Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

Armenian border guards did not allow the kidnapped Russian to be taken away.

April 11, 2024

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The Insider writes.

 

Armenian border guards did not allow the kidnapped Russian to be taken away. But he believed the Russian investigator and refused a lawyer - human rights activists

 

 

Armenian law enforcement agencies have launched an investigation into reports that Russian Anatoly Shchetinin, a fugitive from military service, was kidnapped in Gyumri by Russian military police. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated this. “We will find out what happened and report,” Sputnik Armenia quotes Pashinyan as saying.

 

According to the prime minister, a few days ago Shchetinin tried to fly out of Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport, but was detained and handed over to the Armenian police because he was wanted. After checking, he was released. The fact that Shchetinin, who was hiding in Armenia from military service, was kidnapped and held at a Russian military base in Gyumri, was reported the day before by  Helsinki Civil Assembly-Vanadzor.

 

An expert at the Public Verdict Foundation, Asmik Novikova, told The Insider that human rights activists managed to secure a meeting with Shchetinin.

 

“Center for International Defense lawyer Narek Hakobyan met with him on the morning of April 10. The major and the military policeman took Shchetinin to the lawyer, who was standing on the street on the territory of the military camp at the entrance to the medical unit, and said that the lawyer could communicate with Shchetinin here, in their presence. Hakobyan refused to talk on the street, citing the need to ensure confidentiality. To this, the military policeman replied that there were no guarantees that Shchetinin would not run away. In the end, the conversation took place in the corridor of the medical unit.
Shchetinin told the lawyer that the criminal case against him had allegedly been dropped. He did not want to show the documents about the termination of the criminal case that he allegedly had to his lawyer. The lawyer asked Shchetinin to talk about the circumstances of the arrest. Shchetinin replied that no one had kidnapped or forcibly detained him, and that he did not need legal or any other help. According to the man, he himself came to the Russian consulate, and now he is waiting for him to be taken to Russia, and there he will “figure it out himself.” Shchetinin also said that he did not like the publicity. We got the impression that he answered questions with memorized phrases.”

Novikova said that they tried to take Shchetinin out of Armenia twice, but Armenian border guards prevented this in accordance with the law.

 

“During two attempts to remove Anatoly Shchetinin, according to him and the lawyer of military base No. 102 in Gyumri, border guards prevented his removal to Russia. Apparently, this was done due to the fact that Shchetinin is wanted in Russia, and in this case established procedures must be followed. In addition, an obstacle to the extradition of a citizen may be, in particular, the likelihood of being subjected to torture in the country to which extradition is carried out. Armenia must assess such risks in relation to Shchetinin. In our opinion, such a danger exists in Russia.
I would also like to note that the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Vanadzor worked very effectively, which submitted the necessary applications to the National Security Service, and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Armenia Anahit Manasyan.”

As Artur Sakunts, head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly in Vanadzor, told The Insider , the Russian investigator working on Shchetinin's case led him to believe that he would be released upon his return to Russia.

 

“I know about the situation with Shchetin from two sources. I received a letter saying that he was taken into custody in Gyumri and is waiting for a plane to Russia. Now he is being taken to undergo a military medical commission; a Russian investigator is looking into his case, who promises him that upon his return to Russia he will be placed in a psychiatric hospital for a couple of weeks and then released. He willingly believes the investigator and refuses publicity here in Armenia. And the one who wrote to me asked us to help publish it.
And the second source wrote that Shchetinin was kidnapped. For some reason he came to the consulate in Gyumri, and upon leaving the building he was immediately picked up by representatives of the Russian military police and taken to the Russian base. Apparently, the information that Shchetinin allegedly came to the consulate is now being used as evidence that he was not kidnapped. But I think this is some kind of manipulation: he is wanted, and someone hiding from the wanted list would hardly come to the consulate voluntarily.
But even if we assume that he voluntarily surrendered, the Russian military police have no right to detain him. A military base is not a detention center where a person against whom a criminal case has been filed is supposed to be kept. Based on the wanted notices that Armenian law enforcement agencies receive from Russia, our authorities should have detained him, and he should not have surrendered to the military police. It turns out that Russian law enforcement agencies are operating on the territory of Armenia without the knowledge and without the consent of the Armenian law enforcement agencies. This goes beyond all limits. The decision on extradition must be made by the court.
I just received more specific data about Shchetinin. He is from the Khakass Autonomous Region.”

 

This is the second known case of kidnapping by Russian military police in Armenia. The first occurred in December, when mobilized Dmitry Setrakov, who had deserted from the Russian army, was kidnapped and held at a base in Gyumri, and then taken to the Russian Federation. According to Sakunts, human rights activists have still not been able to find out how exactly Setrakov was transported across the border of Armenia.

 

“I can’t imagine what’s happening. If he was taken out by plane, he would have to go through border control at Yerevan or Gyumri airport. But then he should have been detained, since a statement was filed that Setrakov had been kidnapped.
We demanded that a criminal case be opened regarding the inaction of the Armenian law enforcement agencies. We appealed the court's decision not to initiate a criminal case. The court of first instance did not satisfy our complaint. We appealed to the court of second instance and literally today received a court decision that they accept our complaint for consideration. We continue through the judicial authorities to demand the initiation of a criminal case due to the fact that the Armenian law enforcement agencies did not take the necessary steps to free the person from illegal arrest.
How did Setrakov get taken out? With the permission of the Armenian authorities or not? And if allowed, then on what basis? And if without permission, then this is illegal border crossing. We don’t know anything concrete yet.”
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