Ukraine is illegally deporting activist to Belarus to face persecution
Oleksiy Bolenkov [Belarusian: Alyaksei Balyankou] is in imminent danger of being forcibly returned to Belarus where the young Belarusian anarchist almost certainly faces torture and imprisonment. This is not the first time that the actions of Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU] bear much more similarity to abduction, than to legal deportation.
Bolenkov has been living in Kyiv since 2017 on the basis of a temporary residence permit. His friends say that he came to Ukraine after the Belarusian authorities accused him of involvement in an arson attack on the Homel tax office. They assert that the criminal proceedings were initiated after Bolenkov refused to collaborate with the enforcement bodies.
It seems that the Kyiv police turned up at his apartment on Wednesday morning, 21 April and carried out a search. This was on the basis of a court order, with everything carried out correctly. The same, unfortunately, was not true of the visitation from SBU officers who arrived, telling Bolenkov that he was being expelled from the country. They tried to force him to leave the flat with them, however a lawyer arrived and insisted that they had no right.
Radio Svoboda contacted the police who confirmed that Bolenkov had been detained, but refused to say where he was being deported to, while the SBU’s promise of a statement later on 21 April has, as of late in the evening, not been kept.
Bolenkov managed to phone Maksym Butkevych, from the No Borders NGO, in the morning with the latter sounding the alarm. The police appear to believe that Bolenkov was involved in an arson attack, carried out by certain anarchist groups, in Kyiv oblast. There may, or may not, be grounds for such suspicions, but the young man has not even been formally told that he is under suspicion, and any charges need to be proven. The search itself did not, reportedly, find anything illegal. Bolenkov denies any involvement in such activities and asserts that the search was commissioned by far-right groups in Ukraine because of his activism, including in support of LGBT.
Most importantly, the only court ruling produced was a warrant for the search. Any forced removal of Bolenkov from Ukraine would be illegal.
Unfortunately, this is no guarantee that the SBU are not carrying out such an effective abduction. In June 2019, the SBU deported former Belarusian political prisoner Aliaksander Frantskevich back to Belarus. He too is an anarchist who had earlier been imprisoned in Belarus on suspicion of an arson attack on the Russian embassy and the so-called ‘Centre for the isolation of offenders’ at Okrestina. He was recognized as a political prisoner by human rights organizations.
Frantskevich disappeared after going to the Migration Service in Kyiv, and was then, at around 3 a.m. on 19 June forcibly placed on a train to Homel, in Belarus. Then too, SBU Major General Danylo Dotsenko claimed that Frantskevich’s activities were in conflict with the interests of Ukraine’s national security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and constitutional order.
There probably are occasions where decisions are legitimately taken to remove somebody on security grounds, however neither of the above cases appears to fall under that category. Frantskevich had been living in Ukraine since 2015 yet was effectively abducted from the Migration Service and deported against his will in the middle of the night. There would have been no reason for so flouting procedure if the SBU really had had reason for their actions.
That ‘deportation’ cum abduction was especially shocking as Frantskevich was forcibly deported to Belarus soon after that country’s security service [the KGB] had almost certainly helped Russia’s FSB to abduct Pavlo Hryb, a Ukrainian student with serious medical issues, and put him ‘on trial’ in Russia on politically motivated charges.
The situation now is no less appalling as the regime of Aliaksandr Lukashenka has been systematically and brutally crushing peaceful protest in Belarus since the rigged presidential elections in August 2020. There have been literally thousands of arrests, with harrowing tales of the torture methods applied. These are methods which Ukraine’s SBU could now be forcibly returning Bolenkov to face.