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«For them, you are a traitor. Despite the fact that we are on our own land, while they are the occupiers» — sister of civilian hostage Yevhen Pryshlyak

Lyubov Pryshlyak, the sister of civilian prisoner Yevhen Pryshlyak, is on Hromadske Radio. She is recounting the story of Yevhen’s abduction and providing updates on the current situation.

«For them, you are a traitor. Despite the fact that we are on our own land, while they are the occupiers» — sister of civilian hostage Yevhen Pryshlyak
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Yevhen Pryshlyak is a civilian hostage held by the Russians. A resident of the occupied Nova Kakhovka, he worked as a foreman at an asphalt plant, involved in road reconstruction. Yevhen was abducted on August 22, 2022. He had gone to spend the night at a friend’s house but did not return home. His family later discovered that Russian forces had raided the apartment and taken both of them. Initially detained in Nova Kakhovka, Yevhen was later transferred to Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

«They already had lists of who served where and when: names, surnames, and addresses»

Lyubov Pryshlyak: The first day of the full-scale war began at four in the morning. It was the first explosions in Nova Kakhovka, Kherson region. At about 12 noon, the occupiers were in the town, hanging a flag on the hydroelectric power station, which is now destroyed. There were roadblocks everywhere, checks of documents, and phones. The occupiers could walk around the apartments. They were looking for people who served in the ATO. That is, they already had lists of who served where and when: surnames, names, and addresses.

There were very long queues at the shops. People were standing all day, ATMs were already empty. There was a lot of noise, explosions. Our military tried to defend the city. Over time, there were problems with communication; mobile operators stopped working. The occupiers were driving around the streets at night.

The story of detention

Lyubov Pryshlyak: On August 13, 2022, Yevhen went to spend the night at a friend’s house and did not return in the morning. A neighbor from the address where Yevhen spent the night came and said that the occupiers had taken the boys during the night and forcibly entered the apartment. His father immediately went to the military commandant’s office to inquire if they indeed had Yevhen. They confirmed his detention, yet as usual, provided no reason.

They informed him that he could bring parcels as they were not providing adequate food. Yevhen and others were held in the police station, in the basement. My father visited daily to bring parcels. On one occasion, he even managed to see Yevhen briefly on the street as he was taken out for repair work.

Yevhen recounted being subjected to beatings and torture. The basement housed many detainees, both men and women, including Ukrainian military personnel.

He said he was tortured all night, asked where his phone was. He had to answer. Because he had hidden his phone on the wardrobe when they broke into the apartment. He went and showed the hiding place, and they took the phone away. There were materials, photos, videos of shellings.

He remained staunchly loyal to Ukraine. Whether he provided coordinates, I cannot confirm. The reason for his detention remains unknown to us.

In October 2022, as usual, my father arrived with a parcel. A Russian serviceman on duty informed him that there was no one left here: they were reorganizing their troops, and everyone had been taken away. My father asked why. The response he received was that they must have gone to Crimea.

When Yevhen was in Nova Kakhovka, we didn’t report anything out of fear. There was hope that he would be released. However, when he was taken away, I began reaching out everywhere.

I appealed to the police, the SBU, the Coordination Centre, and the Ombudsman of Ukraine, reporting my brother’s disappearance and his detention by the occupiers. Since then, I have received responses from all these organizations in Ukraine. Additionally, I contacted the Red Cross and the UN Working Group.

Read also: Russian soldiers kept an eye on him, even though he was moving on crutches — the story of civilian hostage Serhii Kotov

«We still do not know his whereabouts or condition»

Lyubov Pryshlyak: In January 2023, an employee of the International Red Cross contacted our family, informing us of a letter from my brother. The Red Cross had facilitated a check of prisoners of war, granting them the opportunity to send letters to their families. The letter was brief:

«I am in captivity. I do not know when I will be released. Please inform all Ukrainian organizations to add me to the list. Love, kisses, hugs».

Since January 2023, we remain unaware of his whereabouts or condition.

The Red Cross’s task was to contact us and deliver the letter, given the address’s indication of an occupied territory. They reached out via phone, notifying us of the letter’s arrival.

However, they did not provide details regarding his health, place of detention, or conditions. Only months later did they mention Crimea, specifically Simferopol, as the place of detention, though they later informed us that he was no longer there.

Yevhen Pryshlyak

Status of the detainee

Lyubov Pryshlyak: I have had no access to lawyers. I made personal applications, searching for email addresses and writing to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation, all colonies, and detention centres. I reached out to all possible locations where our prisoners might be held, yet received no responses.

A couple of responses stated he was not in the detention centre nor had he ever been there. The only response I received was from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, stating: «Detained for opposition to the SVO.» No information regarding his location was provided.

Ihor Kotelyanets: What do they mean by «opposition to the SVO»?

Lyubov Pryshlyak: During my 5-month period under occupation, I witnessed firsthand what they deemed unacceptable, such as having the Diya app or engaging in Ukrainian correspondence. These actions were considered opposition to their so-called «SVO».

In their eyes, you are a traitor, despite the fact that we are on our own land while they are the occupiers.

There is no confirmation of criminal proceedings against him. He was merely detained for opposing the «SVO». I continuously monitor various groups but have never come across my brother, any video footage, or mention of his name.

I appealed numerous times to the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Moskalkova, without receiving any responses. Although my applications and letters are registered on her personal website account, there have been no replies.

In June 2023, I received an official letter from the NIB (National Information Bureau) confirming through the International Red Cross that my brother had been captured. He holds official prisoner of war status.

In spring 2023, I submitted an application to the UN Working Group, receiving a response in November 2023 stating that they had registered my application and written to the Russian Ministry of Defence. During an online conference, they informed me that their role is to search and submit inquiries about the person they are seeking, with no guarantee of response from the Russian Federation. This lack of obligation by Russia is deeply concerning, leaving us all powerless.

Read also: «We must insist on the unconditional release of everyone» — regarding the Strategy for the Release of Civilians

«All hope lies with the government»

Lyubov Pryshlyak: Naturally, I place my trust in our authorities. I believe they will facilitate the release of civilians because I recently read news regarding the Coordination Headquarters’ plan to establish a sub-organization specifically for civilians.

Our hope rests entirely with the authorities, trusting they will establish contact to initiate the release of not only prisoners of war but all residents and citizens of Ukraine.

I recently learned about the possibility of establishing official captivity status. Upon contacting the commission, they promptly responded. Ukrainian organizations demonstrate swift responsiveness. They provided an official response, registering my application for the next commission meeting.

A few weeks later, I received confirmation that the commission had initiated a file for Yevhen, officially acknowledging his captivity status. I began gathering documents to apply for an annual allowance for each year of captivity. The following day, I received a Viber message confirming acceptance of the application and informing me to anticipate financial assistance. Currently, we are still waiting for this financial aid.

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 Igor Kotelianets 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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