Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) pressed terrorism charges against Semyon Semenchenko, a former lawmaker and a military commander, the agency announced on May 14. The SBU accuses Semenchenko of firing an anti-tank grenade launcher at the headquarters of the 112 Ukraine TV channel in 2019.
The terrorism charges against Semenchenko, founder of the Donbas Battalion that fought against Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine, aren’t the first for the ex-military commander.
Semenchenko was detained on March 26 on suspicion of creating an illegal private military company to be deployed to Iraq, Syria and Libya, “aiming to instigate international conflicts and recruit volunteers in Ukraine.” However, Ukrainian investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info reported that Semenchenko’s private military company worked for oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.
Semenchenko denied the charges.
According to the SBU, Semenchenko assigned two members of his illegal paramilitary force to fire grenades at the 112 Ukraine TV channel back in June 2019. No one was harmed.
The 112 Ukraine, owned by pro-Kremlin lawmaker Taras Kozak, was infamous for spreading Russian narratives about the conflict in the Donbas. The channel, along with Kozak’s two other TV channels — NewsOne and ZIK — was shut down by the government in February.
It was reported that all three channels were actually controlled by Kozak’s ally Viktor Medvedchuk, a lawmaker who for many years was President Vladimir Putin’s unofficial representative in Ukraine. On May 11, Medvedchuk was charged with treason.
According to the SBU, the 2019 attack on the 112 Ukraine headquarters, allegedly organized by Semenchenko, was used by Russia in its hybrid war against Ukraine.
If found guilty of organizing the 2019 attack, qualified as a terrorism act, Semenchenko will face a jail sentence of seven to 12 years. Separately, he is facing five to 10 years in prison for managing and financing an illegal private military formation.
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