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Russia slams Ukraine for persecuting lawyers defending Russian citizens

March 17, 2016, 21:56 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The situation looks suspicious amid the threats of bodily harm to and criminal persecution of another Ukrainian lawyer who represents the interests of Russian citizen, Russian Foreign Ministry says

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© Sergey Reznik/TASS

MOSCOW, March 17. /TASS/. The trend of ‘total persecution’ in Ukraine has spread both to Russia’s media representatives and Ukrainian lawyers defending the interests of Russian citizens, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"Alarming reports are coming from Kiev about the possible disappearance of Ukrainian lawyer Yuri Grabovsky," the spokeswoman said.

"As you know, he defended in court the interests of Russian citizen Alexander Aleksandrov who is being persecuted in Ukraine on the charges of allegedly committing war crimes," Zakharova said.

"The situation "looks suspicious" as it is unfolding amid the threats of bodily harm to and criminal persecution of another Ukrainian lawyer, Oksana Sokolovskaya who represents the interests of Russian citizen Yevgeny Yerofeyev," the spokeswoman said.

"Sokolovksaya had to request the board of judges of a Kiev district court on March 15 to give her personal guards," the Russian diplomat said.

"This strange turn of events around the lawyers for the Russian citizens can evidence that the Kiev authorities really fear that the cases will fall apart in court and not a single effective argument will remain from this process," Zakharova said.

Up until now, Russia has witnessed "total persecution of Russian journalists and media representatives in Ukraine," the spokeswoman said.

"The talk is about the lawyers who have not been afraid of defending the interests of Russian citizens in court," the diplomat said.

"We expect that this situation, which can be characterized as lawlessness, will be duly assessed by Western sponsors and Western ‘friends’ of the incumbent Kiev authorities who so much care about observing democracy standards and human rights," Zakharova said.

Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev were captured by Ukraine’s forces on May 16, 2015, in the Lugansk region, in eastern Ukraine. They are accused of illegal border crossing, illegal possession of arms and involvement in terrorist activity.

Kiev claims the detainees are Russian servicemen. However, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Russians "were not active servicemen of Russia’s Armed Forces at the moment of their detention."

Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev say they are not guilty on any of the charges. According to their lawyers, the two men should be considered prisoners of war as both of them were members of the people’s militia of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) when they were detained.

If found guilty in Ukraine, the Russians may be sentenced for life.

The lawyers say the trial should be organized in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

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