150 square meters.

Nowhere to sit, laying down is prohibited, everything is forbidden.  This is the first such strick regime barrack for all of Russia.

But I complained about the conditions, constantly complained.  You know, after I went to court and said that Kolchenko and Sentsov are not guilty, something changed in me – I stopped being afraid.

But I did not believe anyone. Even when my lawyer Popkov came, he showed his evidence, passports, because I said, “I will not speak with you.”

There, in the Komi Republic, I became very seriously ill.

I don’t the diagnosis, I’m being examined.  There were very large inflammations on my skin;  they didn’t disappear.  They had to be treated, but no one did.  So I cut them out.  We and the boys would tear a bedsheet, cover the wound, then washed the sheet and used it again.  They would take some baby cream and all we could do – we did.

After a while, they started to bring pills – antibiotics.  But as a result, another illness began, because they damaged the stomach.

These skin inflammations would disappear, and then in a week or two  would reappear.

After some time, someone put an SIM card into my winter jacket.  The jacket was in a separate room, which is locked at night.  In the morning I went outside – a planned search was taking place.

When I returned, they came up only to me and said, “We have operative information.”  They said:  “you were taken to hospital for 4 days, and when leaving, other prisoners put a SIM-card [into my jacket].  Although I was alone in the penalty isolator.

I insisted that this SIM card should be removed from the colony by investigators of the Russian Federation, to allow them to undertake a billing, print the text, and to see that these were not my calls.  But they destroyed this card in the first few days.

I was taken to the city of Mikun, to the female penal colony № 31.  The most dangerous criminals are kept in a small premisses.  I was kept in solitary confinement.

For 2 months and 15 days, I was always alone, didn’t see anyone.  There were only only books.

At first, there were letters.  But during the last month they didn’t reach me, and mine were not sent or they started to get lost, as was explained to me:  “Today we had some events and maybe those people lost them,” or “The woman asked, and they were sent through her co-workers, and they lost them.”

A year and three months later I went to Rostov.  I went down there and I was given my stuff.  Among them were all the letters that I sent to people and all the letters that people sent to me.  There was also a book of Taras Shevchenko, I brought it with me.

By this time, the letters came only from my mother.

Letters came also to the penal colony, but not for long;  I complained, wrote letters everywhere.  So I was forbidden to write and receive letters and they just stopped coming.

…What we [with Yuri Soloshenko] are telling you – it’s all very brief.

Because for every day that a person is in a cell, especially if the person is alone in this cell – it’s like an entire film, this is the whole world for them.  A person doesn’t know what will happen in next moment.  And experiences all of this.

We have a lot to tell – and about the illegal investigations in Russia, about the histories and fates of other guys and girls who were there with us…

We have to do this gradually, do this step by step, to remember, feel it and describe it to you.  Two years and two months – it can’t be summarized in 10 – 20 minutes.


Yuriy Danylovych [Soloshenko] calls me his grandson, and I call him my grandfather.

We want to meet with all political prisoners, because feel that we are a single person in one country, some one mutual thing connects us.

For me personally, Oleh Sentsov is a hero.  He is already part of the family.  We will do everything in our capacity to bring every single guy home.  This is our goal.

I once saw Sentsov at some festival in the Crimea.  We met only once and I probably wouldn’t have remembered him if not for this situation.

So, you ask, what to suggest to other Ukrainians who find themselves held captive by the Russians?

Better not to go there, because you cannot expect a fair trial and humane treatment.

If a Ukrainian finds himself in such a hopeless situation, he should stay alive and we’ll free him.

Then, he’ll be safe and healthy.

Don’t die.  Don’t sacrifice your life if you can’t save it in any way.


Born in the Poltava oblast;  graduated from Kharkiv National University.  Worked for 48 years at the Znamia defense plant, from engineer to general director.  The factory specialized in manufacturing radars and parts for anti-missile systems.  The only customer ofr these parts was Russia.  The plant closed and Yuriy retired in 2010, but kept in touch with colleagues in Kyiv and Moscow, help them selling the special military equipment.  He has a wife and son.  Yuriy was arrested when he was 72 years old.  He turned 74 eleven days ago.


