Kharkiv journalist among released hostages; hundreds remain in captivity
Immense relief for the 150 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians released by the Kremlin-backed militants is marred by ongoing concern for the minimum 534 people still in captivity, many ‘arrested’ on the basis of ‘denunciations’ like those in the worst Soviet times.
Roman Cheremsky, a Kharkiv journalist and civic activist, is reported to be among the 150 prisoners held by militants from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’ on Dec 26-27. His name is not on the official list, however Radio Svoboda was informed by his brother that Roman has been released. While there is immense relief that he and the other members of the National Guard or volunteer divisions and civilians held prisoner are now at liberty, there are at least another 534 people still in captivity. EuroMaidan SOS stresses that this is only the official figure and the real number of hostages from among the civilian population could be much higher.
Roman Cheremsky had been held hostage since August 15 when he was seized together with Cherkasy human rights activist Valery Makeyev and a ‘112 Ukraina’ film crew by ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ militants. The members of the film crew were released on Sept 3, and Valery Makeyev on Nov 23.
There is no news as yet of Luhansk journalist and chief editor of the Internet public Polityka 2.0, Serhiy Sakadynsky, who was seized, together with his wife, Mariya Havak, on Aug 2 near Hostra Mohyla in the Luhansk oblast. Havak was released on Oct. 1. Their capture was linked with the militant’s seizure of their car during which the latter discovered what they considered ‘incriminating evidence’ against them. These included a Ukrainian flag and supposedly some kind of documents proving that Sakadynsky was an ‘honorary activist of the Luhansk EuroMaidan’. Sakadynsky was able to tell his wife that the militants had even established that their accusations were not justified, and yet the journalist was not released.
Nor have many others, meaning that the formula agreed in Minsk on Dec 24 – ‘all for all’ has not been followed. EuroMaidan SOS points out that, in fact, it has turned into 220 (militants) for 150 Ukrainian soldiers, volunteers and other civilians. The latter figure is reported to include 35 women.
According to official figures from the interdepartmental centre for the exchange of hostages under the SBU, there are 684 people in captivity, and almost 1600 are missing, their whereabouts unknown. This list was handed to ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’ militants, yet only 152 people from the list have so far been confirmed.
It was reported back in August that the militants were engaging in wholesale hostage taking from among the civilian population. While many of those taken hostage back then have been released, by no means all, and the cases of disappearances, dubious ‘arrests’, often on the basis of equally questionable ‘denunciations’ have continued.
Earlier in December civic groups addressed an appeal to former hostages to contact them and, on a totally confidential basis, help them with information that could establish the whereabouts of other hostages.
Relief for those finally released is thus tinged with real concern for the many whom the militants are still, in breach of their agreement, holding.