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Ukraine's Role In Releasing The Rest, Explained
2 June, 2016
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What You Need To Know:

✓ At least thirty-one additional Ukrainians remain in Russia and occupied Crimea for political offenses;

 ✓ “There are some steps, which have to be made by Ukrainian side to protect them, to ensure the fundamental right;“

✓ Tomak insists that Ukraine has to create an “an advocacy campaign to persuade the West” that these individuals are convicted and require help for political reasons;

✓ When asked about Savchenko’s return, Tomak says the participation of Medvedchuk, a controversial former head of Kuchma’s presidential administration and a friend of President Putin, raises much concern.

At least thirty-one additional Ukrainians remain in Russia and occupied Crimea for political offenses. Though much of the attention has been on Savchenko's return, some individuals have just been arrested, a few trials are in the process, and others have already been partly or fully convicted. According to Maria Tomak of ‘Let My People Go’, an organization working to return the prisoners, the various cases are all very different – the latest involving the arrest of Crimean Tatars who are accused of being terrorists.

“There are some steps, which have to be made by Ukrainian side to protect them, to ensure the fundamental right,“ she says about Ukraine’s responsibility towards its political prisoners. Tomak adds that while there should be pressure from the side of the world towards Russia, she insists that Ukraine has to create an “an advocacy campaign to persuade the West” that these individuals are convicted and require help for political reasons.

“The Ukrainian state has to develop a strategy regarding the return of these people to Ukraine because not all of these people probably can be returned by the exchange. Probably some of them can be returned via the convention.” According to this convention, Ukrainian citizens, after conviction, can return to Ukraine and stay in prison there. This is rather complicated, says Tomak, as the individuals must be extradited from Russia.

While there is no news on the development of the release of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, arguably the most famous cases after Savchenko’s, Tomak says that in the near future there will probably be some good news on the release of Gennadiy Afanasyev and Yury Soloshenko who will be returned to Ukraine not by convention, but most likely as part of a package deal with Savchenko.

When asked about Savchenko’s return, Tomak says the participation of Medvedchuk, a controversial former head of Kuchma’s presidential administration and a friend of President Putin, raises much concern: “the negotiation process should be held by the state, not by some actors like Medvedchuk or any others.”

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk and Josh Kovensky spoke to Maria Tomak, Coordinator of Let My People Go, during the live broadcast of The Sunday Show on May 29, 2016 In Kyiv.