Mass protests took place across Ukraine after the sentence was passed on civic activist Serhiy Sternenko. The Odesa court passed a guilty verdict in the case over abduction of a member of one of the district councils of the Odesa region and sentenced Sternenko to seven years and three months in prison with confiscation of half of his property.

Sternenko’s defence lawyers insist that by delivering a verdict in a fabricated case instituted in 2015 (kidnapping and extortion of UAH 300), the authorities punish the activist for his open pro-Ukrainian position and civic activism in Odesa.

Rallies in support of Sternenko took place in many regional centres. The most massive event was near the President’s Office in Kyiv, where, according to various estimates, from 2,000 to 5,000 people gathered. Clashes with the police broke out during the protest. According to the capital’s National Police Department, 27 police officers were injured in the clashes.

Twenty-four “active participants” of the protests were detained and taken to police departments, but later they were all released. The Kyiv police opened criminal proceedings over mass protests in the capital.

Sternenko was taken into custody in the courtroom. Now, he stays in the Odesa pre-trial detention centre.

The activist denies involvement in the abduction and considers the case to be politically motivated. He is also a suspect in another case. In 2018, Sternenko was attacked three times, fatally wounding one of the attackers during the last one. The activist claims that he acted in self-defence and accuses Odesa Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov of organising the attacks.

Sternenko is accused of “murder” by pro-Russian politicians, including Andriy Portnov and Olena Lukash, MPs from the Opposition Platform – For Life party Ilya Kyva and Vadym Rabinovych and MPs from Servant of the People party Maksym Buzhansky and Oleksandr Dubinsky.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union considers the persecution of the activist to be politically motivated.

Bohdan Marusyak

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