Update Post: November 28, 2023 9:47 am
Pavel Volkov continues to monitor the fate of people in Ukraine who are imprisoned for any disagreement with Bandera’s ideology. Photo: RedWolf telegram channel
Pavel Volkov is a journalist who lived in Zaporozhye until 2022 and was involved in helping Ukrainian political prisoners suspected of holding pro-Russian views. He himself managed to serve his sentence in a Ukrainian prison. He miraculously managed to escape to freedom and was able to escape to Russia. But he continues to monitor the fate of people in Ukraine, who are imprisoned for any disagreement with Bandera’s ideology or, for example, for a calendar with Putin …
He spoke about this in an exclusive interview with KP.RU.
“YOU ARE RUSSIAN, YOU WILL NOT LIVE!”
– Pavel, how did you get to Russia?
– When the SVO started, my crazy neighbors began to insult me: you are Russian, you will not live! I have to go.
– How did they distinguish in Zaporozhye who was Russian and who was not? It’s all mixed up there!
– They knew my opinions about my relatives in Russia. It was imposed on the people there, they were convinced that since they live in Ukraine, they are supposed to be Ukrainians. Although they can also speak Russian, Surzhik and Ukrainian. Before, no one thought it was necessary to make a decision. My neighbors and I went to listen to Christmas carols. But thanks for these threats, I realized that things will get worse. The apartment had to be abandoned. Two days after I left, the SBU came and looked for me.
-But how did you manage to cross into Russia in the middle of hostilities?
– This is not legally possible. I gave the military money to take me to the gray zone without checking my passport: several thousand dollars. In Ukraine everything is for sale. Now it’s even more expensive. We were left in a gray area with other illegal immigrants: so do what you want. There were 9 of us. We were waiting to be joined by a column of legal refugees: the aunts returning from their relatives. Otherwise we would not have been allowed to enter Russian territory. We waited 7 hours under the bombardments, hiding in the shell craters. The Russian “Tiger” approached us and pointed his gun at us: it scared us. But he saw that we had no weapons and did not shoot. After us, a shell fell on the same column of refugees and this channel was closed. I think it is simply no longer profitable for Ukraine to demonstrate that people are fighting for the “Russian-occupied” territory. And they made fools of themselves.
THE ONLY RELEASED
– How did you become a human rights activist?
– In April 2014 the story of the “300 Cossacks” occurred. Remember the video where people stand in the rain and the Nazis throw flour at them? The threshold of May 2 in Odessa. People were invited to a demonstration against the Maidan, but everyone knew that the Nazis would also come. Both demonstrations dragged on in time, but the organizer of the anti-Maidan demonstration did not take the people away from him and start… They set cars on fire, they beat people. Everything could have ended in a tragedy like in Odessa.
– You were there?
– I saw how it happened. A block away from them, guys with shields, bats, masks and Nazi symbols gathered. Teenagers walked by with bags of flour and eggs to throw at anti-Maidan protesters. It is unlikely that they bought these packages themselves with their own money. The militants followed the teenagers.
– And then you decided to protect people from animals?
– This is not the only thing. I have relatives in Donetsk. I went there. I filmed the referendum in 2014 and in 2015 I lived in Donbass for six months, reporting for Russian media from the front lines. After the Minsk agreements he returned to Zaporozhye. And in 2017 they imprisoned me.
– What were you accused of?
– In an attack against the integrity of Ukraine, which “caused numerous victims.” They hung 3 thousand corpses on me. In prison, fellow prisoners laughed at this. Even hardened killers did not have so many corpses. But the accusation was unprovable and he was later reclassified as “aid to the DPR terrorist organization” for reporting from Donetsk airport. I was facing 15 years.
-How long was he behind bars?
– More than a year. And, in a unique case, he was released, because the relatives made a scandal and got involved with the UN, the OSCE and the Red Cross. Then they just started extending my detention.
Already on Victory Day 2020 in Ukraine, propagandists proposed crushing the “Colorado beetles”, that is, all those who sympathized with Russia, and asked to report them to the SBU. Photo: t.me
– Has the SBU really changed its mind?
