The news of Oleksiy Stohniy’s release was announced on February 19 by human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova.
“All these years, our citizen has been kept in intolerable conditions inside places of incarceration by the invading country, which greatly affected his state of health,” she said. “I will urgently take appropriate measures to conduct a highly qualified medical examination and provide the necessary medical care to Oleksiy.”
His wife, Oksana Stohniy, said on Facebook that her husband was released at the end of January but the family didn’t publicize the fact until he safely crossed from Russia-occupied Crimea into mainland Ukraine.
“He is finally home! My beloved husband and best father to our [two] daughters! We waited for the family to be reunited. We are thrilled!” she wrote on Facebook.
Oleksiy Stohniy was arrested on the night of November 14-15, 2016, while trying to cross the administrative border of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula into the mainland portion of the country en route to Kyiv for his daughter’s birthday, according to his wife.
Russia forcibly annexed Crimea in March 2014 following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych.
He and eight other Ukrainians were initially charged by Russian authorities in Crimea with spying for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and planning subversive acts.
However, he was sentenced in a closed-door trial on November 17, 2017, for making weapons and explosive devices. He spent part of his prison sentence in a Russian penal colony.
Groups such as the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Crimean Human Rights Group, and the Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners considered the charges false and designated Stohniy a political prisoner.
Stohniy had served in the Ukrainian military but resigned in 1997 due to medical issues, Oksana Stohniy said at a news conference in Kyiv in May 2017.
At the time of his arrest, Oleksiy Stohniy was working as a sales clerk in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.
Ukrainian NGOs said last month that Russia still holds 96 political prisoners, most of whom were detained in Crimea, including 69 Crimean Tatars.
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a statement in late December that it was working toward a third prisoner swap with Russia and was preparing a new list of political prisoners, including Crimeans.
Ukraine and Russia carried out two prisoner swaps last year.