On 14 June 2016 Ukrainians Hennadiy Afanasyev and Yuriy Soloshenko arrived in Kyiv after release from prison in Russia. As RFE/RL has reported, both Ukrainians were very critical of the Russian authorities on their release. In particular, Hennadiy Afanaseyev alleged that he had been tortured. Hennadiy Afanasyev is a Crimean photographer who was arrested months after Russia annexed the peninsula and sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of plotting a terrorist act. He is suffering from a blood infection which was, according to reports, not properly treated. Afanaseyev and Soloshenko were pardoned by President Putin and exchanged for Olena Hlishchynska and Vitaliy Didenko, two Ukrainian journalists from Odessa jailed in Ukraine last year on separatism charges over their role, Human Rights in Ukraine reports, in a Russian-sponsored so-called ‘People’s Council of Bessarabia’ . Hennadiy Afanaseyev told journalists on his release: 'I have endured torture and pain like many others.' He also called on Western governments to continue their sanctions against Russia.
Halya Coynash, writing for the website Human Rights in Ukraine, summarizes the case of Hennadiy Afanaseyev as follows:
'Afanasyev, like Oleg Sentsov, civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and historian Oleksiy Chirniy, made no secret of their opposition to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in February – March 2014. All four were arrested in May 2014, and held incommunicado for weeks before being taken to Russia. There on May 30 the FSB claimed that the four men had been involved in a "Right Sector terrorist plot". There was no evidence that this ultra-nationalist movement which Russia was demonizing had any presence in Crimea at all, nor that the men were involved in it. [...] Sentsov and Kolchenko denied all charges from the outset and spoke consistently of having been tortured to force ‘confessions’ out of them. [...] Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years on Aug 25, Kolchenko to 10 years after a trial where it became clear from the first day that the prosecution had absolutely nothing against the men. The Memorial Human Rights Centre issued a statement in which it condemned the trial and recognized Sentsov and Kolchenko as political prisoners. The case entirely hinged on two "confessions". For (initially) agreeing to "cooperate" with the investigators, both Afanasyev and Chirniy were tried separately and received the minimum – 7-year - sentence for "terrorism". Afanasyev did take part in two firebomb incidents against the empty premises of organizations directly helping Russia’s seizure of control in Crimea, while Kolchenko was involved in one. Memorial has examined the charges and points out that they in no way constitute terrorism, and that similar offences in Russia have been classified as hooliganism and resulted in significantly shorter sentences. On July 31, 2015 Afanasyev took the stand at the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko. Instead of refusing only to testify, as he’d been instructed by the FSB, he also retracted all previous testimony, stating that it had been obtained through torture. On Aug 19, 2015, Memorial also declared Afanasyev a political prisoner. Russian human rights defenders condemned the trial of these men, calling it “ideologically-motivated state terror” against opponents of Russian occupation of Crimea.'