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Mykola Medyk's health has not improved — the story of a 69-year-old man illegally detained by the Russians

Mykola Medyk’s story is narrated by Lidiya Tarash from the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR).

Mykola Medyk's health has not improved — the story of a 69-year-old man illegally detained by the Russians
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Mykola Medyk is a pensioner from the village of Volodymyrivka in Donetsk Region. Russian troops occupied the village on March 13, 2022. On April 9, 2022, several armed individuals abducted Mykola from his home, put him in a car, and took him to an unknown destination.

Why the story hasn’t been made public

Lidiya Tarash: We learned about the disappearance of Mykola Medyk from one of the victims of the Russian invasion—a man who was captured with Mykola in the village of Volodymyrivka.

Volodymyrivka was occupied by Russian troops on March 13, a little later than Volnovakha. This happened because Volnovakha is located on the road between Donetsk and Mariupol. The main flow of soldiers was heading towards Mariupol, passing through Volnovakha along the way. Volodymyrivka, located further west in the direction of Vuhledar, was captured later.

Initially, this man’s relatives searched for him. We spoke to them and discovered that several people had been captured from the village. They were first taken to occupied Volnovakha for interrogation and then transferred to Donetsk, where they were distributed to other locations.

Later, we found out that the man who was captured with Mykola had been released. We were able to locate and speak with him, and he confirmed the information about Mykola. Eventually, we learned of Mykola’s whereabouts, which had been unknown until then.

The primary reason so little is known about the illegally imprisoned civilians from this area is that people fear harming their relatives who remain in the occupied territory. As a result, they are reluctant to publicize these stories.

According to Mykola’s daughter, he actively supported a pro-Ukrainian position in his communications with local residents and was a vocal opponent of the Donetsk region becoming part of the Russian Federation.

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

How the detention took place

Lidiya Tarash: We do not have any direct witnesses to Mykola’s actual detention. His daughter left the village the day before these events, and she learned about what happened from her neighbors. This information cannot be confirmed or refuted.

In her opinion, there was a denunciation of people with pro-Ukrainian positions, which is why the settlement was purged on April 9. According to a person released from illegal detention by the Russians, at least three people were detained at that time.

Initially, they were taken by car from their homes to the commandant’s office of the «DPR MGB». From there, they were tied up, had bags placed over their heads, and were taken for interrogation in Volnovakha, then transferred to Donetsk.

Mykola and the person who spoke about him after being released from detention parted ways on the way to Donetsk; they were separated there. This person ended up in Olenivka. According to them, Mykola did not go to Olenivka. His whereabouts remained unknown until it was discovered that he was in Russia sometime in November-December last year.

When Mykola’s daughter found out where her father was, she attempted to write him a letter. However, Ukrainian prisoners do not have access to the internal Russian system for communication.

The condition of a 69-year-old prisoner

Lidiya Tarash: Any person taken prisoner by Russia, even if they were in good health before, will not be very healthy after captivity. Mykola Medyk’s health has certainly not improved. His age is also a significant factor—he is now 69 years old.

According to our organization, among the civilians illegally detained by the Russians, there are about 30 people who were 65 years old at the time of their detention. They are still in Russian captivity.

Before the full-scale invasion began, Mykola’s wife died, which was very difficult for him.

Anastasia Bagalika: Apparently, that situation—his depressive thoughts and the death of his wife—was one of the reasons why Mykola did not want to evacuate and leave his home right away.

Lidiya Tarash: I think that people with pro-Ukrainian sentiments, those who remained in the occupied territory at that time, still had hope that it would be short-lived. But over time, it became clear that the occupation was going to last a long time.

Read also: «No one has seen my son» — mother of Mykola Shcherbyna, illegally detained by the Russians

About places of detention in Donetsk Region

Anastasia Bagalika: Hypothetically, how could the routes be formed, and how do Russians treat civilians they capture in the Donetsk region? Where could these civilians be held in the nearly completely occupied Donetsk region? We know that the Russian occupiers have unfortunately inherited an extensive penitentiary system in the Donetsk region. Several colonies have been used for their purposes since 2014 to detain people with pro-Ukrainian positions.

Ms. Tarash, what places could these be?

Lidiya Tarash: For example, the Horlivka colony is where prisoners of war and civilian hostages, whom Russia considers prisoners of war, have been held since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. These are usually civilians who have served in the army since 2014 and have the status of ATO participants, which is why Russia considers them prisoners of war.

Many people ended up there after Olenivka. Now, they are being transferred from this colony to another one. There is also the Kirovska colony in Yenakiyevo, where people are sent.

The logic of the Russians is very difficult to understand. They change the places of detention for our people very often. We might know that a person is in one place, but after a while, it turns out that the person is no longer there and is, in fact, many kilometers away from their original location.

Within the same colony, people are frequently moved between cells. Individuals from one cell are simply transferred to other cells and shuffled around. They even change floors. It is unclear why this is done.

Read also: The Russians said: «We need your house» — the story of Serhii Dorokhov, abducted from Irpin

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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