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New lawyer hired for detained Russian national in Ukraine instead of missing attorney

March 21, 2016, 18:57 UTC+3 KIEV

Earlier Kiev court had to adjourn the hearing into the case of Russian nationals Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev over the absence of Aleksandrov’s lawyer who had mysteriously disappeared on March 6

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Lawyers Oksana Sokolovskaya and Valentin Rybin

Lawyers Oksana Sokolovskaya and Valentin Rybin

© Roman Zubov/TASS

KIEV, March 21. /TASS/. A new lawyer has started to represent the interests of detained Russian national Alexander Aleksandrov in a Ukrainian court instead of missing attorney Yuri Grabovsky, the presiding judge said on Monday.

"As of today, we have new counsel for the defense Valentin Rybin," the judge said.

Neither Aleksandrov nor the lawyer of another detained Russian national Yevgeny Yerofeyev objected to the replacement of the counsel for defense.

Rybin requested the court to give him three weeks to study the materials of the case.

Kiev’s Goloseevsky district court has extended the term of custody for Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev, the presiding judge said on Monday.

"It has been ruled to extend the custody for a term of no more than two months, i.e. until May 19," the judge said.

Aleksandrov’s newly hired lawyer Valentin Rybin requested the court to give him time until April 11 to get acquainted with the case. However, the custody term expires on April 9, due to which the prosecution asked the court to extend it. Meanwhile, the counsel for the defense asked the court to choose home arrest for the detained Russians.

Kiev's Goloseevsky district court had to adjourn again on March 15 the hearing into the case of Russian nationals Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev over the absence of Aleksandrov’s lawyer Grabovsky who had mysteriously disappeared on March 6.

Grabovsky’s colleagues have established that the lawyer was in Odessa on March 5 and returned to his Kiev office the following day, after which no one saw him. His personal belongings were found in hotel Arcadia in Odessa while a notice on the lawyer’s behalf was posted on his page in a social network saying he had left the country for security reasons.

The Odessa police and Kiev’s Goloseevsky court have opened a criminal case under the "premeditated murder" article over Grabovsky’s disappearance.

Lawyer for the second detained Russian Oksana Sokolovskaya told TASS on March 10 she was sure that Grabovsky’s disappearance was related to the court’s hearings on the case and that the materials on the defense for the Russian nationals in court had disappeared together with Grabovsky.

The Odessa police said earlier they had identified the person who had left the last message on Grabovsky’s Facebook page.

"The identity of the person who left a message on the personal Facebook page has been established. According to preliminary information, this was not Grabovsky," the press office of the Odessa Region Main National Police Department told TASS on March 11.

The Odessa police also said Grabovsky had not left the country.

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.

Russia’s Consul to Kiev Alexei Gruby said in a comment for TASS on March 15 that Russian national Aleksandrov detained in Ukraine last year would have a new counsel for his defense in court, if his missing lawyer Grabovsky didn’t turn up.

"Now we’re looking for a new counsel for defense so that the process can be continued. If Yuri Leonidovich [Grabovsky] returns, he will naturally continue the case. But if the search for him does not crown with success shortly, there will naturally be a new lawyer suitable for Alexandrov’s relatives," the Russian consul said.

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