I was the director of a plant, which continuously worked with the Ministry of Defense of Russia.  That was our only customer because we made products for military-technical purposes, goods that were used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

We normally worked as one team, starting from the Soviet era. We were invited to workshops which, because of our presence, were considered international.  We came with our flag, raised it while the Ukrainian anthem was played.  And it was so nice, such sincere respect.

Once, one of these larger customers, a colonel in the Russian Army, called and said that they purchased a large batch of our products and ask for our “authorisation” for their use in their military complexes.

I responded that you need to verify that the product is in fact in good shape.  He asked:  “Can you do that?”

I did not agree for a long time, I was going to go treat my wife, I already bought tickets.  And I had left the factory back in 2010.  But they insisted.  “Well, come, for one day.  We have the equipment.  You can come and leave on the same day…”

They persuaded me.  I came through Belgorod, going through passport control, the female customs officer checked my documents, left, then returned:  “Give your passport one more time.”

I give her my passport.  She went into the next compartment and I hear her on the phone reporting my passport data to somewhere.  And I realized that I am being “led”.  Even then I knew that something is not right … But I worked with Kolegov (who was the head of the defence procurement department of ‘Roselectronika’ and who asked Soloshenko to come to Russia) for 12 years while I was director.

Although I don’t even want to say that name.  I can not call him a human.  Even though I have persuaded myself that I am a Christian, and it is necessary to forgive – but some scoundrels cannot be forgiven.

I think:  “Well, they are leading me, and so what? I’m going in a siple shirt, jeans, sandals, three thousand Russian rubles in my pocket and a return ticket.  I promissed Kolegov;  I worked with him for how long ….?.”  I don’t see any reasons to return.

In Moscow, I met this Kolegov and Demyanov, also a former colonel:  “What, you just came, without anything?”

I responded:  “I arrived for half of the day, with nothing.  Do you have equipment to test?” – “Yes, we have it.”

We arrive at their office and I see the equipment that I’m supposed to check.  Before I have time to greet everyone as custom dictates, like in a scene from a detective story the door swings open:  “Don’t move! FSB!”

I think: “Maybe something these guys have screwed up somewhere … It is for them, I am here for nothing.”

An officer jumps towards me, pins me to the wall, feet and arms apart.  I don’t understand what’s going on.  They search me, take both my phones, put them in a plastic bag, and give it back to me.  I look at the bag, see my phones and some kind of papers.

I say: “It’s not mine.” -. “No, it’s yours you came with them.”

It turns out that they have prepared some supposedly secret documents, which I have come to steal from Russia.

I was told the “secret files” were designs of C-300 systems, which have been used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine for 40 years, and components for which are manufactured in Kyiv at the Generator plant.

I was tied, handcuffed, photographed, all as expected.

The only “evidence” – it’s these phones with the documents that they themselves put in. Even my fingerprints were not on these pieces of paper. I have not read them, I still do not know what is written in these papers. I have absolutely no interest in them.

We arrived at the Department of Investigations.  I think they will sort it out quickly and I’ll go home.  My return ticket is for 9:15 PM.  But I see that they are really seriously writing a detention protocol.

The investigator tells me:  “We have notified the embassy.”  We arrived at the court, I again start to say, this is an absurd accusation.

But judge tells me:  “It’s not about the indictment, but rather about the preventative measures that we are to determine prior to the end of these proceedings.”  And he makes a decision to detain me for two months in the Lefortovo prison.

They put me into solitary confinement.  The next day I was escorted under guard to the investigation department.

Then my investigator says:  “While you are writing these petitiions, everyone is laughing at you. We know how to write, we have written and substantiated everything properly.”

“Accept Russian citizenship, and you will be transferred to witness status.  We’re not after you but after Kolegov.  You know, he has this kind of position, he has always been under our surveillance.  You’re along for the ride.  If you accept [our]citizenship, we will transfer you to witness status, you’ll be protected by Russian laws on witnesses.”

