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.

Russians abduct and doubtless torture Ukrainian journalist and her husband in occupied Melitopol

Halya Coynash
Iryna and Oleksandr Levchenko are both in their sixties, but there are no grounds for believing that this would stop the Russians from using torture to extract insane ‘confessions’

Oleksandr and Iryna Levchenko Photo from Facebook

Oleksandr and Iryna Levchenko Photo from Facebook

Ukrainian journalist Iryna Levchenko and her husband, Oleksandr Levchenko, have not been seen since they were seized by Russians on the street in occupied Melitopol.  The couple are both retired, and it was a few days before friends realized that contact with them had been lost and began their search.  Efforts to discover their whereabouts are not helped by the occupation authorities’ claim that they can only speak with close relatives, since neither has any on occupied territory.  This is, in any case, almost certainly a pretext since the Russian invaders have been abducting Ukrainian civilians from any area that falls under their control, and almost never explain what they have done with them.

Iryna’s sister Olena Rudenko has told the Centre for Journalist Investigations that the last contact anybody had with the couple was on 5 May.  Around three days later, when family members sounded the alarm, friends went to their apartment and their dacha.  Everything was locked up, the bikes were in their place and there was no sign of the couple.

According to sources in the city, the Levchenkos were initially detained on the street.  That first day they are both believed to have been held on Chernyshevsky St, in a police holding facility that the invaders are using.  Later Iryna was taken away somewhere, while Oleksandr remained imprisoned in occupied Melitopol.  It is feared that the Russians are accusing him of so-called ‘terrorism’.

The couple are both pensioners, but Oleksandr earlier worked at a tractor factory.  Iryna was active as a journalist from 1981, and worked both for the local newspaper Novy Den’, and as correspondent for a number of regional and nationwide publications.

As after so many abductions by the Russians or their proxies since 2014, the couple’s relatives remained silent for several weeks, hoping that the Russians would release Iryna and Oleksandr.  This has not happened, and they are now seeking maximum publicity about their plight. 

Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia oblast was one of the first cities to come under Russian occupation following its full-scale invasion on 24 February 2022.  Since that time, the invaders have abducted over one thousand Ukrainians from Melitopol alone. Some have been released, others remain imprisoned.  In several cases already, the aggressor state is claiming that Ukrainians on their own territory were guilty of so-called ‘international terrorism’ and have either begun or are planning show trials.  As of late April 2023, the independent Russian publication Verstka knew of 19 prisoners, most or all of whom are Ukrainian, held at Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison, and facing ‘international terrorism’ charges.  Other Ukrainian hostages, either still held in Melitopol or in occupied Crimea may well be facing the same charges. They include:

Yaroslav Zhuk

It is almost exactly a year since Zhuk, then a 32-year-old volunteer from Melitopol, was seized by the Russians.  Since Russia finally admitted to holding him, and he gained access to a lawyer, he has given details of the appalling torture he was subjected to while still held in occupied Melitopol.  This included being beaten, asphyxiated and having electric currents attached to his genitals.  All of this was to force him into signing multiple ‘confessions’ and essentially reciting one on video for Russian propaganda channels, as well as handling items which the FSB will doubtless claim as ‘evidence’ against him.

See: Russian FSB attaches electric currents to genitals to force abducted Ukrainian to sign multiple ‘confessions’

Andriy Holubiev, a Kung Fu master and popular educator in Melitopol, Ihor Horlov; Yury Petrov, Volodymyr Zuyev and Oleksandr Zhukov

All five men are now held at Lefortovo and are facing highly implausible ‘international terrorism’ charges.  The men, who are of very different ages and may have never set eyes on each other, are claimed to have, on instructions from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU], planned to stuff explosives into the front bumper of a car with the explosive supposedly intended to detonate when a vehicle with humanitarian aid passed by. 

See: Russian media abet Putin regime in calling parts of Ukraine ‘new Russian territory’ and abducted Ukrainians – ‘terrorists’

There is ample evidence from these cases and others where the hostages themselves, or others who were held prisoner with them, have been released, to fear for the safety of Oleksandr and Iryna Levchenko.  There are, unfortunately, no grounds for believing that their age would deter the Russians from using torture to extract supposed ‘confessions.

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