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Tortured, threatened with death, but unbroken: Kremlin hostage Vyhivskyi | #LetMyPeopleGo

Valentyn Vyhivskyi with his son
Tortured, threatened with death, but unbroken: Kremlin hostage Vyhivskyi | #LetMyPeopleGo
Article by: Gennadiy Afanasyev
Translated by: Svitlana Skob

Gennadiy Afanasyev was detained by the Russian occupation authorities of Crimea in August 2014 and was accused of several crimes, in particular – of participating in a terrorist organization and carrying out two attacks.

He was tortured, and the young man confessed to everything that the “investigation” demanded. He was sentenced to seven years in strict regime imprisonment. After torture, Afanasyev also gave false “testimonies” against Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, but retracted his testimony in court. This was a brave deed, because the retribution could have been horrible. Luckily, he survived the pressure, and in June 2016 returned back home together with Yuriy Soloshenko.

Read more: The Sentsov-Kolchenko case: what you need to know

Gennadiy Afanasyev
Gennadiy Afanasyev

Now 25-year old Gennadiy Afanasyev actively participates in the movement to free Ukrainian political prisoners (currently, there are at least 31 of them – more information is available here).

In this article, he tells about Valentyn Vyhivskyi, a Ukrainian who was detained in September 2014 in Russian-occupied Crimea, tortured, charged with spying, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The materials of the case are secret, he was denied an independent lawyer, for 9 months was denied access to the Ukrainian consul. Vyhivsky’s relatives were not informed about the situation, and he was allowed to make a single call 9 months after he was detained.

On 3 August 2016, Valentyn Vyhivskyi will turn 33 in a Russian prison. Please send him a message of support (letters or postcards accepted only in Russian, and avoiding political topics).
Address: Valentyn Vyhivskyi, born 1983
Russia, 613040 Kirov Oblast, Utrobino village, correctional facility #11
[hr]My heart aches. Permanently. I cannot rest and everyone around me is scolding me for this.

I am sick, my heart is sore for the return of our [political] prisoners.

Recently I have been studying the attitude of our people towards the political prisoners, whether people care about their situation. But what I heard was: “Nobody really cares about some unfamiliar strange dudes.” So, I decided to make a few posts, while you are still reading what I’m posting, so that those ‘dudes’ would become less of strangers to you. So that you would understand that they are not just some people, they are your compatriots, your brothers and your modern heroes who are suffering every moment for Ukraine’s sake…

It’s true they are not at the front line, they are not combatting with weapons to protect the borders and territory of our state, they are not going through what our military are going through… Nonetheless, they are THERE, THERE where they are because of their ideas, for their love of our country, they are a SYMBOL! A powerful symbol and a call to action for the whole world…

I hope that the kind of good and spirit will awaken in the hearts of many of those who still don’t care about these misfortunes to give hope to their descendants that they can build the country they dreamt of, the ideal vision of which I have in my own heart.

What else is there for me, Gennadiy Afanasyev, to do apart from my interviews and these posts? What more can I say than what is on my mind. I truly love Ukraine and this all grieves me enormously…

At night I simply cry and work, I write… trying to remedy something… I have no idea which way to move and what to look for. I cannot grasp this life of freedom. How painful is that, my Lord. I am being very sincere and I’m not asking anything of you. Just feel this and do something. Do and call for help for every one of our… of those who are held in captivity, who are in prison. For Oleg, for Oleksandr, for Valentyn, for every one of the Crimean Tatars, there will be many more of them… I have not slept in many nights, and tonight I will not revise this text and will post it as it is, because this is how I feel… Because this pain is endless.


What do we know about Valentyn Vyhivskyi… Well, let us be honest, what do you know about him?

In August 2014 the occupation regime in the Crimea detained 32 y.o. Valentyn Vyhivskyi and took him to the Russian Federation. Accused of espionage, he has spent 15 months in Lefortovo [a pretrial detention center in Moscow] waiting for the trail. Half of this time, the Consuls were unable to get a permit to meet with him while in the custody. Only in December of 2015 Vyhivskyi received his verdict based on a false accusation and was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in “strict regime”…

Our Ukrainian Ministry for Foreign Affairs called this verdict another display of arbitrary cynicism…

… There is very little information about Vyhivskyi’s case…

So, I will take the responsibility for saying out loud what the parents of Valentyn Vyhivskyi wouldn’t say for fear of harming their son. But in my opinion, making this information public is exactly what should help their son to be released… Therefore, I am counting on you to understand and share this information!

