Ukraine refuses to hold a transparent verification of “objectors”, while the last large-scale exchange of prisoners of December 25, 2014 was performed under the same procedure.
At the last meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk on November 29, 2017 both sides agreed on the exchange lists. In an exclusive interview for Komsomolskaya Pravda the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic Daria Morozova told why Kiev doesn’t want its people back.
UKRAINE IS BARELY PREPARING FOR THE EXCHANGE
– Daria Vasilievna, tell us about the current situation on the long-awaited exchange.
– As you know, the expected exchange under the formula “306 for 74” has been agreed at the highest level. We can hand over 58 persons kept in the DPR in exchange for 207 our men right now. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian side has made no progress in fulfilling the agreements reached.
Initially, Kiev asked for some more time to clear people confirmed by both sides from charges in line with the Ukrainian legislation. This is exactly what we are demanding! We want all cases to be closed so that our guys would have clean record, unlike it was at the previous exchanges, when people were released without appropriate preliminary procedures.
– Why is it so challenging for Ukraine to clear people from charges at the moment?
– There are three categories of captives. The first one is for convicted persons. This is the easiest case. These people can be pardoned. When Poroshenko signs it, they will be ready for the exchange. The second one is much harder to handle. Those people remain on trial. In cases when a trial lasts for about three years and public prosecutor’s office cannot prove their guilt, our guys are being pressured… They are forced to confess so that to be pardoned sooner, as they are told. We are totally against of it. And the guys are not going to confess for crimes they didn’t commit.
The third category is cases under investigation. The Ukrainian side doesn’t know the appropriate way to prepare those people for the exchange. They are also pressured to change a preventive measure into house arrest. We are totally against of it, too. Judging from previous exchanges, as soon as people of this procedural status will be exchanged, and they get to the DPR territory, two criminal proceedings will be initiated against them. One proceeding on charges of separatism, as previously, and another one for violation of the house arrest.
For the time being, not all our guys have been cleared of charges. By the way, if Kiev implemented Paragraph 5 of Minsk Agreements that prescribes amnesty and enacting a law that forbids persecution and punishment of these persons, they would have no problems in this regard now.
TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE CANNOT WAIT FOR THIRTY THREE
– At the meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk on November 29, the lists of prisoners were agreed by both sides. But at the Videoconference on December 12, the representatives of Ukraine said that they had 21 “objectors”…
– Now the representatives of Ukraine claim that 33 persons refused to be exchanged … Therefore, it became necessary to verify them, that is, to find out the reason why they changed their mind about returning home.
We recall that in August 2017 the participants of the subgroup on humanitarian issues in Minsk announced the verification and additional interview with prisoners (verification-2) completed. Then the parties agreed on the figure 306.
“In order not to delay preparations for the long-awaited exchange, we proposed to take these 33 people to the contact line where they could decide whether to go to the Republic or stay in Ukraine,” said Daria Vasilievna. “However, the Ukrainian side refused under the pretext of protection of human rights – they say, they cannot force people to do so … This is ridiculous! All these people are in their custody. When they transfer a person under investigation, for example, from Ternopol to Nikolaev they do not ask if these people want to move to another prison.
So, Ukraine has every justification for transferring the “objectors” to the delimitation line. Now they categorically refuse. Why we insist on verification on the delimitation line? We receive calls from these guys and they ask to release them.
By the way, Ukraine has some experience in interviewing captives on the contact line. The last large-scale exchange was performed on December 25, 2014 under the same procedure. The SSU Chairman Grytsak and the leader of “Ukrainian choice – the right of the people” Medvedchuk were personally involved.
In this regard, I have a question: Why did not Ukraine see any obstacles for verification in 2014, and also did not consider itself involved in violating the rights of captives? Why is it only now, on the eve of such an important arrangement, when Ukrainian authorities saw a problem in the process?
I consider this refusal from a transparent verification of “objectors” to be another attempt of Ukrainian representatives to delay the exchange.
At the last videoconference we stated that we insist on conducting verification only on the exchange site! Moms and wives of the detained servicemen will not go to the territory of Ukraine this time to find out why the guys allegedly refuse to return home, because this would protract the process.
“Daria Vasilievna with mothers and wives of servicemen who are in Ukrainian captivity”
Photo: ROMAN POBEREZHNIUK
And one more thing. Representatives of Ukraine appealed to humanism towards the captives at the videoconference. So, it seems inhumane to me that two hundred seventy-three detained persons will have to wait for thirty-three persons. There is no problem to take them to the delimitation line, where they would make a decision.
– Ukrainian media claim that Poroshenko is getting more involved in accelerating the exchange process…
– We rely solely on the facts. I cannot say that there is some huge progress in clearing our guys from charges in Ukraine. Nor does Poroshenko want to take his soldiers back. By the way, those people were taken POW bearing arms in Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo entrapments. What did the Ukrainian side do? They exchanged all commissioned staff that was kept in the DPR, and they didn’t care about rank-and-file soldiers.
NOT TO DEPART FROM FIGURES ANNOUNCED BY PUTIN AND MEDVEDCHUK
– Daria Vasilievna, what will be the format of the expected exchange?
– We demanded that Ukraine observes one more condition – to provide documents for released people. All persons released under a presidential pardon must be provided with a photocopy of the document confirming this.
Before the exchange the representatives of Ukraine will be required to provide us with a complete list of exchanged persons. It must include a table where it will be indicated how exactly a person was cleared of charges. For example, if a file is closed, the number of the corresponding criminal proceeding and the date when it was closed must be specified. We want to be sure that all our guys are clear of charges.
Now there is a category of citizens, 128 persons, released as a result of previous exchanges, who haven’t received their identity documents back. Moreover, 80 of them are still in the wanted list … Following the exchange criminal proceedings were initiated against those released people.
I don’t want the number 128 to increase by 207 persons whom we expect to return. That is why we need to handle it now!
In the meantime, the number of DPR supporters in Ukrainian prisons is growing almost every day. Currently, staff of special services of Ukraine often kidnap Donbass women, who are irrelevant to the armed conflict. One of them is in the exchange list of 207 persons kept by the Ukrainian side.
A resident of Konstantinovka, an obstetrician Olga Agranovich, was unfoundedly accused of abetting terrorism. Last summer, members of special services of Ukraine came to her workplace, took the woman to her home, where other stuff were making a search. They didn’t find anything, so they put a grenade to her possessions as a ground for detention.
First, Olga Agranovich was kept in prison chambers in Konstantinovka, then transferred to Mariupol where we couldn’t find her for a long time. When we found out where she was kept, we asked the OSCE representative Mr. Frisch and representatives of other international organizations to visit her. According to them, Agronovich was badly beaten, and her health condition was unsatisfactory.
Six months have passed, her blame was not proven, and this person has been beaten and detained groundlessly. The woman is waiting for the exchange and for returning home.
We call on the Ukrainian side to fulfill their commitments undertaken in such a high level! And not to depart from figures announced by Vladimir Putin and Victor Medvedchuk and approved by Heads of the Republics. And this must be done without delay: before the New Year!
“KP” BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The last exchange of POWs between Ukraine and Donbass Republics transpired in Autumn 2016. Since then, it has been impossible to agree on a new exchange: the Ukrainian side protracted the process, creating new obstacles and finding excuses.
Some progress was observed in the middle of November. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Alexander Zakharchenko had a telephone conversation, when they discussed an initiative of the leader of “Ukrainian choice – the right of the people” movement Viktor Medvedchuk regarding a large-scale exchange of POWs between the People’s Republics and Ukraine.
Source: Komsomolskaya Pravda