Virtual museum of Russian aggression.

Virtual museum of Russian aggression.



Experts and retirees as "extremist saboteurs"

Residents of Sevastopol Dmytro Shtyblikov, Oleksiy Bessarabov and Volodymyr Dudka have one thing in common - they served in the Naval Forces of Ukraine before the retirement and were friends. After the armed seizure of Crimea in the spring of 2014, they, like thousands of other retired military men, remained in Sevastopol.

Before the occupation, Dmytro and Oleksiy were prominent in the social and political life of the city because they worked as experts in the public organization Nomos Center for Assistance to the Geopolitical Problems and Euroatlantic Cooperation of the Black Sea Region Studies, they were members of the editorial board and authored articles published in the Black Sea Security magazine.

Nomos became the first non-governmental analytical center in Sevastopol. It specialized in research on the matters of the national and international security, European integration and regional cooperation. Nomos contributed greatly to the expert panels held in Crimea; analysts of the Center were invited to make speeches in Brussels, Warsaw, Istanbul and even in Moscow. The Black Sea Security offered its pages to representatives of diverse political affiliations willing to express their position, including the experts who would later welcome or even take part in the Russian occupation.


Nomos, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013, ceased its operation with the beginning of the aggression. Experts unanimously decided that re-registration of the Center under the Russian laws was unacceptable. In addition, there was no doubt that the invaders would clearly dislike their public position.

Abduction and searches

On 11/09/2016, the day after his forty-sixth birthday, Dmytro Shtyblikov went to work, just as usual. On his way, he was attacked by unknown men in black. He was pinned down and thrown into a van which took off in an unknown direction.

At about the same time, in another district of the city, people with the FSB insignia seized Volodymyr Dudka on his way to an outpatient clinic. On the same day, in Sevastopol, Oleksiy Bessarabov was abducted by unknown individuals.

Their homes and workplaces were searched by the FSB. They fell out of touch with their families for a whole day.

A day later, the so-called Leninsky District Court of Sevastopol charged the three men, one by one, with conspiring acts of sabotage as part of an organized group, as well as illegal acquisition and possession of weapons and ammunition. The court remanded them in custody. Therefore, the three men were driven away in an unknown direction once again.

While relatives and lawyers were looking for the detainees, the Russian propaganda media were spreading claims that the FSB allegedly discovered and neutralized a group of Ukrainian spies who were preparing terrorist attacks on the military and public infrastructure and facilities in Sevastopol. Staged videos showed footage of the so-called searches and material evidence - office equipment, some camouflage gear, weapons (experts immediately identified these as airsoft guns), some documents bearing the seal of the Ukrainian Navy headquarters seized in 2014, memorabilia with Ukrainian symbols and the so-called "Yarosh card" [ed.: a fear-mongering story in the Russia media, turned a widely mocked meme in Ukraine].

Oleksandr Popkov, lawyer and human rights activist, wrote in his blog on 11/15/2016

“We spent all day in futile efforts to locate the detained Dmytro Shtyblikov yesterday. Allegedly, he and his friends are not in the detention center and the FSB station in Simferopol; no trace of them in the FSB station in Sevastopol or the temporary detention center of Bakhchysaray. The security officers painstakingly check my documents, scribble in notebooks, and drown us in official mumbo-jumbo, hiding behind the veil of bureaucracy any information about the case, the detainees and the investigators, thoroughly keeping the lawyers off the case. Everything is exactly the same as in the cases of Sentsov-Kolchenko and Panov-Zakhtey: past masters of torment can extract any testimony, adding all kinds of fantasies and "documenting" them,"

Torturing and beating the victims into confessions

Human rights organizations have incontrovertible evidence that the prisoners were tortured, and the "correct" confession was extracted out of them.

Volodymyr Dudka in his "Crime Report" to the Military Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Black Sea Fleet.

“On November 12, 2016 ... I was picked up by the FSB officers in a minivan. I was immediately blindfolded with a rag and brought to the FSB Directorate of Simferopol, handcuffed all the time. On the way from the temporary detention center of Bakhchysaray to the FSB Directorate, the van pulled over and stopped, the officers tightened the blindfold on my eyes, wound duct tape around my head and attached something to the index fingers... After that, I felt charges of electricity, causing me severe physical pain, suffering, fear, anxiety. My heart started beating erratically. Suffocating, I started screaming. My hands were twitching, so they bound them with the duct tape. This went on for about an hour. All the while, they demanded a confession from me, threatening death to me, my family and my friends. I did not understand anything, as I was in severe pain and screaming, because the electrical discharges kept growing stronger. To stop my screams, they gagged me. They promised to end the torture, if I gave testimony to the investigator. I was also told that if the investigator did not like the testimony, they would take me back and all of this would happen again. After that I was brought back to the FSB headquarters where they gave me a sheet of paper with the text and told me to learn everything by heart and recite it in front of a video camera. I had to comply,"

In a matter of days, Russian channels would circulate videos of Shtyblikov, Bessarabov and Dudka confessing in front of the cameras of being trained officers of the Ukrainian intelligence and allegedly preparing to blow up some facilities in Sevastopol.

Ilya Kavernikov, the son of Dudka, in the fall of 2016

"Seeing my father’s exhausted and sickly appearance, his unusual pronunciation in the video of the so-called confession circulated by the federal channels, headed by the Russia TV channel, I have every reason to believe that my father was psychologically and, probably, physically coerced"


Colleagues from the Nomos are convinced that it was no coincidence that the invaders picked Shtyblikov and Bessarabov as saboteurs for the trumped up charges. They took revenge for the previously expressed doubts about the "fraternal" intentions of Russia and its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. The retired officer Dudka had never been part of the Nomos team, but to make things more convincing, the "gang of saboteurs" needed to have an expert in explosives. Incidentally, following his retirement, Volodymyr worked as expert on disposal of ammunition at the Sevastopol division of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Under torture and threats to his family, Dmytro Shtyblikov incriminated himself and agreed to cooperate with the "investigation". His case was considered in a so-called "special procedure" without a trial. On 11/16/2017, Dmytro was sentenced by the so-called Sevastopol City Court to 5 years in a maximum security prison. Another criminal case was brought up against Dmytro just a year before his release, this time on charges of espionage and treason. He is being held in the pre-trial detention center of the FSB – the Lefortovo prison.

The court proceedings in the case of Dudka and Bessarabov, who both refused to admit their guilt, went on for over two and a half years. After the completion of the first trial, the so-called Sevastopol City Court of the occupation administration failed to deliver a verdict, as most of the material evidence and expert examinations turned out to be falsified. On 04/06/2018, the so-called Court would return the case to the prosecutor's office for "remedial action".

On 04/04/2019, the same court convicted Oleksiy Bessarabov and Volodymyr Dudka on charges of conspiring acts of sabotage as part of an organized group and Illegal acquisition and possession of explosive materials or devices committed by an organized group", sentencing them to 14 years in a maximum security prison and a fine of 300 rubles and 350,000 rubles, respectively. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation rejected the appeals of the defendants who accused the investigation of falsification and gross violations.

Oleksiy and Volodymyr are serving their time in the penal colonies of the Krasnodar Krai of the Russian Federation.

Published on 2021-09-01

Pavlo Lakiichuk

Centre for Global Studies "Strategy XXI"