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.

Russia admits to holding Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Khyliuk two years after abducting him

Halya Coynash
After two years of evident lies, the Russians appear to be claiming that Khyliuk, an UNIAN journalist, was a 'military serviceman'. They have yet to admit to be holding award-winning journalist Victoria Roshchyna

Dmytro Khyliuk Photo from his Facebook page

Dmytro Khyliuk Photo from his Facebook page

Reporters without Borders [RSF] have reported seeing confirmation from Russia’s foreign ministry that Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Khyliuk is in Russian captivity.  Two years after the Russian military abducted Kyliuk from Kyiv oblast, it would seem that Russia is claiming that he was a military serviceman, not a journalist.  RSF dismisses such a claim which would, in any case, not justify Russia having held Khyliuk incommunicado for over two years.  Russia is also concealing the whereabouts of journalist Victoria Roshchyna who was almost certainly abducted by the Russians from occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast in early August 2023.

As reported, Khyliuk, a journalist for the UNIAN Press Agency, was living in the Kyv oblast village of Kozarovychi with his elderly parents when Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  The village was in the part of Kyiv oblast that fell under Russian occupation, with the invaders abducting both Dmytro, and his father Vasyl Khyliuk on 3 March 2022. His father was released eight days later, but Dmytro remained in captivity. Vasyl Khyliuk later explained how the Russians had begun hunting down the men from the village.  He and his son had gone to have a look at the damage to their home caused by a missile  and  to clean up as much as they could.  Five Russians with machine guns had descended upon them with foul abuse and shouting.  This was on 3 March 2022, and that evening father and son were taken prisoners.  Local residents reported that the Russians had claimed that the two men had communicated with the Ukrainian Armed Forces.  Both men were initially held prisoner at a warehouse in Kozarovychi until 11 March, when Vasyl Khyliuk was released.  Dmytro was taken away, and when his father asked the Russians when he would be released, they said that he would return “when the war ends”. 

A former prisoner of war, who was briefly held by the Russians at the Hostomel Airport reported being imprisoned with Khyliuk from 13 March 2022.

In April 2023, UNIAN Chief Editor Mykhailo Hannytsky explained that the Ukrainian authorities had previously asked Dmytro’s media colleagues and family to refrain from reporting on him, presumably in order to not endanger behind-the-scenes negotiations.  However, no apparent promises by the Russians to include Khyliuk and other civilians hostages on exchange lists had been kept.  Although it was unclear whether the invaders had seized Khyliuk as a journalist, there was nothing at all to suggest that they considered him a ‘military serviceman’ nor, in fact, what is meant by this.  Although there is considerable evidence of Russia’s systematic torture and ill-treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war, Moscow does acknowledge their imprisonment and include them on lists for exchanges of prisoners.  Khyliuk has had no such status for over two years, nor should he have, as he is unequivocally a civilian hostage.

Hannytsky stressed back in April 2023 that the text messages that Khyliuk had spent him before he was taken prisoner had concerned only the damage to the village, empty shops, etc.  There had been nothing about Russia’s deployment of soldiers and equipment or similar information.

After the likely murder of Russian political prisoners Alexei Navalny, RSF publicly demanded that Russia confirm that Khyliuk was still alive, since there had been no information about him since May 2023.  As of late February 2024, the Russian regime had not officially accused Khyliuk of anything, RSF wrote.  “According to letters from the authorities received by various lawyers in Russia. Vladimir Putin's regime does not even acknowledge holding him in its jails despite the many accounts collected by RSF attesting to his detention without any legal basis.”  One of the letters which RSF earlier cited was from Russia’s Investigative Committee which, on 12 January 2023, claimed to have no information as to any criminal proceedings initiated against Khyliuk.  Penal institutions and Russia’s defence ministry constantly denied any knowledge of Khyliuk’s whereabouts.

This was despite a very brief letter which Dmytro’s parents received in April 2022, and several witnesses.  A freed Ukrainian POW had confirmed seeing Khyliuk on 13 May 2023 when the two men were among 13 Ukrainian detainees being transferred between Russian penal institutions.  The POW reported that his captivity had been “pretty rough on [Khyliuk] mentally but physically he looked fine”.  He also confirmed information that RSF had earlier reported, that Khyliuk had been held for at least three months in solitary confinement.  Khyliuk was very worried about his mother, whose poor health was earlier reported as having been the reason why Khyliuk did not try to leave after the invasion.  He explained that he had repeatedly asked to be able to phone his family or UNIAN, but had not once been allowed.

RSF noted that the considerable evidence that Dmytro Khyliuk is in Russian captivity and Moscow’s denials “provide evidence of a forced disappearance and a State lie.”

Russia is holding several thousand Ukrainian civilians hostage with estimates varying in large part because Russia typically denies any knowledge of those whom its own soldiers have abducted.  In other cases, it has concocted surreal charges and 12 or 13-year sentences for supposed ‘spying’ against journalist, writer and civic activist Serhiy Tsyhipa and veteran Oleksandr Zarivny.

Victoria Roshchyna Photo posted by Radio Svoboda

Victoria Roshchyna Photo posted by Radio Svoboda

Victoria Roshchyna worked as a journalist for, Radio Svoboda and Ukrainska Pravda.  She was first seized by the Russians in March 2022, and held prisoner for ten days in occupied Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia oblast).  She was one of the laureates of the International Women’s Media Foundation ‘Courage in Journalism Awards’ for 2022.  She disappeared in August 2023 while trying to carry out a journalist investigation on occupied territory and was almost certainly seized by the Russians.

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