Political Prisoner Roman Sushchenko Turns 50 in Russian Prison
On February 8th Roman Sushchenko, the Ukrainian journalist and political prisoner currently being held in Russia, turns 50 in a Russian prison. He was detained in Moscow in 2016
This is Roman Sushchenko – a Ukrainian journalist imprisoned in Russia – with no legal reason. Today is Roman’s 50th birthday. But instead of celebrating with his family, he is spending it – behind bars.
“This is the third birthday he is spending in prison. For two of them he was in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center in Moscow, and this year – in a penal colony in the Kirov Region,” Roman’s daughter Yulia Sushchenko said.
This January, Yulia and Anzhelika Sushchenko spent 3 days with their father and husband. The next time they will have the chance to see him, is in about 3 months. There are only 10 rooms for long visits in the Kirov Region penal colony – while the number of prisoners amounts to about 3,000.
But Yulia says that the conditions in the Lefortovo prison – where Sushchenko was transferred from in October, 2018 – were even worse.
“Transferring [to a penal colony in the Kirov Region] was physically difficult for him. He wrote in his letters and told us, in person, about the conditions he was in during the transfer. He was caged in an old Stolypin railcar — without any heating. There were 8 people in the compartment — instead of 4. With all their possessions. There were sick people and drug addicts… And some even had contagious diseases,” Yulia added.
Before his imprisonment, Sushchenko was reporting for the Ukrinform news agency from France.
“Roman wrote harsh materials that exposed the lies of Russia’s propaganda. One of them being, that “French parliamentarians or senators travel to Crimea”,” Deputy Director General of Ukrinform News Agency Maryna Synhayivska said.
In 2016, Sushchenko was detained in Moscow, where he arrived on a private trip. But Russia’s FSB claimed that he was a spy. In June 2018, the Moscow City Court sentenced him to 12 years in a high-security penal colony. About 5 months later, he was transferred to a penal colony in the Kirov Region of Russia.
“Roman pleaded not guilty. Since the court hearing was closed to the public, we do not know what evidence was presented there, and what he was accused of. According to the general wording, he was “gathering information on Russia’s military forces”,” Synhayivska added
Sushchenko started to draw sketches in his prison cell.
“The consul brought him 24 pastel crayons. Before that, he drew using black and blue pens. He shaded using onion skins, tea bags, and ketchup,” Yulia explained.
Roman sends these sketches to his family – from a penal colony in the Kirov Region.