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Crimes of pro-Russian militants against civilians in Donbas: kidnapping, looting and executions

Crimes of pro-Russian militants against civilians in Donbas: kidnapping, looting and executions
Article by: Anastasiya Moskvychova
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
Kyiv – The level of violence against civilians on Donbas in September remains on approximately the same level as it was in August: before the ceasefire announced on September 5. Such are the results of a study done by the Center for Social and Labor Studies. According to it, besides attacks, the main threats to the citizens of the region are kidnapping and robberies. Law enforcement instead talks of the instances of arrest of those under suspicion of crime in Donbas, however, they note that “the most active criminals” are hiding outside of the country.

Over 300 instances of violence against civilian residence of the conflict zone in Donbas were documented during a monitoring in August-September done by experts at the Center for Social and Labor Studies. The observations were made on the basis of reports from Ukrainian and regional media.

Despite the ceasefire, the number of such documented instances in not very different: 161 instance in September with 174 in August, says deputy head of the Center Volodymyr Ishchenko. According to him, the most frequent are reports of robberies, which are ascribed to either separatist groups or unidentified armed individuals, who may be representatives of the local criminal contingent.

“The victims of such violence are usually ‘regular citizens,’ which is how they are described: 87 instances out of 355, also a big number of violent acts is directed against private companies, against the representatives of local government in Donbas (meaning the official Ukrainian government, not the self-proclaimed one), state-owned companies, and, in September especially, there were many instances of violence against representatives of educational institution administrations,” Ishchenko says.

Meanwhile, he notes the significant number of reports on arrests of civilians on part of Ukrainian law enforcement for “propaganda of terrorism” on these territories: 52 instances in two months, with only 14 in September.

About 1500 people were freed from the terrorists, and about 500 remain hostage still, said spokesman of the Chairman of the SBU Markiyan Lubkivsky to Radio Liberty. These included servicemen and civilians. According to him, Ukraine is trying to carry out the exchange of “all for all,” however, the other side is slowing down the transfer process.

In contras, the databases of East-SOS and Donbas-SOS have data about approximately 400 civilian hostages, says East-SOS activist Anna Mokrousova. However, according to her, this is because there has been no communication with Luhansk for a long time, to verify the information, the registry needs an update. According to Mokrousova, currently the exchange of servicemen for servicemen is going well, however the freeing of civilian hostages is less active.

Official data on the people who were taken hostage by separatists may be significantly lowered, assumes lawyer Yevheniya Zakrevska. According to her, she has 20 cases belonging to people who were taken hostage and tortured. Almost each of them says they witnessed the arrest of between five to ten people, who were never mentioned anywhere, Zakrevska notes. Besides torture, according to the lawyer, some of the hostages were subject to the death penalty.

“Not just murder under any circumstances, but the imitation of a court process with a mix of employed norms of law in the form of Ukraine’s Criminal Code and the 1941 martial law order, which prescribed, essentially, the death penalty and military tribunals,” Zakrevska says. “There are instances when this is documented, there are instances, I think, when it is not documented.”

Besides, according to the lawyer, the suspects are being arrested, but the cases go no further: these people continue to be considered hostages during the exchange.

Rechynsky: the most active criminals are hiding outside of Ukraine

Criminal investigation groups, from Kyiv in particular, are investigating the Crimes in Donbas, they work in Mariupol and the liberated cities, says advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Stanislav Rechynsky. 

“The local separatists that did not flee in time are arrested, however, naturally, the most active criminals are hiding outside of Ukraine. There have been no courts yet,” says he.

Rechynsky confirms the instances of execution of Ukrainian hostages and civilians by the separatists. According to him, the death penalty was introduced by Igor Strelkov (Girkin) in Sloviansk.

Meanwhile President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at a meeting with the Presidential Council for the development of civil society and human rights, stated he witnessed ‘double standards’ regarding the evaluation of crimes against civilians in the southeast of Ukraine, to which, according to him, “international human rights organizations turn a blind eye.”

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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