Russian invaders abduct Ukrainian volunteer caring for elderly grandmother in occupied Melitopol
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russians have abducted over one thousand Ukrainians from the Zaporizhzhia oblast city of Melitopol alone. Some of the victims have disappeared, others are known to be imprisoned in occupied Crimea or Russia. Two volunteers were seized in June 2022: 32-year-old Yaroslav Zhuk and Illya Yenin, who was just 22. Zhuk was savagely tortured and is now facing preposterous ‘international terrorism’ charges. Yenin was finally released after 21 days in captivity. The threats, and very likely torture that he endured during that period led to him suspending his previous help for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Nobody is safe under Russian occupation and in March 2023, the Russians came for Yenin again. His mother, Tetiana, that they came for her son on 7 March at the home he was living in with his elderly grandmother. She assumes they were from the Russian security service [FSB], although they gave no explanation, saying only that he needed to come with them “for a conversation” and to be checked on a lie detector. They told him to bring his passport, and asked why he had not taken Russian citizenship. The Russians were clearly looking for him, and did not even take his telephone to be checked and did not carry out a search.
Tetiana Yenina explains that her son had stayed in Melitopol to look after his grandmother (Tetiana’s mother) who is very frail and in bad health. While it was still possible to cross into government-controlled territory from Vasylivka, Illya had looked into the possibility of getting his grandmother to safety that way. It had all seemed too dangerously difficult, however, because of her state of health. Once that option was removed, there was simply no possibility that the elderly lady would survive the gruelling journey through occupied Crimea into Russia and, from there, to a European country.
Illya’s family had hoped that the Russians would release him after questioning, however two months have passed, without any news of his whereabouts.
As reported, Yenin was first seized during the night into 18 June 2022. At the time, he was living with his grandmother, his wife and their two small children. According to his brother, fifteen armed Russian military burst into their home. Although he says it was unclear what exactly they were looking for, they began beating Illya there and then. They took him away, and his telephone, telling his family not to expect him for a long time.
Yenin was one of two volunteers abducted on or around the same day in June 2022. Information about the torture Yaroslav Zhuk was subjected to emerged after he was illegally moved to occupied Crimea and imprisoned in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison]. In a letter, posted by the Crimean Human Rights Group, he explained that he had been seized on 17 June in Melitopol. He believes he was initially held and tortured in a basement in the city for around a week, but cannot be certain of the time as he kept losing consciousness because of the torture. He was held all that time with a bag over his head, tied around with scotch tape. For the first three days, he was in handcuffs all the time, then they cut these off with an angle-grinder. Every half-hour or so his captors came and tortured him, applying wires to his legs; arms; genitals; earlobes or testicles, with the Russians then turning on an electric current, with this causing agonizing pain. He was also beaten with a blunt instrument over his entire body. They burned his feet with a lit gas burner and also applied psychological torture. He was not given any food at all during the first week, only a tiny amount of water each day.
The Russians initially tortured him into signing three distinct versions of a ‘confession’ and then forced him to learn one of these versions by heart and read it out before a video camera. They also made him hold and therefore leave fingerprints on various items and substances.
Almost a month after Zhuk was seized and then disappeared, the Russian state-controlled TASS agency claimed that “the saboteur who made an attempt on the life of the Russian-installed 'director' of the Melitopol department of education’, Olena Shapurova, had been ‘detained’. They cited, as their source, Vladimir Rogov, a collaborator installed by the Russians in Melitopol and the video he posted on his Telegram channel, in which Zhuk, was seen alone, supposedly ‘confessing’ to the attack, and saying that he is part of the partisan movement, under the command of Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU]. His captors even forced Zhuk to claim that Ivan Fedorov, the elected Mayor of Melitopol and a former hostage, had played a direct role in the alleged attack. It became clear from a later ‘court’ report on 28 August, that Zhuk is charged with ‘an act of international terrorism’ under Article 361 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.
It is not known why the aggressor state is holding Illya Yenin hostage, but there is every reason to fear that they will use similar methods of torture against the young man.