Prosecutor Seeks Long Prison Term For Ukrainian Man In Russian-Held Crimea

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- A state prosecutor in Russian-controlled Crimea has asked a court to convict Ukrainian national Yevhen Panov of sabotage and sentence him to 10 1/2 years in prison.

Prosecutor Esvet Furmambetov made the sentencing request on July 9, and the judge said the verdict will be pronounced on July 13.

Russian authorities arrested Panov and another Ukrainian national, Andriy Zakhtey, in August 2016, and accused them of being partners in a two-person "saboteur group" and plotting a series of attacks on the peninsula.

Zakhtey, who made a plea deal, was tried in February and sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison.

Panov's trial started in April. He pleaded not guilty.

Kyiv has rejected Russian charges against the two men and has called their arrests "a provocation."

Russia has prosecuted and imprisoned several Ukrainians on what rights activists say are trumped up, politically motivated charges since Moscow seized control of the Crimea region in March 2014.

In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Russia moved swiftly to seize control over Crimea after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power in Kyiv by the pro-European Maidan protest movement.

Russia also fomented unrest and backed opponents of Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 people have been killed in the ensuing conflict since April 2014.