KIEV – Sputnik Agency continues to publish exclusive materials about the secret prisons held by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) along the line of contact with the self-proclaimed popular republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, where kidnapped people suffer terrible torture.
Sputnik was able to find a former Ukrainian Interior Ministry official who coordinated the detention of “separatists” at the checkpoints of self-proclaimed republics and spoke to former prisoners.
In mid-August 2014, militia fighting in the Donetsk People’s Republic against Ukrainian security forces approached the city of Yenakievo. The locals began to leave the fighting zone.
Konstantin Afonchenko decided to go to Odessa, where his daughter was being treated at the hospital and his wife was with her. The trip ended at the first Ukrainian checkpoint.
Some of the “Nazis” (as the Ukrainian National Guard troops in the Donbass region are called) began to search Afonchenko’s phone. At the beginning of the contacts, in the letter “A”, they met a “Andrei”, journalist of a Russian television channel. Afonchenko met him by chance during protests in May.
“Well, yes, I went to the protests. And who wasn’t? The whole country had been involved in rallies for a year. I wasn’t a breakaway, I don’t even know what that is,” he said.
The Nazis beat him and took him to the airfield in nearby Kramatorsk. All that was valuable was taken from him. They announced that all money, valuables and the computer were going into the army fund, Afonchenko recalls.
Arrival at the secret prison
In Kramatorsk the torture began, “doctors” came and injected him with substances to loosen his tongue.
“I felt bad, he warned, ‘Tell the truth, because there may be a lethal outcome. I’ll give you another injection. But I was really feeling bad.”
Only later did he identify his torturers , who were Maidan activists (a cycle of protests centered around Kiev’s Maidan Square in late 2013 and early 2014 against the official government) Vsevolod Stebliuk and the future deputy of the Ukrainian parliament Andrei Teteruk, from the photographs. The “doctor” particularly impressed him – he looked like a madman from a horror movie.
Another victim, Alla Belousova, was also rescued from Ienakievo and was captured by the “Nazis” along with her husband Vladimir.
Belousova had, in fact, something to do with the self-proclaimed republics – he brought food to the besieged city of Slaviansk.
Security forces at the checkpoint quickly discovered this, and after finding an Alla document signed by Igor Strelkov (Donetsk People’s Prime Minister of Defense), the militia gave this woman the marvelous nickname Marechal for his combative personality.
The document did her a bad job – she and her husband started getting beaten, taken to Kramatorsk, and tried to organize an abominable rape. But then this identification saved his life – many prisoners were taken to minefields or used as shooting training targets, but the valuable Marshal was left for exchange.
“They brought my husband and just started killing him in front of me. I told them not to touch him. Because I’m like that, I can survive in any situation, but he’s weak. He’s older than me in the first place, and psychologically he’s weaker than me,” explained Alla.
“In Kramatorsk there was a military base, people were trained for combat operations. He [the military] should really be prepared to kill someone. That means they needed living targets. So was the cynicism of that approach when he [the jailer] enters [the cell] and tells everyone he needs a live target. Are there volunteers?” witnessed Afonchenko.
They also had fun sending the prisoner to a minefield. They also wanted to send Marshal Alla to the minefields, but at the last moment they changed their minds – such an important prisoner could be exchanged for a Ukrainian officer, or even two.
Neither Afonchenko nor the Belousovs were even the target of criminal prosecution. They were illegally detained for a month and in mid-September were exchanged for military personnel captured by the Donetsk People’s Republic.
After his release, Afonchenko discovered that his bank card was reset. After joining the bank online, he discovered that one of the jailers had been buying gas and coffee at gas stations.
‘Hammer of truth’
Another secret prison still works in the city of Pokrovsk. This was revealed by former prisoner Sergei Babich to Sputnik. He worked at the local mine and every weekday he passed this transport company on his service bus and did not know he would spend six horrible days there.
“The building is large, apart from the others. There are many basements, no one hears anything,” he said when explaining why security officials chose this place.
Sergei Babich was arrested with his mate on March 25, 2015 at a checkpoint near Krasnoarmeysk, allegedly as a subversive group that was supposed to kill a certain Ukrainian military man.
“It was not a detention but a kidnapping. I was already tortured in the basement of the 11-411 haulage company. I was beaten with a wooden hammer – a mallet. They called it “the hammer of truth.””
He assumes he was tortured by SBU agents (they did not introduce themselves or show their ID cards). “They were strong, well trained, with masks. They did everything technically and professionally,” Babich describes his torturers.
It was not until late March 31 that he was taken to the investigative department of the Ukrainian Security Service in Mariupol that his detention was officially registered. Doctors at the Mariupol Preventive Detention Center recorded the numerous bruises on Babich’s body in the April 3 report on forensic medicine.
“They wanted to warn – if I died in the pre-trial detention center in a day or two, or three, this would be the fault of the SBU and not the pre-trial detention center,” he explained.
The lawsuit was brought to court in 2017. He was charged with the creation of a terrorist group and illegal use of weapons. In December 2017, Babich was transferred to Donetsk as part of the prisoner exchange. However, contrary to all agreements, the proceeding was not terminated and the charges were not dropped.
“We know of the existence of more than one prison like this. Since 2014, we have been receiving ‘little calls’ that there is a secret prison in one place, another in another… We have known this problem for a long time,” Darya Morozova said.
According to Morozova, these arrests are controlled by the SBU, which uses them to put pressure on suspects. We can only guess how many people will be trapped there.
“In 2014-2015, I could still believe that there was arbitrariness of [volunteer] battalions. Right now, I can believe that SBU totally controls all these illegal places of detention … They know perfectly well where they are,” said Morozova.
According to Morozova, they are looking for 249 people about whom they have had exact confirmation that they were detained on the territory of Ukraine. Ukraine officially confirms only 101 people.
Reports from the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine also mention the illegal deprivation of liberty, in particular at the Kharkov SBU.
“We have determined the names of 184 people who, in our opinion, were illegally detained at the SBU premises in Kharkov in 2014-2016. This list continues to grow,” mission chief Fiona Frazer told Sputnik.
According to her, “the practice of arbitrary or incommunicado detention was common in the government-controlled area in 2014, 2015 and 2016, while in 2017 and 2018 we recorded only a few cases.” The SBU arrest in Kharkov caught the attention of international organizations, in particular Amnesty International.
‘You do not exist’
“This is our 2016 study. So we published a survey titled” You Don’t Exist, “where we report that there are special places of detention to keep people out of communication with the outside world,” Maria Guryeva, spokeswoman for the organization, told Sputnik. in Ukraine.
One, she said, was in Kharkov, and certain places were also registered in Mariupol and other cities, but the main one was the SBU department in Kharkiv, where people stated that they stayed there for over a year. Two lawsuits are now under way and the organization will also study the new data discovered by Sputnik.