Day 712: Activist Marina Cherenkova Arrested By Russian-Backed Security Services In Donetsk

January 30, 2016
Marina Cherenkova speaks on Hromadske TV

A leading activist has been arrested in Donetsk amongst reports of a new crackdown against aid organizations in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.


For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.

      READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:

An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine

 


Activist Marina Cherenkova Arrested By Russian-Backed Security Services In Donetsk

Moscow Times reporter Oliver Carroll brings some disturbing news today:

Ukraine Media reports that Cherenkova was reported missing via another activist’s Facebook page. 

RFE/RL provides more details:

Activists with the Responsible Citizens group reported on social media on January 30 that Cherenkova sent a late-night text message that said simply, “I have been taken by MGB,” referring to the separatists’ “security ministry.”

She has not been heard from since despite activists spending the entire night trying to learn of her whereabouts. The activists said police told them they do not have Cherenkova.


Since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists began, Cherenkova has been active in securing humanitarian relief for civilians in the Donetsk conflict zone.

The group Human Rights In Ukraine reports that Cherenkova is at least the second activist from the same organization to go missing this week:

Ihor Kozlovsky, President of the Centre for Religious Studies and International Spiritual Relations, is well-known in Donetsk.  He had remained in the city to care for his son who is paralyzed. Relatives and friends report that the militants burst into his flat and took Kozlovsky away, without giving any explanation.  They left his son without any care, and relatives were only allowed access to him the following day.  The militants also removed computer equipment, documents and a collection of antiques.

Kozlovsky has now been held, probably in a basement, for the last 3 days.  IV Vlada links his ‘arrest’ with the attempt to blow up the monument to Lenin in Donetsk a few days earlier.  According to a well-known Donetsk blogger, “the Russian occupation administration has activated its repressive measures since New Year, making them more large-scale”.  Those suspected of pro-Ukrainian views are classified as ‘spies’ and ‘terrorists’ which, according to what the ‘DNR’ refers to as its laws, can result in 30-year sentences or the death penalty. 

[…]

Two well-known journalists – Alexei Matsuka and Denis Kazansky – have reported that the militants are carrying out a mass campaign seizing ‘dissidents’. 

Kazansky writes that he cannot give names at the moment, but that lies about peaceful life returning should be rejected.  There is total lawlessness, he says, with militants bursting into people’s flats and taking them away without any explanation.  He adds that these are not ‘pro-Ukrainian activists’ who have long left, but those whose neighbours or work colleagues ‘denounce them’, those who’ve recently travelled to areas under Ukrainian government control or believers from Protestant churches. 

The militants do appear to be also returning to attacks on other faiths. An organized demonstration was held on Jan 29 outside a Greek-Catholic church in Kremlin-backed militant-controlled Donetsk with the participants reported to have called on militant leader Alexander Zakharchenko “to drive out sectarians”, who are alleged to be Western-paid or even linked with the CIA.  According to News of Donbas, the demonstrators were public sector workers brought in by buses, and the video certainly gives reason for suspecting that most people did not know why they were there.

The event was clearly supported by the leaders of the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ who reported it as a protest “against the propaganda of war and help by Greek-Catholics given to the Ukrainian Armed Forces”. 

The official website cited a couple of ‘residents’ who would appear to have been more capable of articulating official thoughts than those on the video.  One accuses the Greek-Catholic Church of gathering humanitarian aid from believers and giving it to the Ukrainian Army and of “preaching war and foisting the idea of ‘Independent Ukraine’ on our residents, especially young people”.  The other claims that everybody is “against these sects which are paid for from the West.”

Cherenkova, a former elected official, stayed in Donetsk to help serve the people. In June, 2014, she spoke about her decision to Financial Times:

“People elected me; I can’t just drop everything and say, ‘I’m leaving, I’m saving my ass’,” said Marina Cherenkova, a member of Donetsk’s regional parliament, which has not met for a month. “That’s not my style, that’s not my character – I won’t give up.”

However, Ms Cherenkova said she feared Donetsk was becoming “like a National Geographic film”, depicting what happens to a large city when its residents leave and nature runs riot.

“I don’t believe that if everyone leaves Donetsk it will be better,” she said.

James Miller