KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Alina Kapatsyna typically goals about getting a cellphone name from her mom. In these visions, her mom tells her that she’s coming house.
Males in army uniforms took 45-year-old Vita Hannych away from her home in japanese Ukraine in April. She by no means returned.
Her household later realized that Hannych, who has lengthy suffered from seizures due to a mind cyst, is in custody within the Russian-occupied a part of the Donetsk area.
Kapatsyna instructed The Related Press that it stays unclear why her mom — ”a peaceable, civilian and sick particular person” who has by no means held a weapon — was detained.
Hannych is one among many Ukrainian noncombatants being held by Russian forces for months following their invasion. Some are deemed to be prisoners of warfare, despite the fact that they by no means took half within the combating. Others are in a kind of authorized limbo — not dealing with any prison expenses or thought-about to be POWs.
Hannych was carrying solely a sweatsuit and slippers when she was seized by Russian forces occupying her village of Volodymyrivka a number of weeks into the Feb. 24 invasion. It’s nonetheless below Moscow’s management.
Her household initially thought she would come house shortly. Russian forces have been identified to detain individuals for 2 or three days for “filtration” after which launch them, Kapatsyna stated, and Hannych had no army or legislation enforcement connections.
When she wasn’t launched, Kapatsyna and her 64-year-old grandmother began a search. At first, letters and visits to varied Russian-installed officers and authorities our bodies within the Donetsk area yielded no outcomes.
“The answers from everywhere were the same: ‘We did not take her away.’ Who took her then, if no one took her?” stated Kapatsyna, who left the village in March for the Ukrainian-controlled metropolis of Dnipro.
Then, they lastly received some readability: Hannych was jailed in Olenivka, one other Russian-controlled metropolis, in accordance with a letter from the Moscow-installed prosecutor’s workplace within the Donetsk area.
The jail employees instructed Kapatsyna’s grandmother that Hannych was a sniper, allegations her household deems absurd, given her situation. Medical data seen by the AP confirmed that she had a mind cyst, in addition to “residual encephalopathy” and “general convulsive attacks.”
Anna Vorosheva, who spent 100 days in the identical facility as Hannych, recounted squalid, inhumane situations: putrid ingesting water, no warmth or showers, having to sleep in shifts and listening to new prisoners screaming from being overwhelmed.
Vorosheva, 46, stated she wasn’t instructed why she was detained, other than “smirks and jokes about Nazis” — a reference to Russia’s false claims that what it calls its “special military operation” was a marketing campaign to “denazify” Ukraine. She additionally stated the employees instructed her: “Be happy we’re not beating you.”
Donetsk authorities labeled Hannych a POW and not too long ago instructed the household she is imprisoned within the occupied metropolis of Mariupol. It stays unclear when, if in any respect, she might be launched.
Ukraine’s high human rights group, Middle for Civil Liberties, has requests regarding round 900 civilians captured by Russia for the reason that warfare started, with greater than half nonetheless in custody.
Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s human rights envoy, put the quantity even larger and stated Friday that his workplace obtained inquiries regarding greater than 20,000 “civilian hostages” detained by Russia.
Russian lawyer Leonid Solovyov instructed the AP he has amassed greater than 100 requests regarding Ukrainian civilians. He stated he was capable of assist 30-40 verify the particular person they appeared for was in Russian custody with none authorized standing — similar to his shopper, Mykyta Shkriabin.
The scholar from northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv area was detained by Russia’s army in March and has been held ever since with out expenses or any authorized proceedings.
Shkriabin, then 19, was sheltering from the combating in a basement along with his household, in accordance with his mom, Tetiana. Throughout a break, he went out for provides — and by no means returned.
Tetiana Shkriabina instructed the AP that she realized from witnesses that Russian troopers seized him.
Months later, Solovyov received affirmation from Russia’s Protection Ministry that Shkriabin was detained for “resisting the special military operation.” There isn’t a such offense on the books in Russia, Solovyov stated, and even when there was, Shkriabin would have been formally charged and investigated, however that hasn’t occurred. The ministry refused to reveal his whereabouts.
Furthermore, when Solovyov filed a criticism to Russia’s Investigative Committee contesting the detention, it confirmed that there are not any prison probes opened in opposition to Shkriabin, that he’s neither a suspect, nor an accused.
Skhriabin, who turned 20 in captivity, hasn’t been labeled a POW, Solovyov stated, including: “His legal status is simply a hostage.”
Russia’s Protection Ministry and the Interior Ministry did not reply to requests for remark.
Different instances are eerily just like these of Shkriabin and Hannych.
In Might, Russian forces detained data expertise specialist Iryna Horobtsova within the southern metropolis of Kherson when it was occupied by Moscow. They raided her house, seizing a laptop computer, two cellphones and a number of other flash drives, after which took her away, in accordance with her sister, Elena Kornii. They promised her mother and father that she can be house that night — but it surely didn’t occur.
Horobtsova remained within the metropolis and spoke out in opposition to the warfare on social media earlier than she was detained, Kornii stated. She had attended anti-Russia protests and in addition helped residents by driving them to work or discovering scarce medicines.
“She hasn’t violated any Ukrainian laws,” Kornii stated, noting that her sister had nothing to do with the army.
Horobtsova’s lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, stated he believed that Russian safety forces have been finishing up “purges of the disloyal” in Kherson.
He realized from Russia’s Federal Safety Service, or FSB, that she was nonetheless in custody. The Interior Ministry in Moscow-annexed Crimea instructed him that Horobtsova was in a detention heart there. When Kurbedinov tried to go to her, officers refused to acknowledge having any such prisoner.
As for why she was held, Kurbedinov stated authorities instructed him that “she resisted the special military operation, and a decision regarding her will be made when the special military operation is over.”
Kurbedinov described her as “unlawfully imprisoned.”
Dmytro Orlov, mayor of the occupied city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, describes the fate of his deputy the same way — “an absolutely arbitrary detention.”
Ivan Samoydyuk was picked up by Russian soldiers shortly after seizing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in March, and no charges have been filed against him, Orlov said.
“We’re not even sure if he’s alive!” the mayor said. “If we can’t get clarity from the Russians about the fate of a deputy mayor, imagine the fate of ordinary Ukrainian civilians.”
Mykhailo Savva of the Expert Council of the Center for Civil Liberties said the Geneva Conventions allow a state to detain civilians temporarily in occupied areas, but “as soon as the reason that caused the detention of this civilian disappears, then this person must be released.”
“No special conditions, no trades, just release,” Savva said, noting that civilians can’t be declared POWs under international law.
International law prohibits a warring party from forcibly moving a civilian to its own territory or territory it occupies, and doing so could be deemed a war crime, said Yulia Gorbunova, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.
POWs can be exchanged, but there is no legal mechanism for swapping noncombatants, Gorbunova said, complicating efforts to free civilians from captivity.
Since the war began, however, Kyiv has been able to bring some home. Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said on Jan. 8 that 132 civilians were brought back from Russian captivity in 2022.
Lubinets, the Ukrainian human rights ombudsman, met this month with his Russian counterpart, Tatyana Moskalkova.
He said he gave Moskalkova lists of some of the 20,000 Ukrainian civilians he said were held by Russia, and “the Russian side agreed to find out where they are, in what condition and why they are being held.”
After getting such information, the question “of the procedure for their return” will be raised, Lubinets said.
Dasha Litvinova reported from Tallinn, Estonia. Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report from Tallinn.
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