04.01.2018 | Halya Coynash

Russia refuses to let family and doctors see abducted Ukrainian teenager

Pavlo Hryb in court 18.10.2017 Photo Andriy Sabinin

It is over four months since 19-year-old Pavlo Hryb was abducted from Belarus to Russia, and his captors are still blocking access to both Pavlo’s relatives and to the Ukrainian doctors familiar with his serious medical condition.  Russia’s only response to the European Court of Human Rights’ demand that the young man have access to doctors was to provide its own ‘examination’ which, predictably, claimed that he is healthy and able to remain in detention.  Hryb’s parents have seen the results of this examination and believe they indicate that physical force has been used against the lad who has had disability status since childhood.  When asked by the Ukrainian consul about these results, he simply replied that it’s “endurable”, thus effectively confirming his parents’ fears.

Hryb suffers from serious blood circulation issues, including portal hypertension, and has been under specialist medical supervision most of his life.  Back in October, his doctor, Professor Vasyl Prytula warned of the danger which the stress and highly unfavourable conditions in a Russian SIZO [remand prison] posed to the young man.  He stressed that people with Hryb’s condition need to be treated in specialist hospitals and feared that the ulcers, bloodshot eyes and general state of weakness reported by Hryb’s lawyer Andrei Sabinin could be the precursors of a haemorrhage.  People with portal hypertension can be subject to internal haemorrhages and it is highly unlikely that prison doctors would know what was needed or even recognize the symptoms. 

Russian denials of any health issues are stripped of any credibility by their refusal to allow Prytula to visit his patient, together with a Ukrainian team of doctors, and the fact that even his mother was prevented from seeing him.  This is very likely part of a policy aimed at putting pressure on the young man while he is most vulnerable and isolated. 

Pavlo’s mother recently went to Krasnodar in the hope of seeing her son, at very least during the court hearing on extending his detention.  She was taken away by the investigators who tried to put psychological pressure on her so that she would provide information about her son.  She refused to speak with them, and they punished her by preventing her from visiting Pavlo, or even from going to the court hearing.

Pavlo Hryb is a first-year student in the Philosophy Faculty of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.  The19-year-old disappeared on August 24, after going to Gomel, in Belarus to meet a 17-year-old Russian girl from Krasnodar whom he had met on the Internet.  His father sounded the alarm almost immediately, although Russia’s FSB took 13 days to admit that the young man was in Russian custody in a Krasnodar SIZO [remand prison].  Russia has since fiddled the date, claiming that the young man was ‘arrested’ in Russia’s Smolensk on August 25. It came up with a similarly implausible story to explain how Ukrainian MP and former military pilot, Nadiya Savchenko, had been taken by force to Russia.

Unfortunately, Ihor Hryb is not alone in assuming that the Belarusian KGB helped their Russian counterparts abduct the young man.  Had Pavlo really been on the international wanted list, he should have been detained at the Ukrainian – Belarusian border, with proper procedure needed to be set in motion.  Instead, he passed into Belarus with no difficulty, and was seized by unidentified individuals who pushed him into a car.  He could not have crossed from Belarus into Russia without the Belarusian side being at least aware what was happening, since this was assuredly against the young Ukrainian’s will.

The young woman, who was at the time of the correspondence, underage, told Ukrainian journalists after it became clear that Pavlo had been abducted, that she had been threatened with prosecution herself by the FSB if she didn’t cooperate by tricking Hryb.  

The FSB are claiming that Hryb encouraged the 17-year-old schoolgirl to plant a self-made explosive device in a school on June 30, 2017.  He is supposed to have done this by Skype from March 27 to April 13, 2017.  There are no records of those Skype conversations, but there are of the later correspondence between the two adolescents.  From a month after the alleged mention of a plan to commit an act of terrorism, there is not one word about it.  Not before the alleged date chosen, not on the day, nor afterwards.  Nothing at all to back the FSB’s claim.

The FSB themselves, who claim to have discovered this plan, did not say or do anything.  Yet on July 4, they allegedly launched a criminal investigation, with this involving a search of the young Russian girl’s flat.   By July 28, the FSB had designated Hryb as the ‘accused’ in this story, and they then set about intimidating the young girl into persuading Pavlo to meet her in Belarus.

Yevhenia Zakrevska, the Ukrainian lawyer dealing directly with the European Court of Human Rights, is dismissive of the FSB’s ‘plot’.  She believes it conceivable that the two adolescents may have made some impulsive and less-than-serious comments about an explosion in the school that Tatyana hated and was leaving,  This might explain the claim made that Hryb has ‘admitted’ the charges.  The young man would have confirmed only that he had written a phrase shown to him. 

Had this ‘explosive device’ been any more than a throw-off remark during animated and constant correspondence between the two young people, it would certainly have at least been referred to again.  It was not. 

Please write to Pavlo!  He badly needs our support, and it is important to send a clear message to Russia that its treatment of the young Ukrainian is under international scrutiny. 

Please use the Russian version of his name, and write in Russian, avoiding either politics or mention of Pavlo’s case.   If this is a problem, you could copy the letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. 


[In Russian] РФ, 350063 Краснодар, ул. Красноармейская, 22, СИЗО-5.

Грибу, Павлу Игоревичу, 1988 г.  

[In English]  Russia, Krasnodar 350063, 22 Krasnoarmeiskaya St., SIZO-5

Gryb, Pavel Igorevich (b. 1998)


Желаю Тебе здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь, что очень скоро вернешься домой.  Извини меня, что так мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Тебе помним. 

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon return home.  I’m sorry that this letter is so short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but we’re all thinking about you. ] 

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