On May 4, the first preliminary session charging former president Viktor Yanukovych with high treason took place in Ukraine. Ukrainian media called this case “trial of the century”.
Viktor Yanukovych is being accused of committing crimes according to the criminal code of Ukraine, most notably “High treason”, “Complicity in intentional actions, committed with the goal of changing the territorial borders and state borders of Ukraine,” and “Complicity in aggressive warfare”. The military prosecutor general’s office is putting emphasis on the fact that on March 1, 2014, Yanukovych contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request to bring military forces into Ukraine. This was the document which Russian representative Vitaly Churkin presented at the UN Security Council session on March 3, 2014. Churkin passed away in February 2017, supposedly from heart problems.
At the preliminary session, Yanukovych’s defense came forward with about thirty motions concerning procedural violations. The attorneys suspect Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko of interference in the automated court case allocation process. They also state that the prosecutor general is putting pressure on the court by saying that this trial must be completed by August 24, 2017. However, the prosecutor general’s office has said that there are no deadlines regarding the adjudication of the Yanukovych high treason case.
Yanukovych announced previously that he has a number of questions for the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine (GPU) regarding the high treason case opened against him. In a letter to the Pecherskiy Court from January 18, the former president stated that he had not received notice of being suspected of high treason in the necessary manner, and thus pleads to not consider himself suspected.
The suspicion of Yanukovych was announced by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko during a video questioning of the former head of state in November 2016. On the other hand, Lutsenko stated that he would give the documents both to the attorneys who were present at the trial and send them to Rostov as required.
On Thursday May 4, Vladislav Devyatko, presiding judge of the Kyiv Obolonskyi District Court, gave permission to Yanukovych’s defense to organize a video conference for their defendant to participate in the trial. Afterwards, the court announced recess until 10 a.m. on May 18.
During the briefing, Prosecutor Ruslan Kravchenko of the Main Military Division of the GPU conjectured that in the next preparatory session, Yanukovych’s defense could deliberately delay the high treason trial. The prosecutor also stressed that the prosecution has a clear position – Yanukovych must be in a Ukrainian court and must answer for his actions and deeds in front of the Ukrainian nation and government. Kravchenko also noted that since Yanukovych does not acknowledge his guilt in the high treason case, the prosecution will request the most severe punishment for this crime, namely life imprisonment.
“We will make a motion for life imprisonment,” the prosecutor noted. When asked by reporters how many witnesses the prosecution and accused have in the Yanukovych case, Kravchenko responded: “During the pretrial investigation, the defense did not present any materials. We presented to them all the available materials, as the law stipulates. Formally, the defense has no facts and no witnesses,” he pointed out. “We have questioned and intend to question more than a hundred witnesses,” he added.
Yanukovych’s attorney Vitaly Serdyuk announced that there are new facts in the case.
“Viktor Yanukovych has things to say in this trial. There are very important facts which have not yet been voiced by us,” Serdyuk stated.
Ukrainian MP Volodymyr Litvin pointed out in a broadcast of channel 112 Ukraine that the statements by high-ranking Ukrainian officials regarding the Yanukovych high treason case are evidence of it turning into a political trial.
In his opinion, Ukraine has already made its statement regarding Yanukovych.
“By and large, they [the Ukrainian people] are not very interested in the outcome. But the statements of high-ranking officials are evidence that from the very outset, this case will be transferred to the political plane, that this will be a political trial. If they are able to prepare Yanukovych well, if he does not depart from the prepared text, he could take on the role of another Dymytrov, and speak about things which could generally make Ukraine explode, including the shady agreements which were achieved with the current Ukrainian officials,” Litvin believes.