Two men aligned with the pro-Ukrainian Euromaidan movement testified to Human Rights Watch that they were detained in Crimea by what they believed to be Russian “self-defense” forces, beaten, and tortured in captivity. One of the survivors claims to have been strapped to a chair and subjected to electric shock as a torture mechanism.
According to a statement by Human Rights Watch this week, Andriy Schekun and Anatoly Kovalsky were abducted in Crimea and claim to have been held “for 11 days in secret detention along with several other detainees.” Their testimonies, given separately, align, though Schekun reported being tortured with electricity. Both men alleged that “a group of men in camouflage” detained them in Crimea and held them for eleven days, and both alleged being beaten and interrogated. Schekun’s experience differed from Kovalsky’s in that he “alleged that on two separate occasions a group of men in civilian clothing, whom he believed to be Russian security service agents, interrogated him and subjected him to electric shock torture.”
The men were arrested for cause according to head of the Crimean Council of Ministers Sergei Aksenov – for participating in “subversive activities.” The protesters begged to differ; Kovalsky said he was “not charged with any crime” and did not understand his legal status while under detention. The Crimean-Russian government did not expand upon what kinds of “subversive activities” the protesters were involved in.
Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and subsequent departure of Ukrainian troops did not assuage concerns that Russia would continue a westward march into other territories within Ukraine. Russia has increased its presence in Crimea while pro-Russian agitators have organized to call for other territories both in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states to be annexed, as well. The Ukrainian province of Kherson has already threatened to use a referendum vote to call for secession from Ukraine, allowing for an annexation into Russia. President Vladimir Putin has already assured the global community that he will help “protect the language rights” of Russian speaking people in countries like Estonia and Moldova, increasing concerns that Putin expects Russian military aid to be needed in “protecting” Russian ethnic minorities in those areas.
The United Nations formed a coalition of human rights monitors to survey the situation in Ukraine and the newly Russian province of Crimea earlier this month, though results of their evaluation are not yet available. The European Union has expressed concern for human rights in the country and imposed sanctions on the defunct government of former President Viktor Yanukovych for using violence against protesters.