Murdered in Slovyansk
25.04.14 | Halya Coynash
The identity of the second person whose body was found with signs of torture in a Slovyansk river has been confirmed. Yury Popravko was 19 and a student of the Sociology and Law Faculty of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. He had taken part in EuroMaidan.
His mother had earlier told TV 5 that she had not spoken with Yury since April 16 when he set out, together with friends, to visit his girlfriend, Dasha, who is studying in Kharkiv. All contact with him was lost after he left Dasha’s home on April 17.
Yury’s mother has already been going through hell. When she tried to ring him, a stranger answered the phone and said that her son had died and that the telephone had been left “in order to find his friends”.
The fears that he was taken prisoner by the pro-Russian militants who have seized official buildings in Slovyansk seem to have been confirmed.
A different story is given by Gazeta.ua citing an anonymous source. This claims that on April 16, a group of five “young patriots” went “on a reconnaissance trip” to Slovyansk and there ended up in a battle with the pro-Russian “Donetsk Republic militants”. Two people ended up being taken prisoner – Yury Popravko and a 21-year-old from Vinnytsa, Vitaly, who gave an interview to the Russian media. The source asserts that Russia used the situation to claim that there had been an attack on “peaceful protesters” by Right Sector fighters. Right Sector is mentioned on just about every report about Ukraine, but the shootout on Sunday morning led to quite exceptional activity on the Internet. As reported, both the militants and Russian television triumphantly waved various items supposedly found looking remarkably undamaged in a gutted out car included something they claimed was a business card belonging to the head of Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh.
This report clashes in important details with that given earlier. While it would explain how Popravko came to be so far from both Kyiv and Kharkiv, the information can simply not be verified.
What is clear is that two bodies were found on April 19 in the Torets river, not far from Slovynask. The first to be identified was that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of the Horlivka City Council.
Both men were found with signs of torture. The police report that they were thrown into the river unconscious, but alive. According to media reports, the injuries which Rybak sustained were horrific. Unfortunately, the delay in identifying Yury Popravko’s body, and a photo now circulating on social networks, suggests that he too was treated so savagely.
In Rybak’s case there is considerable evidence of the militants’ involvement. Rybak had been at a rally in support of Ukrainian unity outside the city council building. There was conflict with pro-Russian militants after he entered the building, seemingly to remove the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. There is video footage showing the people who took him away.
Ukraine’s Security Service believes that a Russian military officer Igor Bezler and "Strelok" [Igor Strelkov] were involved in Rybak’s abduction and has posted a recording of allegedly intercepted conversations.
A counter-terrorist operation is currently underway in Slovyansk. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has tried to present these measures as the Ukrainian army taking up arms against the people, and threatened direct military intervention. As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it, "in defence of Russia’s interests".
Two men have been murdered, almost certainly by the individuals Moscow claims are merely defending their rights.
It is, in fact, not clear at all what those who have seized control of Slovyansk even want, although the self-proclaimed mayor Viacheslav Ponomarev has, of course, asked for Russian help.
They are believed to be holding at least three journalists – Serhiy Lefter; Artem Deineha and Yevhen Hapych, together with the latter’s brother Hennady. Artem Deineha was abducted on April 13 in Slovyansk after posting footage of the storming of the SBU office on the Internet. Serhiy Lefter has been held hostage since April 16 and has been accused of “spying” and being connected to the Right Sector movement.
There are serious grounds for fearing for their safety.
Two men taken hostage are already dead, one a very young man whose life was just beginning.
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