Ukraine: Civilians Vanishing and Suffering in Russian-Controlled Jails

Ukraine Prisoners of War Imprisoned in Russia

Alina Kapatsyna often dreams about getting a phone call from her mother, Vita Hannych, who was taken away from her house in eastern Ukraine by men in military uniforms in April. Sadly, she is still in Russian custody and her family still does not know why she was detained.

Hannych is one of many Ukrainian non-combatants being held in Russian-occupied Donbas region since the war began in February 2014. Some are being labeled as prisoners of war even if they haven’t seen the frontlines. Others, like Hannych, remain in a legal limbo – they aren’t facing any criminal charges or considered to be POWs.

According to Ukraine’s top human right organization, Center for Civil Liberties, there are around 900 civilians captured by Russia in which more than half are still in custody. Russia’s lawyer Leonid Solovyov alone has received more than 100 requests concerning Ukrainian civilians. In many cases, the civilians’ legal status is simply a “hostage” and they are being held in horrific and destitute conditions.

For example, Mykyta Shkriabin, a student from northeastern Ukraine, was taken away after going out for supplies and he is still being held without charges or any legal proceedings. While Iryna Horobtsova, an IT specialist from southern Ukraine, was arrested for speaking out against the war and assisting local residents.

Moreover, Ivan Samoydyuk, the deputy mayor of occupied Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, was arbitrarily detained by Russian soldiers. His whereabouts remain unknown and even his mayor, Dmytro Orlov, has no idea if he is still alive.

The family members of these hostages are desperately searching for them and Ukraine’s human right ombudsman has given a list of 20,000 civilians held in Russia to his Russian counterpart, Tatyana Moskalkova. In efforts to bring the hostages home, president Andriy Yermak announced that 132 civilians were brought back from Russian captivity in 2022.

Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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