Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.09.2018
Heroes never die. But they suffer almost unbearable torment at the hands of the Putin regime of state terrorism.
Volodymyr Balukh has reportedly been badly beaten by the Russian officials who are holding him hostage. A leader of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Akhtem Chiygoz (who was himself a hostage of the Putin regime of state terrorism), said on September 14 that Volodymyr Balukh was taken out of his cell by the head of the remand prison in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) – a man named Sergey Berezhnoy. Berezhnoy ordered Balukh to kneel. When Balukh refused, Berezhnoy kicked him to the concrete floor and beat him about the head and in the area of his liver and his legs. Volodymyr Balukh is said to be in pain as a result of the assault on him by Sergey Berezhnoy.
There is no further confirmation of the report by Akhtem Chiygoz. Russian occupation regime authorities have refused to allow visits to Volodymyr Balukh from his lawyer, Olha Dinze, and also from Archbishop Kliment, who is Balukh’s civil defender.
On 8 December 2016, Volodymyr Balukh was abducted from his home on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula by members of an illegal armed formation that holds allegiance to Moscow. Putin’s goons are holding Balukh hostage because he flew a Ukrainian flag over his house, honoured the heroes of the Revolution of Dignity with a plaque, and refused to abandon his loyalty to Ukraine in favour of the foreign invader-occupiers from Muscovy.
Volodymyr Balukh went on a full hunger strike on March 19, to protest against his absurd ‘sentence’ and to draw attention to the complete illegitimacy of Moscow’s rule over Crimea. He was persuaded after 25 days to change this to a partial hunger strike, in order to forestall an attempt by Putin regime authorities to impose force-feeding on him. Balukh takes in a bare minimum of nutrition. Now on the 182nd day of full and partial hunger strike, Volodymy Balukh is gaunt, in ill health, and in severe pain.
The Russian Federation lied to the European Court of Human Rights on September 6. It said that Volodymyr Balukh was not on hunger strike. Balukh’s lawyer, Olha Dinze, says he is on hunger strike, as do Akhtem Chiygoz’s sources, as do the Crimean Human Rights Group’s sources, and as does Balukh’s mother.
If any villain is deserving of Magnitsky sanctions, it is Sergey Berezhnoy. As a hostage-keeper of Ukrainian farmer Volodymyr Balukh, Sergey Berezhnoy is a corrupt foreign official committing gross violations of international human rights law and crimes against humanity. Berezhnoy may have physically assaulted Volodymyr Balukh, at a time when his prisoner was frail, weak, in pain, and vulnerable. The failure of duty of care is egregious.
Western democratic nations have it in their power to come to the defence of Volodymyr Balukh. They should do so. The West should stand up for its values, especially for the value of the dignity and worth of the human person. True relief of Volodymyr Balukh’s torment would be the liberation of Crimea from Russian occupation. Sanctioning Sergey Berezhnoy is an essential first step towards getting there.