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64-year-old pensioner jailed in Russian-occupied Crimea for social media posts of a Ukrainian Trident and thanking Ukraine's defenders

May 11, 2024.

    Maria Zamyrailo-Levytska is the latest of many Ukrainians to be hunted down by the notorious 'Crimean SMERSH' and then prosecuted on surreal charges for supporting Ukraine
    Maria Zamyrailo-Levytska during the ’court’ hearing, some of the posts that were deemed to be ’incriminating’ - posted by Crimean SMERSH
    Maria Zamyrailo-Levytska during the ’court’ hearing, some of the posts that were deemed to be ’incriminating’ - posted by Crimean SMERSH
    Crimean pensioner Maria Zamyrailo-Levytska has been jailed for five days and fined 35 thousand roubles over ‘liked’ posts on the social network Odnoklassniki, including one containing the Ukrainian trident. The 64-year-old is one of a huge number of Ukrainian men and women who have been ‘denounced’ by so-called ‘Crimean SMERSH’ vigilantes working closely with the Russian occupation enforcement bodies to hunt down those expressing pro-Ukrainian views or opposition to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
    Judging by the material shown on the Crimean SMERSH Telegram channel, Zamyrailo-Levytska may well have only ‘liked’ the posts of others, with this on Odnoklassniki meaning that the posts appear on her page also. All of the posts which Crimean SMERSH and the Russian occupation regime found ‘incriminating’ demonstrate support for Ukraine, as well as gratitude and deep respect for Ukraine’s defenders.
    The occupation enforcement bodies came up with two charges. She was accused of ‘discrediting’ the Russian armed forces, under Article 20.3.3 of Russia’s code of administrative offences. This was one of four charges hastily added to Russian legislation following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and it is standardly used in occupied Crimea to prosecute for Ukrainian patriotic songs, the Ukrainian flag or for expressing opposition to the war. She was, however, also charged under Article 20.3 § 1 because of the Ukrainian Trident on posts. Although the ‘court press service’ typically reported this as being a conviction for “publicly demonstrating Nazi symbols”, it went on to explain that it was, in fact, because it was considered to be a symbol of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, one of many Ukrainian organizations banned in Russia and in parts of Ukraine while they remain under Russian occupation. There were, seemingly, two separate ‘hearings’ on 7 May 2024, with both under ‘judge’ Georgy Davidovich Tsertsvadze from the occupation ‘Kirovske district court’. It is likely that she received the five-day term of imprisonment over the Trident, and the 35-thousand rouble fine over posts claimed to ‘discredit’ the invading country’s armed forces.
    ‘Crimean SMERSH’ do not appear to have extracted one of their standard videoed ‘confessions’ which are normally shot in occupation ‘police’ offices. It is clear from the part of the ‘court’ hearing that Crimean SMERSH, or the latter’s most notorious collaborator Aleksandr Talipov, posted, that Zamyrailo-Levytska was clearly terrorized, and can be seen ‘admitting guilt’ and promising not to do it again.
    The original SMERSH was active in the Soviet Union during World War II and immediately afterwards. While supposedly created to hunt down those working for the Nazis, it is most notorious for having targeted opponents of the communist regime. The term SMERSH was, apparently, coined by Joseph Stalin as an abbreviation for ‘death to spies’. As in Stalin’s USSR, the victims of the modern day ‘Crimean SMERSH’ are those who oppose the current occupation regime. Russia originally used ‘videoed confessions’ as part of its terror in Chechnya, however the Russian human rights monitors OVD.info reported in June 2023 that two thirds of these alleged ‘confessions’ now come from occupied Crimea.
    If, in occupied Crimea, Talipov & Co. carry out their denunciations and use torture or terror to extract ‘confessions’ in obvious, yet not officially stated collaboration with the occupation authorities, that may well be about to change.
    In December 2023, Russian Duma deputy Andrei Gurulev, a lieutenant general on the Duma defence committee, announced the creation of SMERSH in occupied parts of Ukraine. The aim of SMERSH, he claimed, was “to fight saboteurs and spies” and he called for SMERSH to be revived throughout Russia. While the security service is working all out, he wrote, they could miss something, and claimed that there are internal enemies acting against Russia’s interests “with the help of Western security services”. Although both Russian-installed Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov and Yan Gagin from the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ were cited as having called for such units, this was seemingly the first time that a Russian official said that SMERSH was already functioning in occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

Supported by Eurasia Foundation Supported by Eurasia Foundation