On attempts to muffle criticism of the Torez Orphanage

The human rights organization Postup (Progress) reports that on 28 February the Governor of the Donetsk region, Anatoly Bliznyuk accused journalists visiting the Torez Orphanage for Children and Young People with Special Needs of causing five of the children to contract chicken pox. That same day the Donetsk Regional Administration Press Service circulated information that four (note the difference in numbers) children from the orphanage had been hospitalized with chicken pox.

The journalists who visited the Torez Orphanage as part of a press tour organized by the Regional Administration are outraged by the Governor’s accusations and intend to demand an explanation. They will most probably asked Mr Bliznyuk to name the journalist who allegedly had and infected the children with chicken pox. This will best show the absurdity of the accusation since the chicken pox virus does not survive longer than 10 minutes in the open and is passed on only at the end of the incubation period, and then during conversation, coughing or sneezing.

Postup decided to check the information and were shocked by what they found. It would seem that the first of the five (!) children was the boy called Anatoly whose grave state was initially written about by the UK’s Sunday Times. It was specifically this child who the Donetsk journalists taking part in the press tour had not been able to see since he had just been sent to hospital supposedly for such prophylactic treatment. Having returned from hospital, the lad got chicken pox and infected his room mates. He is the fifth child that the Donetsk Regional Administration Press Service failed to mention.

Postup believes that during its next check, the Prosecutor’s Office should pay attention to the indicators causing the lad to be taken to hospital on the very eve of the visit to the orphanage by journalists, and whether that was not yet another attempt to conceal infringements. They also intend to insist on a thorough check of allegations of physical violence against children and young adults in the orphanage and the unwarranted use of tranquilizers made by two former residents, Natasha Gorpinchenko and Yevgeny Murakov.

Postup points out that human rights organizations had already pointed to discrepancies in information about the state of the child from the Donetsk Regional Administration Press Service and from the Director of the Torez Orphanage, Alexander Vasiakin. There has however been no response to this either from the Regional Administration, or from the Prosecutor’s Office.

Postup believes that the correct stand for the leadership of the Donetsk region would be to hold a repeat check of the information about infringements reported by the network of children’s human rights centres, instead of trying to divert attention from the issues through accusations against journalists.

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