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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Russia ‘retries’ Ukrainian doctor abducted, tortured and imprisoned for six years in occupied Donbas

Halya Coynash
Yury Shapovalov is one of many Ukrainians savagely tortured at the Izolyatsia secret prison in Donetsk for his pro-Ukrainian posts on Twitter

Yury Shapovalov screenshot from the ’DPR’ video

Yury Shapovalov screenshot from the ’DPR’ video

All contact has been lost with Yury Shapovalov (b. 1964), a neuropathologist from Donetsk who was abducted in the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’] in January 2018 and savagely tortured in the notorious Izolyatsia ‘concentration camp’. After 8 years of claiming that such persecution had nothing to do with them, Russia is now understood to be ‘retrying’ Ukrainians ‘sentenced’ by kangaroo courts in occupied Donbas.  It may have illegally moved Shapovalov to a prison colony in the Russian Federation.  

Hromadske Radio’s Free Our Relatives program has spoken with Kateryna Shapoval, a friend of Shapovalov’s who has tried to ensure that the Ukrainian who was seized, tortured and imprisoned for his pro-Ukrainian position onTwitter posts is not forgotten.  She explains that, following the death of Yury’s mother in the summer, there is nobody in occupied Donetsk oblast who can even try to find out where he is now imprisoned.  Kateryna had initially been in contact with Shapovalov’s elderly mother, and had, following her death, managed to get through to Yury herself, albeit for very short conversations which were doubtless being listened into.  He was still being held at the Makiivka prison colony but told Kateryna that his case was being ‘retried’, with this clearly to fit his fake prosecution and ‘sentence’ into Russian legislation.  This is almost certainly a question of paperwork, with no review of the ‘evidence’ for the pseudo ‘DPR supreme court’s 13-year ‘sentence’ which was doubtless only the ‘confession’ extracted through torture.

Aside from his work as a neuropathologist, Shapovalov is known to have had a great interest in cactuses and even headed the Donetsk Cactus Society.  It is unclear whether he actively decided to remain in Donetsk after the Russian-led seizure of control in 2014, or whether he remained because of his elderly mother. Kateryna stresses, however, that neither mother nor son supported the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.  His mother had told Kateryna how she dreamed of deoccupation, and said that very many in Donetsk feel the same. Shapovalov had expressed his attitude in satirical tweets under the anonymous address Залишенець Донецький@relictDon.  The address was later hijacked by the ‘DPR’ militants, however the posts before January 2018 show a person with clear pro-Ukrainian views and a deep antagonism to ‘Russian world’ ideology and the devastating impact this has had on Donetsk.  Although Kateryna has heard that there may have been a deliberate act of ‘provocation’ to try to frame Shapovalov for supposed ‘spying’, he could just as easily have been ‘denounced’ for his pro-Ukrainian position. No more has ever been needed to end up persecuted in parts of Ukraine under Russian (open or covert) occupation.

Shapovalov was very roughly seized on the street in January 2018.  He is known to have spent months at the notorious Izolyatsia ‘concentration camp’.  This is the secret prison in Donetsk whose inmates are savagely tortured, both to extract ‘confessions’ to whatever is demanded of them, and for their torturers’ ‘entertainment’.

It was essentially only from the testimony of two journalists and former ‘DPR’ hostages Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk, who were released in the last major exchange of prisoners (in December 2019) that Shapovalov’s whereabouts were learned.  Before that, the only information had been an original ‘DPR’ report and videoed ‘confession’ (to spying for Ukraine’s Security Service, or SBU). This had been posted on 7 March 2018, after two months of being held incommunicado at Izolyatsia and tortured.  Like all such videoed ‘confessions’, it is clear that Shapovalov was repeating what he had been forced to say.  It is possible that his initial statement, in which he describes himself as a Ukrainian citizen and patriot of Ukraine, was not deemed sufficient.  There is an obvious break in the video, and then Shapovalov is shown, looking even more stressed, and ‘appealing’ to others with pro-Ukrainian views to not do what he did as this could cost you your freedom, “your life”, and saying he wishes he could put the clock back himself.  This all differs from the standard attempts both by ‘DPR’ and by Russia’s FSB to present any cooperation with the SBU as supposedly being under coercion or for money. 

On 16 April 2020, Yury Shapovalov was found guilty of ‘spying’ by a fake ‘court’ of a pseudo ‘republic’ which even Russia had not, at the time, formally recognized.  Typically, this and the 13-year harsh-regime ‘sentence’ were only reported on 15 May 2020.  There is nothing to suggest that he ever had a proper lawyer, nor any other fundamental aspects of a fair trial.

The ‘DPR militants’ claimed, on the basis of Shapovalov’s activities on Twitter, that he had “gathered, analysed, published and passed on to the Ukrainian Security Service information damaging to DPR security”.  The report is no longer available, but essentially copy-pasted that from 7 March 2018, in asserting that Shapovalov had “posted information, facilitating the destabilization of the socio-political situation in the republic” on his Twitter page, as well as data about the location of military objects, movement of military technology and personnel.  It was claimed (as it essentially always is) that Shapovalov had been ‘recruited by the SBU’, purportedly in the summer of 2015.

Russia is now taking over this shocking travesty and illegally applying its legislation to ‘re-sentence’ a Ukrainian patriot, seized in his own Ukrainian city, for supposed ‘spying’ for Ukraine.  

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