The French was arrested with seven other people when the small group went to Ilovaysk where Ukrainian forces took a stand. Recently the small town of Ilovaysk, 20 miles southeast from Donetsk, has been hotly contested by insurgents and Ukrainian forces. The arrest of the French was confirmed by Anton Geraschchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, on his Facebook page. According to the adviser, Yuri Yurchenko is a lost soul, a bard or a poet of terrorists in Donbass and “he will be prosecuted for taking a part in the insurgency in Donbass when Ilovaysk is taken entirely by the Ukrainian army”, which is not yet the case.
Pen and Voice of Novorossiya insurgents According to the information we have gathered, Yuri Yurchenko indeed is in an ambiguous position. Coming to Donbass to break the media blockade of Novorossiya, he was actually engaged in the insurgency. With his weapon of choice: his pen and his voice. He appeared on several insurgents media and local television channels to spread the word about the uprising. He often went to places where bombings and hostilities took place.
We were able to talk to Georgy Morozov, Deputy Head of Information of the Foreign Affairs Office under the Ministry of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), “Yuri Yurchenko was an accredited journalist with the DPR, furthermore he was also a war correspondent with the Ministry of Defense of the DPR.” To his knowledge, there were no other French recently arrested by Ukrainian forces, however they have recently arrested a Serbian citizen and a Slovak citizen. Those who arrested Yuri knew who he is, he is well known locally.
Novorossiya officials rally for his release
He said: “We are confident that we will attain his release; we are trying to organize an exchange of prisoners of Ukrainian war”. Insurgents have a special committee handling the exchange of prisoners of war. According to sources close to the insurgency, they hold nearly 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers. Georgy Morozov declined to confirm that information, but said that “we have officers including senior officers, as well as Ukrainian pilots. There are also prisoners from paramilitary groups such as Donbass”.
The French Foreign
Ministry could not confirm the arrest of Yuri Yurchenko, the Ukrainian Embassy is checking with Ukrainian authorities. According to Georgy Gerasimov, “the French should be aware of this, when Ukraine arrests a foreign citizen, they notify the embassy”. However till now no French official has tried to reach DPR officials regarding the matter”.
A significant risk of being subjected to ill-treatment
According to Georgy Morozov, there is a significant risk that Yuri Yurchenko will be subjected to ill-treatment and even torture. “He was arrested by ex-convicts who were pardoned by the Ukrainian government in exchange for fighting in Donbass. Plus they just suffered significant losses”. He continues his argument: “They are tired, very angry and simply hungry; big problems with equipment and supplies impact them as the rest of the Ukrainian army elsewhere. These people are capable of anything”. Two weeks ago insurgents have organized an exchange of prisoners (dead and alive) in the area of Torez, to the south from the territory held by the insurgency. Georgy Morozov recalls: “we returned live prisoners and bodies of their soldiers that we have gathered; they gave us only bodies, and it was obvious that our men had died after being taken prisoners. They were tortured and it was horrifying to see”.
While Yuri Yurchenko might escape torture and is currently placed in a Ukrainian prison, conditions are not much better. The country suffers from severe shortages, prison conditions are far from European standards and the justice in the country at war – although officially it is only an operation against “terrorists” – does not bother with principles commonly accepted in Europe – the adversarial system and the right to a fair trial.
Graham Phillips precedent
In the past Ukrainian forces have arrested European journalists. On July 22, 2014, British journalist William Graham Phillips, who works for RT, was arrested by the The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) in the area of Donetsk airport. Three days later, he was expelled from the country to Poland and banned from entering Ukraine for three years, “for reasons of state security, defense of the sovereignty and territorial integrity”, SSU explained. On July 26, he said on his Twitter account that while he was detained, SSU broke into his accounts on social networks and erased 2,000 videos. Shortly after he returned to the area controlled by the insurgency, this time as a freelance
journalist, he is currently in Lugansk area.