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A year and a half of ignorance: how the Russians kidnapped a grain businessman

Since his abduction, there has been no verified information about Viktor Kodak. His daughter, Iryna Kodak, shares details about his illegal detention.

A year and a half of ignorance: how the Russians kidnapped a grain businessman
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Viktor Kodak, a civilian from the village of Voskresenka in Zaporizhzhia Region, was illegally imprisoned by the Russians. He was abducted from his home on November 9, 2022. His family believes that a local resident «turned him in» because he had been helping Ukrainian soldiers before the Russians arrived.

What is currently known about Viktor Kodak

Iryna Kodak: There is currently no news about his whereabouts. They have only established that he is in captivity. For a year and a half, we did not know where he was or what had happened to him. It was only this year, in March, that the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that my father had been officially confirmed by the Russians as a captive.

«The occupiers said they liked it here and would stay»

Iryna Kodak: The occupation began on March 3, 2022. By March 6, there was no more electricity or communication. It was difficult because there was fear when you saw «Z,» «V,» occupiers’ cars, and so on in your street. You didn’t know what to expect.

They were especially looking for soldiers, those connected to the ATO, and men who had been in the army or were somehow connected to the front. They searched for weapons, documents, checked phones, and even monitored social media, including Telegram for Ukrainian channels.

I spent three months under occupation. I was afraid to even leave the house because armed men were sitting on the street. I had no contact with them, but in conversation with each other, they said they liked it here and would stay. There was hope that it would not last long, that it would be over soon.

We had no electricity. We would wake up early in the morning and fall asleep as soon as it got gray. At that time, everything was gray. As soon as I left, the sky seemed completely different.

At the end of March, all the neighbors started saying to get ready, hide your phones, or log out of some Telegram channels. We already knew then that the occupiers were coming to check on us. They didn’t hide their faces: they were of different nationalities, such as Dagestanis, Chechens, and Buryats.

They just opened the door, entered the houses, and told us to take out our phones. They looked to see if there were weapons at home. If a man lived in the house, they opened all the basements and garages, looking for anything that could be related to the front.

They asked if you were still waiting for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They were especially skeptical of those who had relatives at the front, those who were defending Ukraine. They asked questions and sought information. There were cases of people being held in basements and stories of beatings. Some people were taken to the steppe and told that if they did not talk, they would be killed.

Read also: Lack of medicine threatens people with death: what happens to illegally detained civilians in Crimea

How Viktor Kodak was abducted

Iryna Kodak: The occupiers were confused by the fact that my father had taken me to the government-controlled territory of Ukraine and returned. My mother was at home, and he did not want to leave her, so he returned there.

On November 9, 2020, at around 14:00, their military vehicle arrived. There were four soldiers, and their faces were covered. My mother did not pay attention to the chevrons. They came to detain my father.

The occupiers forced her to sign documents, search the house, and check all the equipment that was left in the house. My mother signed them because she was confused and didn’t know what to do.

I found out that my father had been taken away on November 11, 2022. My mother called from the neighbors. The connection was bad. She said that she was unable to contact me because they had taken all the equipment, all the means of communication, and had taken my father away. It is not known where, why, or for what reason.

My mother appealed to the military and their commandant’s office, but there was no response. When the military were asked about his surname, they immediately said no, we don’t know anything, because we would feel bad. And the commandant’s office had no clear answer: «We don’t know anything.»

There was a lot of gossip about my father: that he was taken away, shot, dead, and so on.

Anastasia Bagalika: We also know from the publication that your father is an entrepreneur. Before the full-scale invasion, he was engaged in the transport of grain. Did the family ever think about any financial motive on the part of the Russians?

Iryna Kodak: We offered them money after my father’s detention, but they refused. In addition to the equipment, they also took his birth certificate and technical passports for the trucks. The trucks themselves have probably been in Crimea since July.

Read also: In one year, my father aged ten years — the story of Oleksandr Zhukov, kidnapped by the Russians

«He has diabetes, liver and pancreatic problems, and hypertension»

Iryna Kodak: Recently, a volunteer contacted me with unverified information that my father was in a detention center in Taganrog. The abducted man also corresponded with his wife and mentioned the names of the people who were with him, including my father’s name.

Our first appeal was to the police. They accepted the statement and said they would do everything possible. Then, we applied to the National Information Bureau and the Red Cross Committee.

Confirmation from the ICRC came in the form of a phone call. At the end of April this year, I received a call informing me that they had received an official request from the other side confirming that my father was in captivity. Until then, there had been no confirmation.

A report should follow. To receive this report from the Coordination Headquarters and the Red Cross Committee, DNA testing is required. I applied for this and was told that the case was with the SBU department. An investigator from the Main Department contacted me, requesting I come for questioning. They also performed a DNA test, which I found strange since my father is not even in the country.

I wrote an appeal to the Red Cross Committee to provide information about my father, his whereabouts, photo or video evidence that he was alive, and the opportunity to contact him. So far, there has been no response.

He has diabetes, liver and pancreatic problems, and hypertension. When he was taken away, my mother immediately packed his medicines. In July 2023, they allowed us to contact him by phone so my mother could hear his voice and confirm he was alive. The only thing he shouted into the phone was that she should sign the documents and give him sugar.

There is no confirmation that they delivered the medicine. There is a very small chance they will hand over food. Medicines, maybe, but I am not sure about food. I cannot be 100% sure. Earlier, in March 2023, there was a provocation from the Russian side, claiming my father was on the territory of Ukraine and that we should contact him there and not bother them.

Read also: Occupiers confirmed his innocence, but used him as a slave — stories of missing Balakliya residents

In times of war, the program «Free our relatives» tells the stories of people, cities, villages, and entire regions that have been captured by Russian invaders. We discuss the war crimes committed by the Kremlin and its troops against the Ukrainian people.

The program is hosted by Ihor Kotelyanets and Anastasia Bagalika.

This publication is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the framework of the Human Rights in Action Program implemented by Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. Opinions, conclusions and recommendations presented in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government. The contents are the responsibility of the authors.

USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience, and advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity. USAID has partnered with Ukraine since 1992, providing more than $9 billion in assistance. USAID’s current strategic priorities include strengthening democracy and good governance, promoting economic development and energy security, improving health care systems, and mitigating the effects of the conflict in the east.

For additional information about USAID in Ukraine, please call USAID’s Development Outreach and Communications Office at: +38 (044) 521-5753. You may also visit our website: http://www.usaid.gov/ukraine or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USAIDUkraine.


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