“Poljakov maintains that everyone wore camouflage fatigues there at the time, that they were like the national dress,” Montian said. “As concerns photographs depicting weapons, most men have the handicap desire to pose with them. However, is that a crime or proof of anything?”
No war officially
Montian said that Poljakov cannot be accused of belonging to the LPR terrorist group as Ukraine has never legally designated the separatist “people's republics” as terrorist organizations.
Despite sounding incredible, this turns out to be true – even though Ukraine is officially conducting an anti-terrorist operation, not fighting a war, in Donbass, there are no legal documents to classify LPR and DPR as terrorist organizations. The Ukrainian parliament has discussed corresponding draft legislation but has not passed it, and no court has made any such decision concerning either LPR or DPR.
That said, Estonia extradited Poljakov after criminal charges were brought against him for belonging to a criminal organization, which were approved by the courts. It turns out that LPR and DPR have been designated as terrorist organizations in Estonia but not in Ukraine. At least officially. Poljakov's trial is taking place in the small town of Troitske on the Russian border in the northern part of Luhansk oblast. The region is accessible via a night train from Kiev after which one has to undertake a 100 kilometer taxi ride as there are no buses to Troitske from the nearest train station.
Montian said that the SBU justified moving the trial to the Luhansk oblast through the fact that Poljakov's last phone call in the summer of 2014 was traced to the October district of the city of Luhansk. Because the city is under separatist control, the process was moved to a court that had free judges. That is how the trial ended up taking place in Troitske that is actually relatively far from Luhansk.
“The SBU deliberately found such a remote court so it would be as inconvenient as possible for me to defend Poljakov,” Montian is convinced.
The trial has seen three court sessions; however, deliberation of the contents of accusations has not begun as of yet. The accused has not been heard. “The court is not in a hurry; they are also hoping Poljakov gets traded that would rid them of this case,” the defender said.
Poljakov is currently held in the Starobilsk preliminary investigation prison in Luhansk oblast. Montian said the conditions are very poor: 10-20 people sharing a single cell the temperature of which hovers around 10 degrees Celsius. The cells are ventilated and the prisoners fed very poorly and cannot go for walks.
“By keeping Poljakov there, Ukraine is in violation of the obligation of holding him in appropriate conditions,” Montian said.
The spokesperson of the Estonian public prosecutor's office said the government extradited Poljakov based on the European Convention on Extradition without any special conditions. The convention makes no mention of conditions of detention.
Novaya Gazeta journalist Julia Poluhhina said that the conditions at Starobilsk aren't as bad as those in the preliminary investigation prison in Kharkiv. “Starobilsk is usually the destination of prisoners being prepared for an exchange,” she said. “At least they don't beat them there.”