Su, 1.10.2023

Ukrainian court decides to release Estonia's Slava Ukraini whistleblower from house arrest

Oleksandr Chernov (left) in front of Pavlohrad court today with his lawyers Artem Krasnobryzhy (center) and Vadim Maltsev.
Oleksandr Chernov (left) in front of Pavlohrad court today with his lawyers Artem Krasnobryzhy (center) and Vadim Maltsev. Photo: Ilmar Raag

On Thursday, at the trial that began in Pavlohrad, Ukraine, the judge decided that Oleksandr Chernov, who has helped uncover schemes related to the Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini, is to remain free after his house arrest ended last week.

Chernov's house arrest ended on Aug. 12, and he now has the right to move freely within the country. Chernov stated that he intends to continue his voluntary work assisting the Ukrainian army.

The Slava Ukraini whistleblower saw positive signs in Thursday's session.

"The judge made the right decision to fully get acquainted with the documents," he told Postimees. "The court finally listened not only to the prosecution but also the defense, and there's hope for a fair and legal decision," he added.

On May 12, Ukrainian police found an RPG-26 anti-tank grenade of Soviet origin and six combat grenade casings with detonators in the trunk of Chernov's vehicle. All these weapons were illegal. The reason for the search was an investigator's statement to the court that he had evidence pointing to Chernov's likely involvement in arms dealing. Allegedly, in April, Ukrainian police detained a man with illegal ammunition who claimed to have obtained it from Chernov.

Chernov's lawyers have not yet seen the alleged witness's statements.

"Our assumption is that these witnesses aren't ordinary civilians but police officers because they wouldn't be hidden from us otherwise," Chernov's lawyer Artem Krasnobryzhy said.

"We have filed numerous appeals against procedural decisions made by the investigator during the pre-trial investigation stage, namely the extension of the criminal case pre-trial investigation to three months. We believe this was unlawfully extended," Krasnobryzhy said. "This extension grossly violated the right to defense, which is essentially the mockery of the investigation by the prosecutors and investigators. They just crumpled up the Ukrainian Criminal Code and threw it away, along with all rights and the Constitution."

This, according to the lawyer, manifested in the prosecution not complying with the requirements that allow for objections. The investigator has a legal obligation to deliver these statements to the suspect and their defense. According to Chernov's lawyers, the investigator completely ignored these demands and did not hand over the statements, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to prepare objections.

The judge scheduled the next hearing for Oct. 3 to delve deeper into the complexities of Chernov's case.