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 18-year-old from occupied Nova Kakhovka and torture out ‘confession to spying’

Halya Coynash
Kyrylo Rozumiey still bears the scars of the electric current torture that his Russian abductors used against a lad who was just 18 when seized

Kyrylo Rozumiey before his abduction Family photo

Kyrylo Rozumiey before his abduction Family photo

Kyrylo Rozumiey was just 18 when he was seized by the Russians occupying Nova Kakhovka (Kherson oblast) on 4 May 2023.  His family was forced to endure months, not knowing where Kyrylo was or, even, whether he was alive.  They now know that he is imprisoned in Rostov (Russia) and facing a ‘trial’ on absurd ‘spying’ changes and near certain sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Hromadske Radio has spoken with Kyrylo’s sister Darya Sakhno about his abduction and about the hell that they have gone through trying to find him.  She explains that they did know that he had been seized by the Russians on 4 May and, learned via former acquaintances who were collaborating with the Russians, that he was held prisoner in the basement of the police station in occupied Nova Kakhovka.  

This, however, was just before the Kakhovka Dam burst on 6 June 2023, probably as the result of one of several attacks by the Russians on dams aimed at blocking Ukrainian military advances.  The breach led to catastrophic flooding, with the police station basement that the Russians had been using for holding and torturing civilian hostages totally under water. 

The family were terrified that the hostages had not been moved in time.  Darya says she was assured that they had been taken away but was not told where they had been taken.  Her mother and grandmother literally went from place to place, pleading for information about Kyrylo’s whereabouts, but received only denials everywhere. 

At the beginning of September, a former hostage got in touch with Darya on Messenger and told her that he had been held in a basement, together with Kyrylo, in Kalanchak.  Her mother immediately went to Kalanchak, but was told that all those ‘detained’ had been taken to Simferopol in occupied Crimea.  Russia has indeed taken many civilians abducted from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts to Crimea, with two new SIZO [remand prisons] opened in Simferopol since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, almost certainly to hold the ever-mounting number of hostages.  The family could not, however, find any trace of Kyrylo in occupied Crimea.

It was only on 7 February 2024, that Kyrylo’s mother received a telephone call from a state-appointed ‘lawyer  in Russia who said that Kyrylo had been ‘detained’, that he was accused of ‘spying’ and that a criminal investigation was now underway.  This individual, identified only by her name and patronymic (Anna Aleksandrovna) provided no information about Kyrylo’s whereabouts but did send a photo of him.  She told his family that Kyrylo had “confessed” and that they should therefore not hold out any hopes.  The woman has since failed to answer the family’s phone calls.  Such state-appointed ‘lawyers’ have, on many occasions, even been present when Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners or hostages are tortured, and made no effort to intervene.  There is, at present, no way of knowing if this was the case here, however there are no grounds for believing that any such ‘confession’ was obtained without the use of torture.

Around a week after the call from this ‘lawyer’, the family were contacted by a Russian ‘investigator’ who informed them that Kyrylo was held prisoner in SIZO No. 1 in Rostov.   

The family contacted a civic initiative helping, among others, Russia’s Ukrainian civilian hostages, and Kyrylo now, at least, has a proper lawyer.  He has visited Kyrylo, and reports that you can still see the scars from the torture through electric currents that he was subjected to.  Kyrylo, he says, also seems psychologically drained, and “there is no spark in his eyes”.

Kyrylo has passed on that his family should not risk visiting him, as they could themselves be in danger.  He told them that he had “been through hell in Taganrog” (where there is another, notorious, SIZO) but that he now feels OK.  The conditions in all Russian SIZO are appalling, and the overcrowding – 13 men held in a cell with only ten beds – is typical.  All of the prisoners are Ukrainian, with Kyrylo the youngest.

Kyrylo Rozumiey in court Photo posted by his sister, Darya Sakhno

Kyrylo Rozumiey in court Photo posted by his sister, Darya Sakhno

Essentially any Ukrainian is in danger under Russian occupation and why Kyrylo was targeted remains unclear.  The young lad had insisted on remaining in Nova Kakhovka after Russia’s invasion, and was looking after one grandmother, who has cancer, and taking food and medicine to his second grandmother who lives in  Tavriysk.  He cycled between the two cities around twice a week, and it was while he was on one of these trips that he disappeared.   It was immediately clear that he had been seized, as armed Russians turned up at the homes of Kyrylo’s girlfriend, and his best friend, and interrogated them, with the best friend also taken to a basement and interrogated with the use of force. 

Darya can only assume that the Russians stopped Kyrylo and found something on him, or on his telephone, that they didn’t like.  There is, however, another possibility since Kyrylo had been very blunt in his criticism on social media of a local village head who had begun collaborating with the invaders.  The collaborator had himself visited Kyrylo’s parents and made threats against their son.

While some hostages are released, Russia is continuing to imprison thousands of civilians, with many, if not most, savagely tortured.  Of those whose ‘detention’ Russia finally acknowledges, some have already been ‘tried’ or are facing grotesque charges of ‘international terrorism’, others of ‘spying’.  The latter charge has been a favourite for the FSB’s persecution of Ukrainians since 2014, with one of the reasons undoubtedly because the entire ‘trial’ can be held in secret.  Even independent lawyers are forced, under threat of criminal prosecution, to sign non-disclosure agreements.  Kyrylo’s lawyer has warned the family to cherish no illusions, since all of such ‘spying’ trials of Ukrainians end in a sentence of from 10-20 years.  This is despite the near certainty that the only grounds for any ‘conviction’ would be a ‘confession’ extracted from a very young lad through savage and excruciating forms of torture.

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