Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 08.10.2017
Russia kidnapped two Ukrainian border guards on 3 October 2017. This crime was committed in Ukraine’s Sumy region, over 400 kilometres from Russia’s invasion of Europe front in Donbas. At the same time the two Ukrainians went missing, Russian media reported that two “alleged violators of the Russian border” were in the custody of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The Russians had struck quickly: the abduction was made and the legal fiction established before the Ukrainian side even knew the two border guards were missing. Since Russia kidnapped them, the two border guards have been prevented from meeting with the Ukrainian consul by their abductors. By barring access to the Ukrainian consul, Russia is violating Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Russia under the Putin regime is behaving like North Korea does. North Korea snatches foreign citizens and drags them across the 38th parallel into the clutches of the Kim regime. The United Nations Human Rights Council commissioned a report, concluded in 2014, called “Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.” The UNHRC found that North Korea has been kidnapping people from other countries continuously since the Korean War of 1950-53. Particularly egregious was a spate of North Korean kidnappings of Japanese citizens from the coast of Japan using fishing boats, which occurred frequently in the 1970s and 80s.
On 5 September 2014, half a year after Russia began its invasion of Europe in Ukraine, Russian agents did a snatch-and-grab operation in Estonia. They kidnapped Eston Kohver inside Estonia and dragged him across the border into Russia. Kohver is an officer of the Estonian Internal Security Service, and he was investigating border smuggling by Russian gangs affiliated with the FSB, when he was lured into a trap and abducted. The Russians held him for ransom in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, which has been used for interrogations and torture by the Cheka, the NKVD, the KGB, and the FSB. The Russians ‘convicted’ Eston Kohver of espionage in a show trial, and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment. On 26 September 2015, Eston Kohver was handed over to Estonia in exchange for convicted Russian FSB spy Aleksei Dressen. This exchange was, of course, the whole point of the FSB operation to kidnap Estonia Kohver in the first place. This ordeal shook Estonians: they took justifiable pride in their dutiful officer, but the Russians demonstrated the extreme violent measures to which they would go to stop the work of a good cop.
Right from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 20 February 2014 the Russians have been kidnapping Ukrainians, holding them as hostages, torturing them, dragging them across the border into Russia, and occasionally exchanging them for Russian spies, saboteurs, and prisoners of war. Reşat Amet was a Ukrainian citizen and a Crimean Tatar who held a solitary and peaceful protest against the Russian invasion of his homeland on 3 March 2014. He was kidnapped by three men in military uniform and never seen alive again. His body was found on 15 March 2014, bearing signs of violence and torture. He left behind a widow and three orphaned children. His abduction, torture, and death at the hands of the Russian invaders was sadly only the first of many. This is how the “Russian World” came to Ukraine, and how it continues to plague it.
The pace of Russian kidnapping of Ukrainians is breathtaking and appalling. Since Putin began his war against the Ukrainian people, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has worked for the release of some 3,000 prisoners, yet hundreds more are known to be in the dungeons of occupied Donbas, in the jails of occupied Crimea, or in the gulag of aggressor Russia. The snatch-and-grab operations by the Russian FSB have never stopped. Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian patriots are targeted by the Russians and subject to the worst abuses of human rights by the invader-occupiers. On 4 October 2017, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Russia. The resolution listed just a few of the people Russia has kidnapped and continues to hold as hostages:
The European Parliament … Strongly condemns the harsh sentences handed out to leaders of the Crimean Tatar community and others opposing the Russian annexation, such as Uzair Abdullaev, Teymur Abdullaev, Zevri Abseutov, Rustem Abiltarov, Muslim Aliyev, Refat Alimov, Ali Asanov, Volodymyr Balukh, Enver Bekirov, Oleksiy Bessarabov, Hlib Shabliy, Oleksiy Chirniy, Mustafa Degermenji, Emil Dzhemadenov, Arsen Dzheparov, Volodymyr Dudka, Pavlo Gryb, Rustem Ismailov, Mykola Karpyuk, Stanislav Klykh, Andriy Kolomiyets, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Oleksandr Kostenko, Emir-Usein Kuku, Sergey Litvinov, Enver Mamutov, Remzi Memethov, Yevhen Panov, Yuri Primov, Volodymyr Prisich, Ferat Sayfullayev, Eider Saledinov, Oleg Sentsov, Vadym Siruk, Oleksiy Stogniy, Redvan Suleymanov, Roman Sushchenko, Mykola Shiptur, Dmytro Shtyblikov, Viktor Shchur, Rustem Vaitov, Valentyn Vygovsky, Andriy Zakhtey and Ruslan Zeytullaev, following farcical court proceedings and questionable charges; demands the repeal of their court rulings and the immediate release of those detained.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on 25 September 2017 and documenting Russia’s “grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture.”
Russia does not respect any international borders except its own. When Russia kidnapped two Ukrainian border guards on October 3 it was acting as it has always acted in regard to its neighbours – treating them as not sovereign and as “not real countries.” The response of Western democracies like Ukraine to these attacks is inadequate. Diplomatic notes and attempts at consular visits and condemning resolutions in representative assemblies do not help the hundreds of Ukrainians who remain captives of the invader of Europe in Ukraine, Russia.