I, of course, refused.

Then they simply imprisoned me.


My friends in Moscow were very helpful, immediately provided me with everything that an arrested should have, because I even left my toothbrush on the train – I was prepared to return home on the same train.

But in the investigation department, they told me:  “A lawyer sent by your friends keeps coming her.  He will only hurt you because he was specially sent to find out, why you are being held in isolation in order to protect his own people, those leaders.”  They strongly insisted that I refuse the services of this lawyer.

On October 2 the court extended the restraint measure for another two months.

I almost had a heart attack when I learned they wouldn’t let me go.  I really felt awful.  I had hoped that this misunderstanding would be resolved in two months.

I spent a month in solitary.  Then, I was escorted to the Criminal Investigation Division where I was told that they couldn’t conduct an investigation as my lawyer refused to appear.  They recommended another lawyer, “an excellent and highly principled specialist”.

In short, they “recommend”.  They brought him, and he said:  “From tomorrow, we start to prepare materials to reclassify the article because the charge of espionage is particulary serious crime, from 10 to 20 years, without the possibility of amnesty, no favors.”

He promised a lot, but “pay up in advance, and then we’ll start working.”

Well, my children paid him.

A lawyer as money received, immediately said:  “You have two options – to plead guilty, and receive a minimum of 10 years  If you don’t plead guilty, get 20 years.”

And I say to him: “Look at me.  Ten or 20 years for me, does it matter?  Of course, I’m not going to plead guilty”.

So, I was without a lawyer for 10 months, and 8 months with the consul.  And they need to finalise something already.

I do not admit to anything – and they obviously do not have enough materials.  They called me again and offer the following condition pre-trial deal with the investigation:  “If you plead guilty to espionage, we will transfer you to house arrest” – to a friend of mine who lives near Moscow.

They tell me that the head of the [investigations]division has a friend – the deputy chairman of the Moscow City Court – he’s already spoken with him and I’ll get a suspended sentence.

My children write to me.  They tell me what measures are being taken;  they often travel to Kyivfor discussions, speak with people;  human rights activists have taken up my cause. The Russian Ombudsman, Ella Pamfilova, tells me she can’t help me at that moment;  she needs to wait until after the trial.

I know that the charges are ridiculous, that no one in Ukraine will believe them.  Why would I steal these “secret documents” if we already have them in Kyiv?

So, OK, I agree to house arrest.

But first, I told the investigator:  “I don’t believe you, let someone from your management confirm.”

Colonel Rastvorov, head of the division, arrives and says:  “Danylovych, my father is also called Yuriy Danylovych, and he was also born in 1942.  I respect you a great deal.  When I told the deputy chairman of the court how old you are he told me to forget it and let you go home, everything will be done.”

They go and see my friend, and receive a written confirmation from him that he has a residence, where I can be held under house arrest.  They show me the letter; I’m familiar with my friend’s handwriting.  So be it…

I sign that disgusting paper.

I can’t read it to the end; it’s all so implausible, absurd and horrible.

After some time, they invite me again to that investigation department.  The head has set a table, a bottle of cognac and sandwiches.  “You see, all agree, except for one thiing.  He said that you aren’t registered in Russia, so you can not be held under house arrest … Let’s have a drink.”  I did not drink…

… The investigator during a burst of candor said:  “If I exonerate you, it means that I should go to the human resources department to resign.  The question of your detention was decided at the senior levels of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the FSB leadership.”

I absolutely had no chance there.  I wrote to the administration of the President and the Chief of Investigation Department.  No response.

Time passes, I should familiarise myself with the case.  Again there is no lawyer, I’m alone.

I read the first volume. In the first volume of the FSB wrote a certificate that these products are used in the production of one factory in Ukraine.  This will help possibly, if it’s read by someone smart.

