By Nat South for the Saker Blog
This article provides an overview into a deeply disturbing trend in Ukraine, one that started in 2014, that has accelerated and intensified since 24 February 2022. Extrajudicial killings, harassment, arbitrary detentions by men in camouflaged uniforms, beatings and disappearances continue to take place on a regular basis in Ukraine. Most of the detentions and disappearances are often carried out by the Ukrainian Security service, (SBU), under a sweeping repression.
While we have all heard about the egregious processes that took place in the USA, a witch hunt for suspected communists, better known McCarthyism, a similar course of action is taking place in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities and associated ultra-nationalist groups are after people who were not only very critical of the former but also the current Ukrainian government. Threats, harassment and calls for violence has been and continue to be made against those who:
- publicly supported the Minsk Agreements,
- are against “de-communisation”,
- highlight human rights abuses,
- advocated for a settlement of the conflict in Donbass,
- are deemed to be “pro-Russian”.
- Church representatives and clergy;
- For reading the news in Russia.
Add into this maelstrom another layer of extra-judicial repression, in the form of impromptu justice being meted out to civilians, bound up, tied to posts, beaten, humiliated and some killed as a result. There are simply hundreds and hundreds of video clips and photos showing these events, which are outlined in another article.
People are not only being tied up to street furniture as suspected looters, but people are being bound up or arrested for being pro-Russian, for not being able to say the word “Palyanytsya” in Ukrainian. Not every ethnic Russian speaker in Ukraine can speak good Ukrainian, and some have trouble pronouncing certain words in Ukrainian. People have been reportedly killed for not pronouncing the shibboleth word correctly and thus assumed to be part of subversive Russian reconnaissance groups.
The so called” international community” has expressed no interest or desire to take a closer look at this disturbing situation in Ukraine. Once again, the moral high ground as avidly promoted by thousands of NGOs’, think tanks and a multitude of reports, dissipates rapidly in reality into a dark void. The silence is deafening and all of them mute on the repression that is taking place in Ukraine, likely start the process of EU accession in June. Obviously, a highly repressive with systematic serious human rights abuses committed against civilians, by members of the military and police are not an impediment to being part of the European and NATO family.
Once upon a time, there would have been prisoners of conscience that Amnesty International would have supported and denounced human right abuses, now it is a case of total amnesia, right across the board, a deadly silence reigns over the widespread instances of human right abuses and atrocities, unless it is finger pointing at Russia.
For 8 years Ukrainian nationalists have internalised naked hate against Russian speaking Ukrainians and by default judged them to be guilty of being pro-Russian. Within this scope includes being pro-Minsk agreements, advocating for peace in Donbass or highlight human rights abuses. Against this background of feverish witch-hunts, any hint of the slightest suspicion of cooperation or aiding Russians is tantamount to a summary execution in some situations, or more likely, a beating and being handed over to the SBU.
A short list of those who have fell foul of the Ukrainian government and its policies:
Vlodymyr Struk (Major of Kreminna)
Denis Kireev (high-ranking government official)
Mikhail & Aleksander Kononovich (political party leaders)
Nestor Shufrych (Verkhovna Rada deputy)
Yuri Tkachev (journalist)
Yan Taksyur (writer)
Elena Berezhnaya (Human rights activist / ex-figure skater)
Dmitry Dzhangirov, (TV presenter, political scientist);
Yuriy Dudkin, (political scientist);
Maxim Rindkovsky (MMA fighter);
Dmitry Skvortsov (journalist);
Aleksandr Matiushenko (activist organisation “Livytsia”);
Oleg Smetanin (violinist);
These individuals and others are listed in further details later on in the article.
Remember these people, these Ukrainians who for various reasons fell afoul of the authorities, imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, or killed. Those detained are often put under huge stress, threatened, beaten, or tortured into giving confessions. Another aspect to consider is that many lawyers do not wish to represent these people, as doing so may lead to being accused of being an accessory and likewise accused of being “agents of the enemy”.
The SBU, human rights abuses and paramilitaires
The SBU has a history of torture, brutal interrogations, extra judicial murders and other violence and threats carried out with total impunity. The Ukrainian government knows this, more so since Zelensky, since he appointed Oleksandr Poklad as the SBU’s counter-intelligence chief in 2021. Poklad has a sinister reputation as the ‘The Strangler’ . He is known to have links to organised crimes and involvement in extrajudicial killings. This person is now a top-level official and just one of a number of decidedly highly unscrupulous characters that are law enforcement officers.
