Russia possibly implicated in latest armed abduction by Donbas militants
Two people are known to have been seized by people from the self-proclaimed Luhansk people’s republic [LPR] in the past two weeks, although a prominent journalist who is closely following the situaton believes the number of disappearances in militant-controlled Donbas to be considerably higher.
Roman Sahaidak has not been seen since he was abducted on June 30 near the car park of the Prometheus Shopping Centre in Luhansk. The 30-year-old entrepreneur from Krasnodon was walking towards his car when another car pulled up and men in military gear got out. They put a bag over Sahaidak’s head, pushed him into their car and drove of. He – or those using his account – appeared on his social media page later that day, and all information on his page has now been removed.
People who said they were from the ‘LPR ministry of state security’ appeared the following day at his flat and carried out a search, taking away everything that could be removed. The same thing happened at the home of his parents.
His parents later turned to this so-called LPR ministry and were told that nobody knows anything, that he was not on the list of people detained.
Very ominously – and incriminatingly – they hinted that he could be in the “ministry of state security’s internal security service’ which is subordinate only to Moscow.
His parents believe that his disappearance could be linked with the person he was with, whom they know only as Alexander.
The journalist and blogger Denis Kazansky was first alerted to Roman’s abduction by the young man’s aunt, and the Kharkiv Human Rights Group’s contacts in the Luhansk oblast have also been trying to establish where he is.
There is still no sign of 39-year-old Lyudmila Surzhenko, a partially deaf resident of Luhansk who, as reported, was taken prisoner after crossing on July 13 from occupied Luhansk into the Ukrainian government-held town of Stanytsia Luhanska to get some humanitarian aid. She was detained at a militant checkpoint on her return. Witnesses say that the militants forced her to take everything out of her bags, and they took her phone away. She has not been seen since, and it was clear to all who know her that the text messages initially sent from her mobile in response to desperate attempts by her mother and friends to contact her were not from her.
Kazansky believes that such abductions happen virtually every day, but that most go unreported.
This has been the case from the beginning of the war, with relatives literally frightened to say anything since the abducted person could suffer, or because they hope that they can somehow persuade the militants to release him.
The problem is particularly severe with ordinary civilians. Soldiers are placed on the list for exchange, as are prominent figures like 63-year-old religious specialist and academic Ihor Kozlovskyy. There has also been a lot of international publicity over the disappearance in Donetsk of journalist and blogger Stanyslav Aseyev, and he too is on the Ukrainian government’s exchange list. Certain features of his disappearance – the search by so-called ‘security service’ indiviuals and activity on his social media page after his abduction – are similar to those now seen over the disappearance of Saihadak. In Aseyev’s case, it took six weeks for the militants to admit to having seized him and to claim that he was suspected of ‘spying’.
LPR militants are holding at least one blogger – Edward Nedelyaev – prisoner, claiming that he circulated ‘extremist material’. Like Vlad Ovcharenko, one of the football fans whom the militants seized early in October 2016, Nedelyayev had recently spoken openly to German Bild journalist Julian Röpcke about “Life in Putin’s republics”.