Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 15.04.2018
Since Russia began its invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas over four years ago, the Putin regime has been kidnapping and holding hostage Ukrainians. Russia flimsily disguises these abductions as criminal trials, but the Ukrainians are grabbed because they are activists, patriots, and loyalists to their homeland, Ukraine. Two of Putin’s hostages are suffering acutely at the moment. Pavlo Hryb is being denied essential medical care by the Russians and his health is at grave risk. Volodymyr Balukh is on hunger strike against the injustice of his so-called ‘trial’ and his health is at grave risk.
Pavlo Hryb is a 19 year old Ukrainian, a student at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. On 24 August 2017, agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service lured him to Homel, Belarus where they kidnapped him and took him as a captive to Krasnodar, Russia. Pavlo Hryb has been a hostage of the Russian regime of state terror ever since.
The Russian captors of Pavlo Hryb are refusing to allow him access to the Ukrainian consul, access to his own lawyer, access to his family, and access to communication in Ukrainian language. Most seriously, the Russians are declining to provide Pavlo Hryb with essential medical care. Pavlo Hryb suffers from a chronic blood circulation condition that includes portal hypertension, and he needs specialist medical treatment. Russia refused to allow Ukrainian doctors to examine Pavlo Hryb. Instead, his captors falsified his medical records and produced impossibly ‘healthy’ test results. By negligence of care, the Russian captors of Pavlo Hryb are endangering his life.
Pavlo Hryb was scheduled to have an operation to do a portosystemic bypass last September. This essential treatment is seven months overdue. The Russians who hold Pavlo Hryb hostage and who are denying him medical care are torturing him. He may suffer internal hemorrhaging as a result. Russia is a regime of state terror which is torturing a victim to critically injure him or cause his death.
April 15 will mark the 28th day that hostage of Russia Volodymyr Balukh has been on a hunger strike. The farmer who is now a prisoner of conscience was convicted of falsified charges by a kangaroo court in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea. His actual ‘crime’ was flying a Ukrainian flag over his house. The Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine announced on March 19 that they would hold Volodymyr Balukh as a captive for a further three years and five months. The Ukraine loyalist then announced that he would go on an indefinite hunger strike against the grave injustice that is being done to him by Muscovy.
Western democratic governments and international human rights organizations have taken up the cause of the persecuted Volodymy Balukh. On April 13, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom sent out a tweet, saying: “Deeply concerned about health of Volodymyr Balukh, sentenced for opposing Russia’s illegal annexation of #Crimea. His views are widely shared by the international community. Yet another example of the appalling #HumanRights situation in Crimea since 2014. #FreeBalukh.”
Volodymyr Balukh is on hunger strike to draw attention to his falsified ‘trial’ and to protest the ridiculous idea that foreign invaders of Crimea from Muscovy have any right to try or to punish a Ukrainian citizen. His Russian hostage-takers do not allow proper medical supervision of his hunger strike. His lawyer reported that prison guards beat him while he was in transit, and they also denied him water.
Volodymyr Balukh and Pavlo Hryb are political prisoners of Russia. They’re prisoners of conscience. They did not commit or advocate any crime of violence against the Russian Federation. Their only ‘crime’ is that Balukh and Hryb are loyal Ukrainians. It is the mere fact of their existence that Putin hates and fears – not anything they did. It is Russia that is committing crimes: kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture … the list goes on.