war crimes in Ukraine

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Russian-backed Luhansk militants seize father of hostage Roman Sahaidak

Halya Coynash
15 months after the then 29-year-old Krasnodon entrepreneur Roman Sahaidak was taken prisoner in the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [‘LPR’], his father has also been seized by men from the so-called ‘LPR ministry of state security’. 

15 months after the then 29-year-old Krasnodon entrepreneur Roman Sahaidak was taken prisoner in the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [‘LPR’], his father has also been seized by men from the so-called ‘LPR ministry of state security’. 

No more is known at present except that he was grabbed from near his home at around 10 a.m. on 15 October, and taken away. 

Chillingly, even less would have been known about Roman Sahaidak, had it not been for media attention in July 2017 after the Kharkiv Human Rights Group first reported his disappearance.  It was only after the publicity that the militants let his parents see him, looking evidently beaten. 

The young man was stopped on June 30, 2017 by armed men in military gear who forced him into their car. 

The following day, men saying that they were ‘from the ‘LPR ministry of state security’ appeared 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 knew anything and that he was not on the list of people detained.  The militants did, however, hint that he could be in the “ministry of state security’s internal security service’ which is subordinate only to Moscow.

As is often the case when people are taken hostage, his family initially tried to keep silent, fearing that any publicity could place his life in danger.  The young man’s sister, Anna Slastnikova believed, on the contrary, that it would be better if his plight was reported, and approached the media.

Her brother had been living in Luhansk, and it was the person he rented premises with who first alerted his parents to what had happened.

The family found witnesses who reported that four masked men and a man in civilian clothes had driven up with machine guns at around 16.00, put a bag over his head and pushed him into the car before driving off.

It seems that the man in ordinary clothes was Oleksandr Ryasnoy, Sahaidak’s business partner.  Ryasnoy had tried to get Sahaidak to sell his part of the business, but had offered a very bad deal and Sahaidak refused.  His sister explained that her brother had also been wary of Ryasnoy, in part for his willingness to denounce people to the so-called ‘ministry of state security, and that they had agreed, around two weeks before Sahaidak was seized, that they would no longer work together.

It seems that Ryasnoy had a relative in the so-called ‘LPR ministry’ whom he turned to after not getting his way regarding sale of the business.

Ryasnoy also appeared the next day during the ‘searches’ and told Roman’s father that his son would be released if they came up with 20 thousand dollars. 

Slastnikova says that her father could only raise 16 thousand which he handed over, while asking for extra time to find the rest.  Ryasnoy took the 16 thousand but said he couldn’t wait for the rest, and they therefore wouldn’t see their son again.

It may be that the publicity did help, since Sahaidak’s parents were phoned from the ‘LPR ministry’, who agreed to show them their son who had, as mentioned, been very badly beaten, but was at least alive.

They initially tried to charge him with a terrorist act that took place a week after he was seized. Once again, it was the publicity that made them understand that this would not wash, and they then apparently tried accusing him of ‘fraud’ or, alternatively, ‘extortion’ with respect to Ryasnoy. 

The family had immense trouble finding a lawyer.  As soon as lawyers learn that the case involves a person held by ‘LPR ‘ministry of state security’, they refuse to have anything to do with it. 

Despite the supposed ‘criminal charges’, Sahaidak was held then, and seemingly now, in a basement like other hostages.  Initial hopes that the exchange of prisoners on 27 December 2017 would soon be followed by another exchange have not come to anything, and Sahaidak remains a hostage, along with well over 100 other prisoners of war and civilian hostages.  The lawless nature of Roman Sahaidak’s seizure last year and his father’s abduction on 10 October 2018 only confirm fears that the real number of people seized and held hostage could be much higher.

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