The Ukrainian Dmytro Trofimchuk entered Bulgaria with his car through Romania on November 19. In fact, his destination is Turkey, where he will live this winter. With him are his wife Victoria and their three children. They no longer have a home in Ukraine. It was destroyed by a bomb at the beginning of the war.
At the border, however, Trofimchuk was detained by the Bulgarian border guards. They found that the Ukrainian was wanted with a red notice by Interpol at the request of Belarus.
Belarusian authorities accuse the 38-year-old man of being involved in an organized crime group that illegally acquired personal and bank details of citizens of 84 countries and used them to make payments.
Extradition to Belarus is life-threatening for Dmytro
Trofimchuk denies doing anything illegal or wrong. His relatives say he did not know he was wanted or charged with a crime in Belarus. They also believe that his life will be in danger if Bulgaria allows him to be extradited to Belarus.
“Extradition to Belarus is life-threatening for Dmytro. They can kill him,” his wife told Free Europe Victoria Trofimchuk.
Trofimchuk’s case unfolds against the backdrop of Russia’s war against his native Ukraine. Belarus is on Moscow’s side and actively supports its military aggression by providing terrain for deployment of Russian soldiers and equipment.
“We haven’t been hiding”
Before the war, Dmytro Trofimchuk lived with his wife and three children – aged 8, 9 and 11, in a city Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. He is an economist, financier and IT specialist and studies law.
Since the beginning of the war, the Russian army has been trying for months to capture the town where the Trofimchuk family lives. Shelling is a daily occurrence, and Russian soldiers reach the suburbs before being pushed back by the Ukrainian army.
The home of the Trofimchuk family was destroyed during a bombardment at the beginning of the war. Now they do not have a permanent home and travel with their children all over Ukraine and abroad, Viktoria Trofimchuk said.
“We did not hide, we lived an ordinary life. We have been volunteers since the beginning of the war until now,” she added.
The family helps the injured and the needy in the Kharkiv region. They work in the volunteer foundation “Dobri hrtja, nebaiduzhih” (“Good hearts, indifferent”), which has built a network of sponsors and volunteers, including from abroad.
We have been volunteers since the beginning of the war
“We brought food to the disabled and pensioners who stayed [в Харков]. We helped them eat, we brought them products,” said Viktoria Trofimchuk. She has a letter from the foundation where they work, which shows that they are indeed volunteers.
The family mostly helps with logistics, so they travel a lot.
In recent months, Dmytro Trofimchuk often traveled to countries in Eastern Europe. He was in Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Romania. So far he has not been arrested. Until last week in Bulgaria.
“There they decided he was a fraud”
This winter, the family was supposed to stay in Turkey in an already arranged apartment. “There is electricity and internet, we don’t need anything else to coordinate the foundation,” said Victoria. On the way to Turkey they pass through Bulgaria and Dmytro is arrested by the Bulgarian border authorities.
Dmytro Trofimchuk was detained because he was announced by Belarus for international search.
According to Belarusian authorities, Trofimchuk was involved in an organized crime group that illegally acquired personal and banking data of citizens of 84 countries. This information was used to make 160,000 transactions on commercial sites, resulting in nearly $7 million in payouts.
Trofimchuk and his relatives say these charges are “fabricated” and the evidence “falsified”.
The charges are for the period 2011 – 2012. At that time, the Ukrainian had a company in Minsk, which existed for a short time.
“Everything was legal,” his wife Victoria Trofimchuk told Free Europe. “Then, for some reason, the authorities there decided he was a fraud,” she added.
Pre-trial proceedings have been initiated against him in Belarus, but no charges have been brought against him in Ukraine. The investigation continued until 2014, when he was questioned as a suspect, his home was searched, but that was the end of it, his wife recalls. He has not been charged.
“No more requests from Belarus have come,” she said.
All this time, Trofimchuk did not hide, and in recent months he regularly traveled to various countries in Eastern Europe.
Dmytro Trofimchuk is a Ukrainian citizen with a Ukrainian passport. He does not have and never had a Belarusian passport. However, according to his wife, Belarus declared Dmytro an international wanted man for extradition without notifying Ukraine.
The “For a Free Russia” movement, created by representatives of the Russian opposition, was the first to inform about the Trifomchuk case. The Ukrainian is currently in custody in ruse, announced the press center of the district court in the city. He was detained for the maximum period of 40 days stipulated in the European Convention on Extradition. Thus, Trofimchuk will be able to participate in the proceedings, the court specifies.
The request to send him to Belarus is to be examined at two court levels. The first case is scheduled for December 1.
It is possible that the court will not allow his extradition if it considers that he will not receive a fair trial in Belarus or that there is a danger to his life and health in the country.
Ukraine’s enemy state has been helping Russia since the start of its unprovoked attack on Ukraine on February 24.
It gave the Russian army its territory from which to attack Ukraine. Throughout the war, the territory of Belarus continued to serve as a launching pad for missile strikes and drone attacks against Ukrainian civilians.
In November, the European Commission called on Belarus to refrain from any involvement in Russia’s “brutal illegal undertaking” that violates the UN Charter and international law.
For years, human rights in Belarus have been trampled by the government led by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power for three decades. Since mid-2021, the US and the EU have imposed sanctions on the country for human rights violations and the “violent repression of civilians” following the presidential election that year. At them, Lukashenko declared himself the winner, but the EU and the USA do not recognize the results.
International observers testify to the trampling of women’s rights and repression of oppositionists, mass detentions and arrests of members of Belarusian civil society and journalists.
Since the beginning of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, the EU, the US and other countries have imposed new sanctions on Belarus because of the country’s assistance to Russia’s invasion.