war crimes in Ukraine

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Donbas militants admit to holding journalist Stanyslav Aseyev prisoner for "spying"

Halya Coynash

Days after the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DPR] declared journalist Stanyslav Aseyev ‘missing’, and six weeks after he disappeared, the militants have admitted to holding him prisoner and claim to suspect him of ‘spying’. 

Yehor Firsov, a former MP from Donetsk who knows the family, reported on Facebook that the so-called ‘DPR ministry of state security’ has confirmed that it is holding the journalist and say that he faces a sentence of 12-14 years under the ‘spying’ charge.

Aseyev’s mother was allowed to see him. He is holding up well, but understands that there can be no question of a fair trial, and that the only hope is for an exchange.  He was placed on the exchange list soon after it became clear that he had been seized.  The problem is that the list already contains 132 Ukrainian civilian hostages and POW, and the militants are effectively blocking any release.

The news is, ironically, almost a relief, since the sudden appearance of ‘missing’ notices, issued by the militants, had seemed ominous, especially given the concern earlier expressed that Aseyev was being subjected to torture.

The ‘Missing’ report on YouTube, says nothing about Aseyev being a journalist and gives a photo which looks many years younger than the one widely circulated for the past 6 weeks.  The report asserts that 28-year-old Stanyslav Aseyev disappeared without trace after leaving his home on June 2, and gives his height, hair and eye colour.

Aseyev, who writes under the pseudonym Stanyslav Vasin, disappeared in militant-controlled Donetsk on June 2, with Firsov first reporting this on June 6.  The journalist’s real name was revealed on 9/10 June by a colleague writing in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya and then by Firsov in a blog written in English for the international media. 

Aseyev had been in Donetsk since the beginning of the war in early 2014, and had published (as Vasin) for many prominent media such as Dzerkalo Tyzhnya and Radio Svoboda.  Tetyana Yakovych, who works with Aseyev on Radio Svoboda’s Donbas.Realii program says that his material has given people a glimpse of life in Donetsk under militant control and did not touch on openly ‘political’ subjects. 

He had been scheduled to send material about life on June 3, and was also supposed to come to his mother’s home on that day.  When it became clear that all contact with him had been lost, his mother and friends went to his flat.  They found the door broken in and that a lot of things had gone, including the laptop that Aseyev wrote on.

Most chillingly, his Facebook page was still active and letters were being sent, trying to obtain information about his contacts, etc.

Firsov reported on June 13 that Asyev’s mother had stopped answering any calls and said that he believed she was being placed under severe pressure.

For obvious reasons, Firsov does not reveal his sources, but he had reported back on June 10 that Aseyev had been seized by the so-called ‘DPR ministry of state security’

Firsov wrote again on June 20, reporting that the DPR militants were trying to beat out a ‘confession’ to justify his ‘arrest’ and for ‘charges’ to lay against him.  “Terrible pressure and blackmail are being exerted both on him, and on his mother.  His mother virtually cut off all communication with Ukrainian representatives a week ago”.

Firsov has since been able to obtain the telephone billing information which confirms that the phone call on June 2 when Stanyslav told his mother that he was coming into Donetsk had in fact been made from the building in Donetsk of the so-called security ministry.

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