Ukraine Alert has followed the case of Serhiy Sternenko, a far-right activist from Odessa convicted for participation in mass disorders in Odesa in May 2014 and kidnapping and torture. Sternenko also streamed his killing of another person in 2019. He headed the Right Sector in Odesa during the Odesa massacre of 2014 by the Right Sector and other far-right activists.
Serhiy Sternenko and Ruslan Demchuk were sentenced on February 23, 2021 on charges of abduction and torture. Sternenko is also charged with the murder of Ivan Kuznietsov in May 2018. The charges have been verified by indisputable evidence as Sternenko was streaming the killing via Facebook.
The extreme far-right Andrii Biletski-led Azov movement refuses to take part in any actions in support of Sternenko, referring to his role in the drugs protection racket: Sternenko is suspected of getting 6000 US dollars in exchange for protecting the drugs distribution points of the Pravyy Sektor. When two Azov movement members joined rallies in support of Sternenko at the President Palace, Biletski called them to a meeting and beat them up, according to their personal testimony reported online by Gazeta.ua.
Actually, the far-right and a number of human rights groups are running a campaign to get Sternenko out of prison. It was so effective that on April 9 Sternenko and Demchuk were released from prison under house arrest before the appeal court hearing started. The Odessa appeal court building was raided by the SBU, NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine) and anti-corruption prosecutor exactly at the time when Sternenko’s appeal was being heard, the Ukrainian media reported. There is no information on the reason for the searches; sources inside Odessa comment, on conditions of anonymity, that the timing was not random and the raid was perceived as a warning to judges.
Among those in Ukraine who have been standing up for Sternenko are ex-Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka, ex-Health Minister Uliana Suprun and Maksim Stepanov, former chairman of the Odessa regional state administration and now Health Minister.
Ukrainian human rights and civil society organizations which seek to free Sternenko from any charges, use international human rights groups in their campaign. The Netherlands Helsinki Committee has made a statement in support of Sternenko despite abundant evidence of his violent crimes. They refer their opinion to the expertse provided by ZMINA human rights center. In summer 2020 the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper board announced that they would cover Sternenko’s case alongside the case against former President Petro Poroshenko, but called on Poroshenko’s and Sternenko’s supporters to “stop the harassment and repudiate the hostile tone” against UP’s journalists. Ex-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko also voiced his protest to Sternenko’s conviction calling it arranged by “the fifth column of Russia in Ukraine” in his official Twitter.