war crimes in Ukraine

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Incident in Penal Institution No. 77

Yevhen Zakharov
Yet another occasion where a special forces unit may have been deployed but where the secrecy of the Department for the Execution of Sentences makes it virtually impossible to check the facts

Throughout Sunday and Monday the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group received telephone calls from the prisoners of penal colony No. 77 and their relatives regarding events in the colony..

The prisoners of No. 77 which is in Berdyansk (Zaporizhya region) are all first-time prisoners. There are around 1500 prisoners, with 9 normal units and a special one for prisoners suffering from tuberculosis.

Last week the management changed in the colony, with the new Head becoming Yury Zavhorodny and his deputy – Valery Mezhuyev. They already held these positions earlier, but were dismissed two or three years ago. 

During the night from Saturday to Sunday, a prisoner Andriy Kryvonis, was brutally beaten and later died from his injuries.  He was in a quarantine room by himself that night and the other prisoners claim that they had nothing to do with the beating. The colony administration is adamant, however, that it was the prisoners who beat him to death. The investigation began in the morning. All the prisoners who were in the high security zone were moved to the units. During the day, 15 members of a spetsnaz [special forces] unit in masks and full fighting gear were brought into the colony. They were led out, each time 2-3 prisoners from 6 units, beaten and then in the evening all were taken away, it is not known where, while their possessions remained in the colony. 15 prisoners, the names of 14 of whom are known, in all were involved.

It is not clear on what grounds they were chosen. Two of the men, for example, are said to have been duty brigade leaders, assistants to the administration, so why should they have been taken away? Some of the 15 had recently been punished for infringements of the regime, but others not.

It became known on Tuesday that at least some of the prisoners are in the Zaporizhya SIZO [remand centre]. According to one of them, the spetsnaz beat them thoroughly, without leaving marks, while one prisoner – Roman Ananyev – was for some reason beaten very badly.

The Head of the colony explains the men’s removal as being due to the need to check whether they are suffering from tuberculosis since the equipment for this in the colony is broken. This explanation is extremely dubious: given the fact that there is a special unit for people with tuberculosis it is difficult to find the need to take them for tuberculosis tests to a SIZO.

The spetsnaz remained in the colony. At around 15.00 the spetsnaz men began brutally beating four prisoners – Oleksandr Malofeyev, Volodymyr Dmytrenko, Oleh Bulat and Oleh Revyakin, demanding that they give evidence as to who beat up Kryvonis. According to the prisoners, one of the men could not endure the beating and slashed his wrists and stomach. That’s the investigation for you.

We are unable to verify these events. One can assume that the information about the removal of some prisoners is correct. We hope that the prosecutor’s office and / or the Human Rights Ombudsperson will provide answers to whether the investigation into the murder of Kryvonis is lawful, to the grounds for the prisoners being taken away; to whether spetsnaz forces beat up prisoners; and why this wave of constant complaints about unlawful violence and the total impossibility of complaining about the behaviour of the Administration has swept the entire penal system.  

During the same days we were informed of beatings of prisoners and suicide attempts as the result of terrible beatings in colonies No. 84 in the Volyn region and No. 100 in the Kharkiv region. A few days earlier there were similar reports about No. 55 in the Zaporizhya region. We are convinced that if the system were more open and it was possible to meet with the prisoners and try to understand their problems there would be much less conflict.

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