Russian proxy court sentences OSCE staff to 13 years in prison, US ambassador says ‘travesty of justice’

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A Russian court by proxy this week in Ukrainian-occupied Luhansk region sentenced two staff members of the 57-member Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to 13 years in prison on charges of alleged treason.

At least two members of the mission, Dmitry Shabanov and Maxim Petrov, both Ukrainians, were held for five months in unknown conditions before being sentenced to an extent that US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said. described Thursday as a “travesty of justice”.

A vehicle of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine destroyed in Mariupol.  The battle between Russian/pro-Russian forces and defending Ukrainian forces led by the Azov Battalion continues in the port city of Mariupol.

A vehicle of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine destroyed in Mariupol. The battle between Russian/pro-Russian forces and defending Ukrainian forces led by the Azov Battalion continues in the port city of Mariupol.
(Maximilian Clarke/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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“No one, anywhere, should be targeted because of their impartial and loyal service to this Organization, especially in carrying out the functions mandated by the 57 participating States. And that includes Russia,” he said. he said in an address to the permanent members of the Council.

Russia and Ukraine serve as permanent members of the OSCE, which is a regional security organization that deals with security issues such as arms control, human rights, counter-terrorism, as well as socio- economic, military and political within its partner organizations.

OSCE Chairman-in-Office Zbigniew Rau, who is also Polish Foreign Minister, called Monday’s accusations “nothing but pure political theatre”.

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid has called for the immediate release of Shabanov, Petrov and a third unidentified Ukrainian OSCE official who has also been detained.

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia speaks during a briefing to the Security Council by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at United Nations Headquarters.

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia speaks during a briefing to the Security Council by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at United Nations Headquarters.
(Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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It is unclear where the OSCE members will be sent to serve their prison sentences, but it comes as Russia seeks to annex parts of Ukraine, including Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson through “referendums” this week.

“Think about this: while a group of Russian spokespersons sit in this Council, another group imprisons the personnel who work for this Organization,” Carpenter said in a fiery speech Thursday. “This is simply appalling. We call on Russia and its proxies to release these individuals now. Immediately.”