Russians abduct Prymorsk civic activist who protested their invasion of Ukraine
The Russian invaders are continuing to instil terror and try to stifle resistance by seizing local public officials; civic activists and journalist from occupied territory in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts. The latest victim in the Zaporizhzhia oblast is Oleksandr Panchenko, a well-known civic activist from Prymorsk whose daughter reported his abduction on 22 April.
Panchenko formerly worked in the police, but is now a lawyer for the local psychoneurological institution (housing people with special needs), and has long been involved in measures to make Prymorsk green, as well as work in fighting the covid pandemic. Journalist Iryna Romaliyska speaks of him very warmly, and explains that from the first day that the city came under Russian occupation, residents, including Panchenko, came out with Ukrainian flags, confronting the armed Russians in their tanks. On 3 March, for example, Prymorsk residents, without arms, walked straight up to the Russian military technology, shouting at them to get out of their city and go home to Russia. On that occasion, the Russian invaders were even driven outside the city.
Residents have told her that Panchenko was one of the first to join a patrol of local residents, and then became the effective organizer of the ‘Night Patrol’ movement of locals who patrolled the city to prevent looting, robberies and other lawlessness. “The Russian ‘liberators’ seize the best”, Romaliyska writes. They came for Panchenko on 22 April and first carried out a search of his home before taking him away.
It is possible that Panchenko’s abduction came after the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration reported that 182 people had been seized from the Zaporizhzhia oblast, with 82 still missing. That figure is, in any case, increasing by the day.
Russia is not just targeting civilians in its war against Ukraine, it is targeting children. There remains no information about the whereabouts of Vlad Buriak, the 16-year-old son of the Head of the Zaporizhzhia District State Administration, Oleh Buriak. As reported, he was seized on 8 April at a Russian checkpoint near Vasylivka, while travelling with two women and three small children in one of several cars trying to evacuate to Zaporizhzhia. Vlad’s father has since explained that when a Russian soldier came up to the car and began grilling the driver on where they were headed, etc., he saw Vlad sitting in the back and doing something, quite possibly just playing a game, on his telephone. The Russian turned to Vlad and asked why he was videoing him. The Russian took hold of the telephone and began looking at the videos on it. These included some where Russian soldiers (who had surrendered or been caught) had been given phones and had rung their families, asking them to get them home and telling them what was happening in Ukraine. Vlad had obviously seen and not deleted these videos, with this the ‘reason’ why the Russian soldiers decided to seize the lad. The women he had been driving with were told to leave or they would also be taken prison.