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by Our Foreign Desk
THE release of 13 people by Ukraine’s secret service has brought with it a wealth of new information on the country’s secret jails, rights activists said yesterday.
It adds to the “overwhelming” amount of evidence on “the grotesque practice of secret detention” which Ukrainian authorities continue to deny, said Amnesty International Europe director John Dalhuisen.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch published a report last month into torture and secret detention on both sides of Ukraine’s civil war, and sent a list of 16 people jailed by Ukraine’s security service (SBU) to the country’s chief military prosecutor.
Twelve of the 13, released from the spooks’ Kharkiv lockup in late July and early August, were on that list of disappeared people.
One, Vyktor Ashykhin, was kidnapped from his home on December 7 2014. He said that the authorities had moved him and others around the Kharkiv compound several times during his 597-day captivity in order to hide them during inspections of the facility.
Another, Mykola Vakaruk, taken two days after Mr Ashykhin, had to have his kidney out and was put in hospital under a fake name. After the operation, he spent 30 days in a Kharkiv hospital handcuffed to his bed and watched at all times by an SBU officer.
When they were let go on July 25, guards told them to keep their mouths shut or else.
Those released said five people are still locked away — two are Russian citizens and another has a mental illness.
One of the Russians, Vladimir Bezobrazov, was arrested while on a family holiday in the Odessa region. Border guards forced him to confess that he had come to recruit people to fight against the Kiev government — when he just voiced support for the anti-fascist fighters while in a local cafe.
He retracted the confession but later confirmed it as part of a swap for a captured pro-Kiev fighter. He was given a suspended sentence but on the steps of the court he was bundled into a van and has been missing since.
A man released from secret SBU detention later told Mr Bezobrazov’s mother that he was being held by the spooks.
“The release of 13 people is welcome, but simply confirms the need to end and investigate these abuses and deliver justice to the victims,” said Mr Dalhuisen.
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