Valentyn Vyhivskyi was tortured. He was unable to tell anyone about it. Because for FIFTEEN months he had no possibility to communicate with anyone…

He could only write letters to his dearest ones. To his parents. And in those letters… i.e. those that were delivered successfully (the Vyhivskyi family were numbering each letter to trace their transportation and delivery…)… Valentyn was using a code to communicate what the damned butchers from the Federal Security Service were doing to him, they cannot get enough of our blood. They have been killing us for centuries. The damned Russian Empire, then the damned Soviet Union, now the damned Russia. Nothing has changed, no chances at all for any change. Not in the least bit…

Валентин Выговский 12
Vyhivskyi’s letters to his son. Photo:

Few letters from him were delivered, however, there is enough [information] in those few to make conclusions. Do you remember my story? What they did to me in the first 10 days before they moved me to Lefortovo? I hate Russia…

Read more: Afanasyev and Soloshenko: How the FSB breaks prisoners

So, they did the same to Valentyn Vyhivskyi. He is an entrepreneur, a husband and a father, whom they put for nothing through the following, after they detained him:

shooting at him with air weapons while he was standing in front of his own grave to scare him to death…  Then they beat him up from morning till night and after they failed to break him physically and failed to break him by threatening death, they tried to break him psychologically. To break his human spirit. His masculinity. What more can I tell you about it? That they undressed him…

You can figure out for yourself what they did to him after that.

Valentyn couldn’t tell more in his letters… But isn’t this enough already?

He wrote very little about the tortures.

Do you know what they really wanted from this talented guy? They wanted him to work for them. It’s true. Really. They needed his expertise. But he refused… I cannot tell you more… They failed to recruit him and decided to wipe him out. Valentyn Vyhivskyi is a true patriot of our country. He is a hero and he should have been here instead of me. 

Here is quote from his letter of 10 April 2016:

“Broken hands, knocked out teeth, blood poisoning –that kind of bitches! They walked over me too and beat me up, but with no consequences of the kind, maybe I’m not that weak after all (although their attitude towards me was as to an enemy)! And there was another Ukrainian who went crazy, literally gone mental – that is a real misery and no laughing matter for sure! From my own experience I can tell you that such situations with Ukrainians are all similar, and like someone who has been through something like this I can assure you it isn’t easy at all, primarily for the mind of an ordinary person.”

During the time he has spent in Lefortovo Valentyn was allowed to make one single call after about 9-10 months [through his detention] and most likely after he had agreed to the charges against him.

Zoya Svetova, a representative of the Public Monitoring Committee, is of the same opinion. And that is also the time period that the Consul was not allowed to meet him.

He never complained about his health to anyone, not even to Zoya Svetova, especially at the beginning when he was often sick. As a consequence of torture, his immune system suffered badly. Even the advocate who was appointed to him wrote about it at some point. He also had furuncles all over his body, cold-related diseases and his eyes and kidneys were sore…

After the first interrogations all of his body ached for a long time, often he couldn’t sleep because of this…

Everything healed in about a year and, according to him, with no traces left…

Valentyn Vyhivskyi took interest in aviation and space technologies from his early childhood. During school time he used to be able to identify a plane by the sound of its flight…

In his every letter Valentyn inquired about the general situation in Ukraine and in the whole world. Here is another quote of 3 June 2016:

“One more time about the situation in this country. Extreme hatred is being cultivated towards America and Ukraine. This is done in a very meticulous and elaborate way! When you tell the truth to people here about what’s going on in the world and in Ukraine they can’t even grasp what you mean, so you feel like a complete freak and idiot and it’s really hard mentally among all these lies.”
The only thing I am asking of you is to remember this name – Valentyn Vyhivskyi. Please help return him to his parents.

It is extremely difficult to find any information about our prisoners, but I will keep writing. Because this is how I feel. I don’t’ care about myself. But I care about them. I am crying. And I am not ashamed of it…

Translated by: Svitlana Skob
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