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Civic journalist Iryna Danilovych disappears after being seized in Russian-occupied Crimea

03.05.2022
Halya Coynash
Iryna Danilovych Photo from social media

Iryna Danilovych, a Ukrainian nurse and civic journalist reporting on medical issues in occupied Crimea, has disappeared after being detained at 6 a.m. on 29 April as she was returning from work in Koktebel to her home in the village of Vladyslavivka, near Feodosia.  She is clearly in the custody of the Russian-controlled enforcement officers, but the latter have refused to provide any information to Iryna’s lawyer, Aider Azamatov. 

At around 10 a.m. on 29 April a search was also carried out of the home Danilovych shares with her parents in Vladyslavivka.  Her father was there alone, and has told Azamatov that there were six people, four men in masks and  two official ‘witnesses’ (whom the officers illegally brought with them).  They removed a laptop, books, documents, as well as all telephones, including those that don’t work.  Iryna’s father was shown a search warrant, but was not left a copy. He says that one of the officers told him that his daughter had been arrested for ten days for “passing on non-secret information to some non-governmental organization”. 

It was only on 2 May that Danilovych’s disappearance or ‘arrest’ was first reported by the Kyiv-based Zmina Human Rights Centre.  Azamatov has since explained that, with all telephones having been removed, it took time for friends to understand that something was wrong when nobody answered their calls.  Ominously, somebody was on her social media page on 2 May, three days after all technical devices were taken away. 

Danilovych’s family have, with Azamatov’s help, formally reported that she is missing.  The Russian-controlled police even came to their home and questioned the family, and Azamatov has filed a report with the occupation prosecutor’s office.  

Crimean Realities explains that Iryna Danilovych is originally from Belarus and had also lived in Russia before moving to Crimea before Russia’s invasion and taking on Ukrainian citizenship.  It seems clear that she antagonized the occupation authorities through her participation in the medical workers’ trade union movement, including the attempts by the Alliance of Doctors, a Russian (and Crimean) trade union, to obtain the supplementary payments promised to medical workers at the beginning of the pandemic and to highlight the lies told about the number of casualties, etc.

As reported, in occupied Crimea, medics not only did not receive the supplements (to extremely low salaries), but were also not provided with sufficient protective masks and antiseptics.  One person told Crimean Realities on condition of anonymity, that medical staff were also not receiving information about whether a person had tested positive for coronavirus.  When a person was in hospital with suspected Covid-19, a test was taken but only the head doctor learned the results.  The person reported that at least one person, who had been in intensive care for seven days before being moved to an observation ward where he died, had clearly died of covid, although this was not reported.  His death had certainly not been recorded as being from coronavirus, and there were many other deaths which were also claimed to be from other causes.

Despite the danger under Russian occupation, Danilovych spoke openly about the situation in her hospital in Feodosia.  She explained in an interview that the situation with covid was much worse than the official statistics admitted. She had every reason to know as her own father was infected with covid while in hospital after a heart operation.

Danilovych and other medica workers who demanded the promised supplementary payments came under pressure and threats of dismissal.  She and others were in fact dismissed and she described the situation, under her real name, to the Zmina Human Rights Centre.

Iryna Danilovych has recently been active also as a civic activist, covering issues linked with the Crimean health service and medical workers’ rights. She writes on social media and in columns on various websites, and has also provided commentary to Crimean Realities and other media in occupied Crimea, mainland Ukraine and Russia.   

It seems extremely likely that this is ‘the non-secret’ information that has riled the Russian occupation regime. 

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