war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

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Russian invaders abduct Mayor of Prymorsk Oleksandr Koshelevych after first taking his elderly father hostage

Halya Coynash
Oleksandr Koshelevych is one of around 30 local politicians, journalists and civic activists who have been seized since the beginning of Russia’s invasion and whose whereabouts remain unknown. 

Oleksandr Koshelevych Photo from his Facebook page

Oleksandr Koshelevych, Mayor of Prymorsk (Zaporizhya oblast), has reportedly been abducted by the Russian invaders who are occupying the city.  He is one of around 30 local politicians, journalists and civic activists who have been seized since the beginning of Russia’s invasion and whose whereabouts remain unknown. 

The only information at present is from well-known journalist Iryna Romaliyska who is herself originally from Prymorsk, and cites local activists, whom it would obviously be dangerous to name.  She points out that Koshelevych had come out in protest together with other city residents, waving the Ukrainian flag and singing the national anthem.  His Facebook page makes it very clear how actively he helped the community during the last month, and, as Romaliyska notes, he was public in stressing that Prymorsk is part of Ukraine.

The Russian soldiers looked for Koshelevych and, having not found him, took his father hostage instead.  Oleksandr reacted by “exchanging himself for his father”.  Another feature identifying the Russian army, Romaliyska notes, is their low scummishness.

As reported, Russian soldiers have been targeting activists, journalists and local politicians in all towns and cities they have seized.  Just as in Donbas in 2014, Russia has set about trying to seize control of the media in every place it has gained any control of since the beginning of the war.  The methods are, as usual, abduction of journalists and / or their families, with this aimed at forcing the specific victims, or others, to collaborate with the invaders.  The same motives are almost certainly behind the seizure of city mayors and other public officials.

At present,  the whereabouts remain unknown of around 30 journalists, local leaders or activists.  In several cases there are particular concerns for the person’s safety and / or life.  Both Viktor Maruniak, the Head of the Stara Zburivka Council in the Kherson oblast and Dmytro Vasyliev, Secretary of the Nova Kakhovka Territorial Community Council (Kherson oblast) have medical conditions that make their imprisonment, let alone the likely torture they are facing potentially life-threatening.

The Zmina Human Rights Centre has prepared a video with details of those abducted up till the end of 28 March.  They ask for help in circulating information about these abducted civilians, using the hashtag #TheTaken.  The importance of publicity cannot be overstated.  Russia brought enforced disappearances as a method of terror to occupied Crimea and Donbas, and a number of activists and others have never been found.  It is vital that Russia fails to repeat this in other parts of Ukraine.

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