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    July 3, 2016

    Ukrainian General Prosecutor Releases Aidar's Likholit, Despite Official List of Crimes

    Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
    3rd July, 2016

    Likholit (left), suspected of serious crimes, was released from prison after intervention by the public prosecutor Lutsenko (right)

    *Note that this story is being reported by a Ukrainian news source*

    After the Pechersk court arrested the commander of the "Aidar" battalion Valentin Likholit for 2 months, with the call sign "Batya", on the suspicion of organising a gang and robbery, his associates and MPs have blocked the building of the Pechersk district court and did not allow Likholit to be moved in order to jail him. As a result, the Prosecutor General's office went back on their word. Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko personally arrived at the court of appeals and supported the requirements of the protection of Likholit for his release. And that's what was done. 

    The behavior of Lutsenko has caused great confusion in public Prosecutor's circles, because Likholit was accused of committing very serious crimes. Moreover, the Prosecutor General's office posted on its website a detailed list of his serious crimes to justify the preventive measure of his arrest. “Strana” has published the full text of the document.

    Valentin Likholit's measure of restraint (arrest) is based on the proof that was received during trials on other cases concerning the events of not only 2014 but also 2015.

    1. According to the testimony of the first witness, on the evening of 30th July, 2014, under the order of "Batya"-Likholit, the personnel unit of the "Aidar" battalion was assembled; nearby was "Rubezh"- Radchenko. Likholit said that it was necessary to go for “cleansing” the town of Severodonetsk. Later, "Rubezh"-Radchenko chose about 10 people who were interested in going on a mission. They went to Severodonetsk, precisely to the office of the Deputy of the Severodonetsk city council person A. In his office, Likholit and Radchenko discussed the details of the attacks on the houses of the mayor and his two deputies.

    During the attacks of July 30th-August 1st, 2014, on the specified households, “Rubezh"-Radchenko was in the proximity of the perpetrators of the attacks. He controlled and coordinated their actions.

    On the morning of 1st August, 2014, the cash obtained during the attacks was laid out on the hood of one of the cars in the hangar at the base of the "Aidar" battalion, more than 10 equal parts, and the things the attackers took possession of. Fighter from the "Aidar" battalion brought to the base "Batya"-Likholit, and the men who were present in the hangar reported to him the events that took place at night. Then "Batya"-Likholit ordered to divide the funds among themselves, and "distribute" the possessions. In turn, "Batya"-Likholit received the same share as the others.

    2. The second witness said that he drove "Batya"-Likholit according to his instruction in a Subaru Outback, which was stolen during the attack. In January 2015, at the order of Batya-Likholit, he gave the vehicle to person A, the same car that was earlier taken from them. The witness said that three victims were held in the basement of a sausage shop in the village of Polovynkyne in the Starobilsk district, Lugansk region. "Rubezh"-Radchenko repeatedly conducted interrogations of these individuals. Once, immediately after the interrogation, "Rubezh"-Radchenko informed the 2nd witness that he only interrogated person K (the victim). Also, once on the orders of the Batya-Likholit, the 2nd witness took person K (the victim) to the river so they could wash.

    3. The third witness recalled that in the period of captivity he heard the call signs "Batya" and "Kombat".

    4. The fourth witness reported Radchenko's illegal actions against police officers. This is about the threat of murder with the use of hand grenades.

    5. A fifth witness reported that, to the "Aidar" battalion base in Polovynkyne, under the leadership of Likholit, fighters constantly drove cars that were groundlessly taken away from citizens.

    6. The sixth witness added that Likholit proposed him to kill two soldiers from the "Aidar" battalion in exchange for assistance in obtaining Ukrainian citizenship.

    7. The seventh and eighth witnesses stated that they had committed actions that incriminated them by bodies of the pre-trial investigation, especially under the orders of Radchenko and Likholit.

    8. The testimony of the ninth witness indicated the existence of an armed gang that was under the leadership of Radchenko and Likholit. They confirmed that they also participated in the attacks committed by this gang.

    9. The tenth witness said that a few days after the crime the police seized a videotape from the household where the gang’s attack took place, and showed it to him (witness). Here he recognized among the attackers a soldier from the "Aidar" battalion.

    10. The eleventh witness reported that "Batya"-Likholit was talking on his cell phone with him at the time of the attack on his household. During the conversation "Batya"-Likholit told the victim that if he wants to get back his private Lexus RX 450 vehicle, he must come to the base of the "Aidar" battalion.

    In addition, the victim repeatedly communicated with "Batya"-Likholit using a mobile connection regarding the return of hunting weapons and documents, which were stolen during the attack on the 23rd August 2014. "Batya"-Likholit promised to help him with the return of the above items if the victim will give funds for his pre-electoral campaign for the position of people's deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which took place in September and October 2014.

    It is interesting that, in the latest episode, there is one more criminal case that was opened espeically against fighters of the "Aidar" battalion that participated in the attack on the house of the eleventh witness. The famous Ukrainian lawyer Alexey Romanov found this case in the registry of judgments, and posted it on his Facebook page.

    "A pile of gold, machinery, hunting rifles, 450 Lexus, $92,000 and 40,000 Hryvnias. And two pairs of winter shoes. Two. August 23rd. And two childrens’' crucifixes. And that's just in one house," commented Alexey Romanov on the case materials.

    Note, that the defenders of "Batya" claim: all these accusations are slander from the part of the separatists, with whom Likholit was fighting against and who now give evidence against him. 

    At the same time, it is worth recalling that the "Aidar" battalion in the last year repeatedly appeared in a variety of criminal cases on charges of banditry, looting, and violence against peaceful civilians.

    In 2015, the then Governor of Lugansk region Gennady Moskal sent to the MIA and the Defense Ministry of Ukraine a list of the 65 crimes allegedly committed by soldiers of the battalion on the territory of the Lugansk region in May-November 2014. 34 cases were about kidnapping. In the majority of cases, there is still no information about the kidnapped people. A similar report was presented by Amnesty International. The organization has received dozens of reports of abuses committed by members of the "Aidar" battalion. Usually fighters kidnapped local residents who were accused by them of collaborating with the separatists, and held them in makeshift detention centers. In nearly all cases, confirmed Amnesty International, the victims were beaten and forced to pay a ransom to the soldiers of the battalion. 

    The illegality of the actions of the battalion is confirmed also by a number of volunteers in 2014-2015 who worked in the Lugansk region.

    According to volunteer Elena M. from the Lugansk region, locals referred to the Aidar battalion as nothing but "outlaws". 

    "The fighters of Aidar, immediately after coming to the village, cleansed it of all who seemed to them as "separatists",” the volunteer tells. Those who were working in this area during actual separatists presence were detained by them. Anyone who came under suspicion was taken "in the basement". Even employees of municipal services – they were blamed for the fact that they repaired the water and sewer "under separatists". Then Aidar, with the direct participation of Valentin Likholit, besieged all the roads in the area with outposts. Aidar demanded money even for normal passage through checkpoints. They also organised smuggling in the LPR. And they didn't just simply take money for passage from trucks, but they also gave a convoy to the next checkpoint. And also all markets and shops in the area were made to pay tributes.

    As was reported earlier by “Strana”, the Pechersk court of Kiev took the decision on the application of soft measures of restraint for former commander of the "Aidar" battalion Valentin Likholit - to release him on bail. As a result "Batya" is out of custody…

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    Item Reviewed: Ukrainian General Prosecutor Releases Aidar's Likholit, Despite Official List of Crimes Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ollie Richardson
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