A glimpse of some of the attitudes tolerated within the law enforcement structures, starting with 2018, when an ex-SBU adviser, former deputy in the Rada, member of the far-right nationalist party Svoboda [Freedom], Yuri Michalchyshyn, advocated the following:
“To propagate a total extermination of the Kremlin vultures and ghouls, local traitors and turncoats, its voluntary helpers and accomplices — instead of “reconciliation” with the traitors of the Motherland and the enemies of the Ukrainian people.”
Another paramilitary group, Right Sector also has wide connections with the SBU.
SBU officer, with Right Sector insignia on 6th April. Notice the other insignia, one SS Galicia of WW2 notoriety.
Prior to the start of the Russian military operation against Kiev, a few instances of the brutality, torture and extra judicial killings were reported by a host of organisations, HRW, OSCE, Amnesty International, OHCHR and in France — OFPRA. These reports provided a glimpse into a situation that was overwhelmingly swept under the carpet by EU, U.S. officials and the corporate MSM alike. Most of the cases were connected to the conflict in Donbass, yet there were many instances elsewhere in Ukraine.
“OHCHR documented allegations of enforced disappearances, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and torture and ill-treatment, perpetrated with impunity by Ukrainian law enforcement officials, mainly by elements of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).”
The June 2016 UN report noted that the cases of incommunicado detention and torture brought to their attention in late 2015 and early 2016 “mostly implicate SBU”
Source: HRW Report 2016
The SBU accounts for a large percentage of reported “arbitrary detention, torture, and abuse of detainees”, from a period from 2014 to 2019. In reality, this is a fraction of what took place, given the one-sided assessment of many of these reports in the first place. Horrid glimpses into these detentions were provided:
Several also alleged that after being transferred to SBU premises they were, variously, beaten, subjected to electric shocks, and threatened with rape, execution, and retaliation against family members, to induce them to confess to involvement with separatism-related criminal activities or to provide information. (HRW 2016)
Notably, during the Donbass conflict, the Ukrainian side committed extremely heinous crimes, such burying people alive, beheadings (as reported by Newsweek), pitiless systematic acts of torture, rapes, looting, on a significantly much larger scale compared to the reported crimes committed by the “pro-Russian side” also featured in these reports. On the flip side, the Russian side has also documented the human rights abuses and repression: report of violations from 2017-2020.
Tellingly, even the U.S State Department managed to notice and picked up on these disturbing aspects of Ukrainian law enforcement behaviours:
“UN noted significant deficiencies in investigations into human rights abuses committed by government security forces …into allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and other abuses reportedly perpetrated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).”
Source: U.S. Report
These reports made for grim reading, yet no one in the corporate Western media dare to make references to these, but instead continue to whitewash the hideous crimes committed by Ukrainian law enforcement & military units. The worst cases are carried out by paramilitary and ultra-nationalist units.
“No justice, truth or reparation was attained for any of the victims of enforced disappearance, secret detention and torture of civilians by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) from 2014 to 2016, and not a single suspected perpetrator was prosecuted”
The SBU has a harrowing track record of serious human right abuses, which continues today. Worse still, is the participation of the likes of ‘Azov’, Right Sector and others in the detentions and also disappearances of people. The Neo-Nazi group C-14 leader, Yevhen Yaras openly acknowledged working with the Ukrainian security service, (SBU).
Now, we are being told repeatedly that this is “Russian misinformation” by certain corporate MSM outlets or being told that this is not relevant any longer. As if this was remotely possible to gloss over or make light of absolutely odious human rights abuses. Washington, Brussels are indeed capable of doing, as they shown a long-standing ability to sweep under the carpet, Contras in Nicaragua, death squads in South and Central America, KLA crimes in Kosovo, moderate rebels in Syria and now Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. Mykola Azarov made references to death squads in a video.
These practices and human right abuses still take place on a regular basis in Ukraine. Details of arrests, detentions are always sketchy as legal representation is practically nil and no communication is possible.
In short, under Zelensky’s rule, the government agencies and others armed groups are detaining, imprisoning, and killing people in Ukraine. Anyone that criticises or is considered as opposing his government, any perceived actions, (current or historical) is duly noted, and thus is likely to get persecuted, detained by either the SBU or irregular paramilitary groups. The government knowingly allows these human rights abuses for its own interest.
It must remembered that the Ukrainian authorities have continued to use a database, the Mirotvorets (Peacekeeper) website, to highlight those that they consider as ‘enemies of Ukraine’. This controversial website created in 2014, under the initiative of Anton Gerashchenko, (the Ukrainian deputy minister of internal affairs). Gerashchenko stated that the site was “extremely important for the national security of Ukraine.” He then added that “anyone who does not understand this or tries to interfere with this work is either a puppet in the hands of others or works against the interests of national security.” 
