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

We speak to Oksana, the wife of Serhii Dorokhov, who has been illegally imprisoned by the Russians.

The Russians said: «We need your house» — the story of Serhii Dorokhov, abducted from Irpin
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Serhii Dorokhov is a civilian hostage of the Russians and a resident of Irpin. The Russians abducted him in mid-March 2022 during the occupation of the city.

What is currently known about Serhii Dorokhov?

Oksana Dorokhova: I managed to find out where Serhii was being held in January 2023. When a soldier was released during an exchange, he mentioned that he had been in a cell with my husband for about six months. He called me from the bus after the exchange and told me that Serhii was alive.

By that time, I knew that he had been confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, I did not know where he was or how he was doing. There was no information about his condition or even whether he was alive.

We had no contact. The only communication I received was at the end of the summer of 2022, in the form of a short note written by his hand, delivered through the DNIP: «I’m alive and well, everything is fine.» However, I later discovered that these notes were written around April 12, 2022, just after they were taken away.

«Back then, we didn’t know that men could leave as well»

Oksana Dorokhova: We live quite close to Gostomel, and it was constantly loud there, with shelling occurring all the time. It frightened me a lot, but I was afraid to leave because they were targeting cars with civilians.

Then we heard about evacuation buses transporting women, children, and the elderly. Serhii tried to persuade me to leave, but I insisted that I would not go without him.

Photo from the Dorokhov family archive / zmina.info

On March 10th, there was information about a convoy escorted by the Red Cross, and we hoped to leave by car. We hastily prepared, but the Russians didn’t grant us a corridor. Forced to return home, we found ourselves already packed with our belongings. Near the broken Romanivsky bridge, my husband put me on a bus. At that time, we were unaware that men could also depart. There was no information provided.

Serhii returned home and found elderly neighbors still there. He assisted them in getting to the evacuation bus.

Read also: «We need to get access to prisoners and give people clarity» — CEO of Amnesty International Ukraine

«We need your house»

Oksana Dorokhova: When Serhii returned, he noticed the Russians already outside. They came to search for him. On March 15, they returned and demanded, «We need your house.» Following this, on March 16th, all contact with Serhii ceased.

The individuals who remained behind reported that Russians had taken over the house and were holding Serhii somewhere in the basement.

Where the Russians took the abducted people

Oksana Dorokhova: People from Bucha and Irpin were transported to Gostomel airfield. Around the 20 of March, they were transferred to Belarus. From there, they were taken to Novozybkov, where they went through «checkups».

Serhii was taken away as the Russians were beginning to withdraw. By around March 24, he was already in Novozybkov. However, by May 2023, he was transferred from there to Donskoye in the Tula region.

The soldier who was released in January 2023 immediately called me. He contacted all the relatives of the men he had been with. He said that the detainees would be released when the war ended. He also mentioned that everyone there supported each other and that they were all like family.

The released prisoners say that the hardest part of captivity is having no idea what has happened to your family, where they are, or how they are living.

Read also: Labour rights of illegally detained civilians — a legal perspective

«There are about 400 families in Kyiv Region waiting for their relatives»

Oksana Dorokhova: Did the ICRC help in any way? No. They called twice to confirm that Serhii was verified, but there was no further communication. Sometimes they call and ask what news I know.

The Ukrainian special services explicitly say that they cannot exchange civilians.

Serhii posed absolutely no threat. He was at home. We had no weapons. He was not behaving aggressively.

I would like to hope at least for access, for them to be seen and their condition checked. And to let them know that they are not forgotten. As for the letters we wrote through the ICRC, Russia does not send any letters to the illegally detained.

People probably do not know whether their relatives are aware that they are alive.

There are about 400 families in Kyiv Region waiting for their loved ones to return from illegal Russian detention.

Problems of the families of illegally detained civilians

Oksana Dorokhova: There is state aid for the families of prisoners of war and civilian prisoners, amounting to 100 thousand hryvnias for a year of captivity. However, this year it has not been paid yet due to a lack of funds.

Many people in captivity are from territories that are still occupied. After their release, they often have nowhere to return to. While they are entitled to assistance, they have to wait several months to receive it.

Waiting for several months on the street, without housing, support, or even basic clothing, is wrong.

Read also: Sexual violence as a war crime of the occupiers

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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