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Ukrainian partisan seized for the third time by Russian-controlled Donbas militants

Halya Coynash

Much remains unclear about how 29-year-old Hryhory Sinchenko managed to escape from his militant captors in May this year.  What, unfortunately, cannot be doubted is that the young Ukrainian’s life in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DPR] is in danger, and publicity is urgently needed.

Sinchenko’s mother, Tetyana Hulyevska has learned from their lawyer that Sinchenko was captured on 29 June.  While this means that the ‘wanted notices’ issued by the so-called ‘DPR police’ on 21 May were not, as feared, a ploy aimed at concealing Sinchenko’s death from torture, he is now likely to face savage treatment.

It seems that the militants seized Sinchenko’s younger sister, Olha, a week ago and began trying to beat out of her where Sinchenko was.   The young man had obviously understood the danger his family would be in and had only contacted his elderly grandmother, however Olha was held prisoner until after her brother was seized.  Hulevska is frightened that her son is likely to face more torture and physical reprisals.  She says that the so-called ‘DPR enforcement officers’ who appeared at his grandmother’s home made it clear that his freedom was not in question now, and that his life was also in danger.

Sinchenko, who is originally from Makiyivka in ‘DPR’ had been living in Kherson, but returned to occupied Donbas in 2016, initially in order to reinstate medical records needed to confirm his disability status.  It was due to his medical condition that he was unable to serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  Back in Makiyvka, Sinchenko became involved in a partisan group opposing the Russian-controlled militants, and was taken prisoner by the so-called ‘DPR ministry of state security’ on 2 December 2016.  He was accused then of blowing up cigarette kiosks, and was savagely tortured, including with the use of electric shocks, asphyxiation and being suspended for several hours by handcuffs.  His mother says that he was so badly beaten that he suffered a collapsed lung and almost died in the prison.  In typical fashion, the militants’ ‘search’ on that occasion equated to primitive plundering of everything valuable from their house, including home appliances and her son’s instruments for fixing things.

Sinchenko was released in the last exchange of Donbas hostages and POWs on 27 December 2017.  According to his mother, Sinchenko has a strong sense of justice and, despite her pleas, returned to Donbas. 

In October 2018, the militants brought the young man, covered in blood, to his grandmother’s home and carried out a search, supposedly for explosives.  None were found, however Sinchenko was taken away again and his mother has no information as to where the militants are holding him.  It is believed that the DPR’s so-called ‘ministry of state security’ suspect Sinchenko of involvement in the blowing up of a Donetsk radio tower on 27 October 2019.  As reported, on that occasion a video of the blast at a radio tower servicing the Fenix mobile operator was posted on YouTube, together with an ultimatum.  The latter made it clear that those who had planted the explosive device did it in protest at the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment in the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’s’ illegal prisons.

The video shows the blast and then a black-gloved hand holding up a sign holding the words typed out:

“This was done in order to draw attention to the inhuman torture in the basements of the MGB [the so-called ‘DPR ministry of state security’] Ill-treatment and having ones extremities connected to electric wires have become the norm in the “people’s” republics.

The people of Donbas must come out in protest against torture or the fascist republic will remain without communications.”

Sinchenko was not released in either of the two exchanges, in December 2019 and April 2020.  Essentially nothing was heard of him until the ‘wanted notice’ on 21 May 2020.  That said nothing about Sinchenko having been imprisoned.  It claimed that he was wanted “for a grave crime”, described him, and offers a reward for information leading to his capture. 

The photos of him were very clearly taken while he was in their custody.  He had obviously been beaten, and his mother was probably right in fearing that the marks on his face were burns from electric shocks used as torture.

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