The inclusion of details of individuals, recommended for liquidation and arrest, has in the past led to people, Ukrainian and foreigners, being targeted, arrested, and murdered. A Ukrainian journalist, Oles Buzina, had his personal details published on the site in 2015, which led to his murder shortly afterwards. All of this in a supposedly democratic Ukraine.
Remember that Zelensky has now outlawed all opposition parties —but not all, those parties who support him are allowed to continue, with ultra-nationalists & Neo-Nazis part of these political parties and who happen to be highly influential too. Facebook and other social media platforms also helped in this process by deleting sites and accounts of opposition organisations and individuals.
Top-level officials and media outlets are wilfully ignoring what is taking place in Ukraine, by believing that the Russians are far worse, in scope and extent of human right abuses, while at the same time sanitising a wide range of heinous abuses, disappearances and killings in Ukraine. Additionally, this is swept under the vague categories of ‘treason’, support for the Russians or “saboteurs”:
Case: Vlodymyr Struk
Mayor of Kreminna
Event: kidnapped & extra judicially killed
Date: 01 March 2022
Accused of: being a traitor and pro-Russian
Notes: Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, announced on his social media account that the Mayor of Kreminna, Volodymyr Struk, was shot dead by “unknown patriots” after he was kidnapped from his home. He also added that Struk ‘was judged by the court of the people and called hime a traitor.
Case: Denis Kireev
A member of the Ukrainian government negotiating team.
Event: murdered on the street of Kiev, near Pechersky Court building by the SBU security service.
Date: 5 March 2022
Accused of: allegedly for having “pro-Russian position” and ‘ suspicion of treason’.
Notes: gunned down while “resisting arrest”. Reportedly a member of the Ukrainian military intelligence service.
Case: Nestor Shufrych
Verkhovna Rada deputy (Opposition Bloc)
Event: Arrested and kidnapped
Date: 4 March 2022
Accused of: allegedly “providing Russia with intelligence”.
Case: Mikhail & Aleksander Kononovich
Leading members of the outlawed Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine.
Event: Arrested and detained by SBU
Date: 6 March 2022
Accused of: “spreading “pro-Russian and pro-Belarusian views.” and ‘treason’.
Notes: Currently held in a pretrial detention centre, been beaten and are facing execution on false charges.
Case: Yan Taksyur
Writer and TV journalist / presenter.
Event: Arrested and detained by the SBU.
Date: 10 March 2022
Accused of: ‘treason’
Ref: 70-year-old native of Kiev, an Orthodox journalist and TV presenter, “Pershiy Kozatsky”. Currently in a pre-trial detention centre.
Case: Yuri Tkachev
Scientist and independent journalist
Editor-in-chief of the online magazine https://timer-odessa.net/.
Event: Arrested and detained in Odessa
Date: 19 March 2022
Accused of: ‘ treason’.
Ref: No contact or information on his current status. Wrote just before his arrest: “They came for me, it was a pleasure to talk”.
Case: Dmitri Dzhangirov
TV presenter, political scientist
Member of the “Novyi Sotcialism” (“New Socialism”) party
Event: detained by the SBU (?)
Date: 7 March 2022
Accused of: ?
Ref: According to social media information, “subscribers denounced that an anti-Russian statement was published on his Youtube channel “The Capital”. He was subsequently forced to make a anti-Russian speech on camera and on his YouTube channel as well.
Case: Elena Berezhnaya
Sportswoman / human rights activist
Event: Detained by the SBU (?)
Date: 16 March 2022
Case: Maxim Rindkovsky
Event: detained, beaten and tortured by ultra-nationalist group
Date: Precise date unknown- 1st week of March 2022
Accused of: having trained with MMA fighters from the Chechen Ahmat club during his sports career.
Ref: Article / Current status is unknown although alleged to have been killed.
Case: Dmitry Skvortsov
Journalist and peace activist of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Event: Detained by the SBU
Date: 10 March 2022
Case: Mikhail Pogrebinsky
Event: Arrested by the SBU
Date: 27 March 2022
Accused of: treason and illegal enrichment.
Ref: Considered to be pro-Russian as he appeared on Russian TV channels.
Case: Vladimir Ivanov
Date: 4th March
Case: Aleksandr Matiushenko
Militant of the Ukrainian left-wing organisation “Livytsia”
Date: 3rd March
Charged with “participation in the aggressive war”.
Ref: Arrested by SBU and ‘Azov’
Case: Oleg Smetanin
Date: 4th March
Accused of: passing information about an airport to the Russians.
