Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.10.2017
“He is a real hero. Even under torture he didn’t change his position. For Vlad, Luhansk is Ukraine.” – Roman Bochkala, journalist, speaking about Vlad Ovcharenko.
News has leaked out from Russia-occupied Luhansk that Vlad Ovcharenko was sentenced in a kangaroo court of the so-called “LPR” to 17 years of imprisonment at hard labour. His ‘crime’ was to display the flag of his country, Ukraine, and to burn the flag of the terrorist organization “LPR.”
Vlad Ovcharenko was kidnapped by gunmen holding allegiance to the “LPR” terrorist organization on 16 October 2016. On social media, he had been writing observations about what life is like in Luhansk under Russian occupation. He is @LUGANSKA_JUNTA on Twitter. Russian information warfare operatives targeted the @LUGANSKA_JUNTA account, manipulated Twitter’s weak algorithms, and succeeded in getting Vlad Ovcharenko’s account suspended. Vlad Ovcharenko is a political prisoner and has done nothing to deserve an account suspension, but to date Twitter sustains that suspension. Twitter and Putin’s Russia both silence Vlad Ovcharenko.
In basement dungeons in Luhansk, “LPR” goons tortured Vlad Ovcharenko to get him to renounce his loyalty to Ukraine, his home and native land. Vlad never betrayed his country. The Russians have refused to let Vlad’s family see him, and have only given after-the-fact information about his secret trial sessions. He has not been allowed legal representation, or visits from the ICRC or any other international humanitarian organization. His name has been put on the list of detainees to be exchanged under the Minsk Agreement “all-for-all” prisoner swap, but Russia has always said it is not a party to that agreement (or a party to the conflict) and refuses to hand over its hostages.
That Vlad Ovcharenko has been sentenced to 17 years imprisonment at hard labour for non-violent and non-property ‘offences’ is proof that he is a political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience. His case must be brought to the highest level. A #FreeOvcharenko campaign must develop and grow and it must become as prominent as the #FreeSentsov and #FreeSuschenko campaigns are. Journalist and friend of the Ovcharenko family Roman Bochkala worries that the government of Ukraine may have forgotten about Vlad Ovcharenko, and neglected its duty to do everything possible to secure his release. Russian invaders of Europe in Ukraine have been torturing Vlad Ovcharenko for over a year and that is a crime against humanity. The whole world has to know about it, and the Putin regime has to be confronted with its grave violation of international human rights at every opportunity and in every venue. Vlad’s courage and his patriotism is an inspiration to action: #FreeOvcharenko