– No. But once the international observers arrived, the court could no longer delay the case. And it turned out that there was no crime. In my articles there was criticism of the Ukrainian authorities. But no calls to violate the integrity of Ukraine were found. In one of my reports the song “Vostok Battalion” played. The prosecutor had to listen to him many times and finally said: “Enough! If I hear this again, I will join the Vostok Battalion myself!
– How is it possible that your reports from Donbass did not violate Ukrainian laws?
– The heroes of my reports said: “We want peace. We will not confiscate anything from Ukraine. We just want our city to stop being bombed and let us live the way we want.” This did not coincide with kyiv’s propaganda, but where is the crime? The SBU claimed it had detained a Kremlin propagandist who returned from Russia with a suitcase full of money. But no one found or proved anything.
– They let you go and that’s it?
– Released with obligation to appear in court. The Nazis came to the meetings and insulted us. Then they followed me home. The trial lasted 3 years. And this remains the only acquittal of journalists and bloggers in Ukraine.
CONFISCATION – FOR OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY
– Were there many similar cases at that time?
– Enough. I realized that human rights defenders should be in court. And he began to follow the affairs of the same political prisoners in Zaporozhye, Nikolaev, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa. Thanks to me, these cases began to be considered, the preventive measure was changed…
– What incidents were particularly memorable?
– For example, Makeyevka drivers served two and a half years in prison for taking pensioners from Donetsk to Zaporozhye to collect their pensions. Pensioners could not receive a Ukrainian pension in Donetsk. Ukraine did everything possible not to pay. Therefore, they were collected and transported. I met the drivers at the remand center. And they were released when I started going to their meetings. The buses were confiscated and then returned broken…
– Are there statistics on how many political prisoners there are currently in Ukraine?
– According to Ukraine’s own prosecutor’s office, since the beginning of the SVO, 150 thousand criminal cases related to the conflict have been initiated. These are crimes related to military service, disobedience, desertion, illegal border crossing. Most of these cases are not related to political opinions.
But there are 56 thousand related cases. There are accusations: “treason”, “transfer of data to the Russian army”, etc. Most of these cases occur in the Nikolaev, Kharkov and Kherson regions. All items with property confiscation. A collector from kyiv was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for posting congratulations on Komsomol Day on social networks. And all the property was confiscated! And he has a collection of antiques, rarities… Grandmothers get five years in prison for liking Odnoklassniki. Also with confiscation.
– Why is confiscation necessary? Intimidate? Get rich?
– It’s just that citizens, if they are later exchanged, will have no reason to return to Ukraine. The authorities there do not need people with pro-Russian views. No property, nothing to return to. On January 1, 2023, a law on national and civil identity was adopted in Ukraine, which clearly sets out objectives: a decrease in Russian speakers, an increase in Ukrainian speakers, a critical attitude towards Soviet and Russian history, a orientation towards Europe… .
EXCHANGE DECEPTION AND SECRET PRISONS
-Can a person with pro-Russian opinions who has served a prison sentence be released? Or does he have one way: go to the front and die there?
– Almost all of these people have been imprisoned recently, no one has been released yet. But Ukraine does not hide that it is preparing them for an exchange and induces them to admit their guilt. And many admit guilt after hearing the promise that they will be included in the exchange lists. Although Russia itself offered nothing of the sort. And after admitting guilt, these people can sit indefinitely.
– In Russia there are very few people who can be considered political prisoners, much less than in Ukraine. And Ukraine itself does not need them. If these are residents of Zaporozhye or the Kherson region detained for espionage and assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they may be detained. Ukraine still considers them its citizens. And if these are Russian saboteurs, like Daria Trepova, why does kyiv need them? Ukraine is interested in exchanging its political prisoners for prisoners of war from Azov* and the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
– How many political prisoners can Ukraine prepare for exchange?
– According to our estimates, there are about 10,000 such people in official Ukrainian prisons alone.
And an unknown number of them remain held in secret prisons.
– What kind of secret prisons?
