UHHRU: “We need to bring Ukrainian captives out of the political process”

Human rights defenders have developed a concept of the return of citizens of Ukraine who are under the control of the Russian Federation due to the military conflict. Russia uses these people as an instrument of political pressure on Ukraine and the West. Representatives of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the Media Initiative for Human Rights, as well as relatives of captives and political prisoners held a press conference in Ukraine Crisis Media Center (14.03.2017)

Liudmyla Hlondar, sister of prisoner Serhii Hlondar, says her brother is a captive since February 16, 2015 – a total of 758 days.

Liudmyla Hlondar
Liudmyla Hlondar

‘The fate of our men depends on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Captives or prisoners (their status has not yet been set) are used for political purposes. We would like to separate the liberation of Ukrainians from politics and economics. An effective dialogue between the conflicting parties and the international community is absent. If the keys to release the prisoners are in the Kremlin, the keys to set their status are in Kyiv ,’ says Liudmyla.

Tamara Klykh, mother of political prisoner Stanislav Klykh that is captured in a Russian prison for two and a half years, said that his health condition is very bad. Illya Novikov, lawyer of Mr. Klykh, reports that his client is now in Chelyabinsk in a very serious health condition.

Tamara Klykh
Tamara Klykh

‘The whole world fought for Nadiia Savchenko. Nobody cares about our children, like they do not exist at all,’ complains Tamara Klykh.

Maria Tomak, coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights, says that people held by Russia for political reasons are the Kremlin prisoners. Today they are 44 persons: 29 – in Crimea and 15 – in the Russian Federation.

‘The government of Russia, despite all requests (including the appeal of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK), refused to carry an independent psychiatric examination of Stanislav Klykh. Only one expertise was done in Grozny, but even this fact sounds funny,’ recalled Maria Tomak.

Maria Tomak
Maria Tomak

According to Maria Tomak currently Stanislav Klykh is in prison, which is “famous” for its ill-treatment of prisoners: there is a danger that his mental condition can cause there a backlash.

Human rights defenders consider that in Ukraine there is no strategy for the release of illegally detained persons. On the other hand, persons detained by the Ukrainian side, have no guarantees of fundamental rights provided for the Geneva Conventions.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and the Media Initiative for Human Rights believe that the Ukrainian side must make every effort to translate the current situation in the international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Nadiia Volkova, a lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said that in December 2014 the largest number of Ukrainian captives (148) had been returned; in February 2015 – 124; in August and September 2015 – 13; in 2016 – 9; since the beginning of 2017 – only 1 person.

Nadiia Volkova
Nadiia Volkova

‘The most difficult situation is with the Kremlin prisoners. Their last exchange took place nine months ago, it was Yurii Soloshenko and Hennadii Afanasiev. While citizens of Ukraine are being detained in Crimea almost every week,’ said Nadiia Volkova.

According to Nadiia Volkova, Minsk format of negotiations stalled because the exchanges hardly occur. To remedy the situation, advocates propose to bring the issue of captives out of political talks to humanitarian and legal framework. To implement the new format of exchange, the states-must involve the guarantor countries. They will create the appropriate political pressure on the aggressor state – the Russian Federation. The principle of voluntary movement of citizens should be kept. That is, people who have no desire to participate in the exchanges may refuse them.

It is necessary to clarify the qualification of citizens of Ukraine, held in Russia and in the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Alina Pavliuk, a lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, believes that the main issue is a qualification of the conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. It is advantageous for Russia to present the war in Donbas as an internal civil conflict. The qualification of the military conflict in the east as an anti-terrorist operation precludes the application of international humanitarian law. PACE acknowledged that Russia has partially effective control of the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and two dimensions of the conflict: international and domestic.

Alina Pavliuk
Alina Pavliuk

‘It is necessary to clarify the qualification of citizens of Ukraine, held in Russia and in the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. These are was prisoners, captives, persons imprisoned for political reasons and illegally displaced persons, ’ says Alina Pavliuk.

Maria Tomak believes that there is a need to appoint a person responsible for the Kremlin prisoners, because they are currently almost no one responsible, and no state strategy in this regard exists.

‘The issue of the Kremlin prisoners is not discussed in Minsk as Russia believes that is pursuing these people legally. Thus, these people are in some kind of vacuum and depend solely on political negotiations. Ukraine has to offer the division of the humanitarian and political issues to our Western partners,’ says Maria Tomak.

Prepared by Oleh Shynkarenko (UHHRU) specially for the Left Bank

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