I don’t see any of my conversations noted in the material.  It’s all been carefully prepared.  They’d call me, talk about this and that, ask some questions… Only then do I realize they were trying to provoke me so that I’d say something interesting.

One volume I signed.  Total 4 volumes.  I being told to speed up:  “Let’s run, because all is agreed, everything needs to be done quickly.”

Suddenly, things began to speed up. I signed all the volumes on the 11th, they were delivered to and registered at the Prosecutor’s Office on the 16th, and on the 19th, I received notice that my case was registered in court.

I think:  “Maybe, in fact, they want to quickly give me a suspended sentence and send me home?…”  And immediately comes a court notice – the court hearing is set for October 1st.


It was a closed hearing. No one was allowed into the courtroom, no TV, no consul.

At the third court hearing, I spoke in my own defense.  The judge listened to me.  In the verdict the judge wrote that “the court my words “the court had a critical view of my testimony.”

The sentence was read on the 14th.  The courtroom was open to the public.  Human rights activists and the consul attended.

I received a letter:  the sentence will be served at the location determined.  At that time, I was in the Matrosskaya Tishina Hospital.  Ella Pamfilova informed me through human rights activist, Zoya Svetova, that she’d also be discussing my pardon on December 10th at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

And now I’m waiting for December 10th.  Turn on the TV, they are showing Ella Pamfilova sitting with Putin talking about something … And suddently the door opens:  “Soloshenko, with things on the way out.”  The boys say:  “Good, Pamfilova has resolved everything.” I thought so too as picked up my things.

I was sent to the holding cell, and then out taken away.

… Stolypin-like wagons.  My wagon seems like all the others – a narrow corridor, seats along the side, but iron bars everywhere.  There are no windows.  Three shelves on both sides.  Twelve people in the compartment, all smoking.  I asked the guard:  “If there is a fire starts now in the cabin, will you open the iron bars, so that we can jump out?” He says: “No, it’s easier for me to write you off, than to explain where you all ran off to.”

I was first taken to the penal colony in Nizhny Novgorod, admitted to the prison hospital where I stayed for two weeks.  But, my health deteriorated, and I was admitted to the regional prison hospital which was in the 5th penal colony.  I spent two and a half months there, and then I was transferred to the colony.

I was allowed to make some calls. I already know something is happening, and my hope was up…

I was in a cell with some very respectable people – two doctoral degrees.  One was a colonel in the Special Forces, a real army man with medals.  The other guy was from Georgia;  he asked me to teach him the Ukrainian national anthem, but quietly.  With 22-year-old Lyosha from the Kuznetsk Basin I recalled Pavlo Tychyna’s words [Ukrainian poet]:  “I ask no one for the right to live.  To live, I’ll break all my chains.  I assert myself, I’ll get stronger because I am alive.” He asked me to write them down on the cover of his diary.

I was not beaten – they were trying to break me down mentally.  What should I lose? … (pauses)  Of course, I wanted to see my grandchildren.  The investigator told me:  “Of course, it is better to die at home,” – and I think: “Dream on.” Well, I’m almost home.

There is such an organization “The Russian Prisoner“;  the wrote to me.  There is also the “Russia Sitting” organization.  And there are just people who have seen information somewhere on the Internet, wrote. From Canada, some girl Olia wrote.

When I was transported, they gave me all of the letters, one of them from the honored worker of arts of Ukraine, Serhiy Arhypchuk, who congratulated me on my birthday on 6th of May.  I received it on 6th of December.  Valeria Lutkovska wrote me a letter and so did Klimkin.

You can’t count on any show of humanity in Russia.  This monster, Russia, is led by one powerful man – an autocrat of All Russia and his FSB minions.

I’d like to say this to all the hostages in the Russian Federation:  Hold tight!  Believe and hope because Ukraine has not forgotten you.  Our country is fighting for each and every citizen.

Don’t lose hope!

If I didn’t believe that I’d be going home, I really don’t know if I’d lived to see this day.

Every day, I’d fall asleep and wake up with this thought.  This became my prayer.




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