Case: Vasily Volga
Former leader of the Union of Left Forces,
Date: 7 March
Case: Yury Dudkin
Date: 7 March
Case: Aleksandr Karevin
Date: 7 March
Ref: wrote on his FB page: “The SBU has arrived”
Case: Oleg Pankartiev
Assistant to a deputy of the opposition party “OPZZH (Opposition Platform for Life)
Date: 9 March
Accused of: ?
Ref: Brutally beaten during arrest and is still detained by SBU.
Case: Spartak Golovachiov
Date: 11 March
Ref: Managed to write on social media : “They are breaking down my door armed with Ukrainian uniforms. Goodbye.” Whereabouts unknown.
Case: Elena Viacheslavova
Human rights activist
Date: 11 March in Odessa
Detained by SBU
Ref: The daughter of Mikhail Viacheslavov, burned alive on 2 May 2014, in the Odessa House of Trade Unions.
Case: Artiom Khazan
Representative of the Shariy Party
Detained by the SBU
Ref: He was severely beaten during his arrest by the SBU,
The next day, a video appeared on social networks, in which Khazan slandered the party chairman Anatoli Shariy. Current whereabouts unknown.
Case: Yury Bobchenko
Chairman of the trade union of Ukrainian steelworkers and miners
Date: 19 March
Arrested by Ukrainian military.
Ref: A worker from the Arcelor Mittal Krivoi Rog company.
Case: Gleb Lyashenko
Political scientist and blogger
Date: 29/30 March
Arrested by SBU (?) and charged with treason.
Case: A German
Ex-journalist — Radio Liberty
Case: Oleg Novikov
Date: 5 April
Arrested by SBU
Ref: Managed to write on Telegram: “They came for me. Don’t think ill of me. Stay yourself”
As you can see from the list, the whereabouts of many are not known, actual accusations against them are not known either. Just an accusation, having your name on a blacklist can get you kidnapped, brutalised, and potentially killed in Ukraine.
Situation in Ukraine
There are still some brave few who try to gather information on the arrests and detentions. The increasing levels of lawlessness and repression makes it very difficult to collect precise information.
Embedded into the already volatile mix of state repression, Ukrainian ultra-nationalists operate outside of any legal oversight, thus not accountable to state political structures. Moreover, many had total impunity since 2014 and despite a couple of incidents between the SBU and Right Sector, they still have undeclared support by all levels of Ukrainian officialdom.
It is only to be expected that ultra-nationalists have taken matters in own their hands, such as the kidnapping, beating and torture of an MMA fighter, Maxim Rindkovsky, solely based on the fact he had trained in the past with a Chechen MMA club. Unverified claims made indicate the participation of Azov members in the torture and disappearance of Maxim Rindkovsky.
Other recent instances of the rule of the
mob, ultra-nationalist, territorial defense enforcers:
13 March, the house of Dmitry Lazarev, a left-wing activist, was burnt down, (in a village near Odessa).
16 March, in the village of Tomashevka in the Kiev region: Guennady Batenko, a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was kidnapped by an armed commando. He was released by the SBU the next day.
27/28 March: Slema, Cherkasy region. A priest is filmed being forcibly taken away by a detachment of “territorial defense” ultra-nationalists (Teroborona), along with parishioners who try to protect him. His whereabouts are not known.
Solely judging by the list as outlined in this article, it is just a little indication of the broader situation where there are hundreds of detainees in Ukraine, their circumstances and status hasn’t warranted the attention to make their disappearance / arrest on social media, their whereabouts are not known at all. As the conflict continues, the repression continues to build up against a wide-ranging category of people.
While this is all happening, the Western authorities and corporate MSM are completely indifferent to the situation and turmoil. The MSM are indeed complicit in whitewashing these abominable events. As expected, the West organisations are all too eager to publicise any crackdown of dissenting voices in Russia. Yet, they have no time or inclination whatsoever to do likewise for those critical of Zelensky’s government, state- repression that is innumerably and unrelentingly cruel, harsher, and significantly deadlier.
The long list of human rights abuses and ill-treatments by the SBU has been amply catalogued in the past, along with the assistance of ultra-nationalist groups, who are tacitly permitted to act indiscriminately against anyone they deem as an “enemy of Ukraine”.
The fate of at least a dozen well-known opposition activists, political analysts, journalists, politicians, and bloggers remains unclear. All this taking place with a cold indifference of well-known Western human right organisations and more strikingly, the Western corporate MSM, all under the auspices of the supposedly ‘enlightened’, ‘civilised’ Europe and North America. No one is raising a voice against these actions.
* 2016 OSCE-report “War crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine: torture and inhumane treatment”.
Against the background of rampant corruption, by the end of 2021, Ukraine fell to 122nd place out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International, 2021).