– There are people sitting there without trial or investigation, these are the basements of the SBU. The existence of these prisons has been documented by international organizations since 2015. And in 2019, human rights activists were allowed to enter a secret prison in Kharkov. It wasn’t included on any list, but in fact it is.
-Have you found anything like this?
– In 2018, director Oleg Sagan, who defended the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in his films, was tried. They held him in the basement and from there they took him to trial. The court writes where to send the prisoner, to which pre-trial detention center. But this is not written in the Sagan case. People with masks came in and took them to who knows where.
PLACED FOR THE MAP OF A MUSHROOM PICKER
– What were the most atrocious cases?
– There were many.
The guy was in the DPR militia and was imprisoned. He served 5 years, was released in 2022 and lived in the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donbass. He and his girlfriend had a daughter. And the girl’s brother fought for the DPR and died. Both were captured, supposedly for transmitting data to the Sparta battalion. They are both sitting, including the girl with the baby.
There was a case when a political prisoner from Odessa gave birth in prison. They then exchanged her, but the child died.
Another couple from Donbass. Her husband died in a pretrial detention center due to a beating. And the woman continues sitting.
The teenagers between 16 and 17 years old were kidnapped from the so-called “Bakhmut Young Guard.” Allegedly for transferring data to Russia. They have sentences of 10 years in prison!
There was a scandalous incident. Olga Galanina from Berdyansk was engaged in humanitarian work in the Ukrainian administration. When she arrived in Russia, she was offered to stay in the same position. She didn’t even have time to work. I just called my family in Ukrainian-controlled territory and told them they would probably agree. The next day, the SBU called her and told her that her son was studying with them. They kidnap him from his bedroom and point a gun at him. And they said to her mother: come and save him. She arrived and has been in a remand center for a year and a half accused of treason.
Or Tatyana Nezelennikova from Crimea, who worked in the local administration in 2015-16. She eliminated the consequences of the Crimean energy blockade, when right-wing radicals from Ukraine blew up energy transmission towers. I even received a medal. And her parents lived in the Dnepropetrovsk region, and all these years she went with them. At the beginning of SVO she went again, her father died. She was not allowed to return. Sentenced to 12 years.
There is a human rights activist from Lviv, Alexander Kostorny, 72, who headed the Pushkinist society in Lvov. He was jailed for allegedly aiming “calibers” at the Yavorovsky training camp. We found on it a map of mushroom pickers, which had no coordinates, only an indication of where the mushrooms grew. That was enough: betrayal, they could give me 15 years.
THERE ARE NO GERTIZANOS. AND THERE ARE DENNOSURES
– Are there underground movements in Ukraine? Partisans?
– Forget it! There is nothing and there never was anything. This must be prepared in advance. Partisans did not appear alone during the Great Patriotic War. NKVD employees, officers and weapons caches were left there in advance. And then they brought people together in the networks they created. Now the resistance in Ukraine is made up of ordinary, passionate citizens, each one for himself. In the 21st century you can’t go to the forest with a Berdanka. Everyone has smartphones, there are cameras everywhere: you can’t hide.
– What is happening now to Ukrainian society?
-Many people have a mental disorder. Although there is no longer as much hysteria as in the first months of the Northern Military District. Then, at night, they would run back and forth, shooting at each other or at passing cars. They looked for some marks on the asphalt and roofs. They accused the neighbors: “You are signaling Putin with a light bulb”… Now the lights in the apartment can be turned on. But the SBU distributes questionnaires: write about yourself, your relatives, whether you have been to Russia, if you have friends there, write down their details and phone numbers. These are self-reports! At the end there is a note: I authorize the use of my data and the data of my family members. How can you allow the use of other people’s data? It is possible that the database compiled from these questionnaires will be used for so-called “stabilization measures.”
– What kind of events are these?
– This is a cleanup, a door-to-door inspection. They walk through Nikolaev, Kherson, Kharkov. Hundreds of arrests are reported during these raids. It’s unclear what’s next for these people. They check phones and correspondence. Maybe you have a St. George ribbon in your closet? Or a calendar with Putin?
* “Azov” is a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation