About three hundred Ukrainians were released during a major prisoner swap between Kyiv and occupied Donbas since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. There are cases when people were kept in the notorious basements and prisons, controlled by the so-called “Luhansk/Donetsk People’s Republics,” for more than once. Hryhoriy Sinchenko is one of them. His story is unique: he purposefully returned to Donetsk to avenge torture. At the end of October 2019, he blew up a cell tower and was in captivity again.
74 Ukrainians were rescued at the end of December 2017. Hryhoriy Sinchenko was lucky to be on the list then. A political science student at the Simferopol University after the annexation of Crimea refused to continue his studies and receive a Russian diploma. According to his mother Tetiana, her son moved to Kherson, found a job, but then was forced to return to his native Donetsk to pick up medical certificates to confirm disability. There he met like-minded opponents of the occupation of the city and began to engage in partisan activities, the woman explains. In December 2016, Hryhoriy was first detained by militants.
Two years later, the mother again fights for the freedom of her son. The woman has only unconfirmed information about the whereabouts of Sinchenko. According to her, he was locked up in one of the Donetsk temporary detention facilities from the end of October last year without any charges. At least the mother did not hear anything about them. The lawyer and representatives of the Red Cross cannot visit the young man, which means that Sinchenko is an unconfirmed prisoner. While the militants do not officially recognize his conclusion, the chances of being on the list for a new exchange are minimal. But the mother does not lose hope.
Strangled, hung by handcuffs and shocked – Sinchenko had to overcome all these tortures when he was first detained in occupied Donetsk. After torture, the guy was thrown into the basement, his mother recalls: “For three days no one came up to him. During the beatings, apparently, they tore his lung, and he began to die in the basement. The son made a promise to God, as he later told when he left, that if he survives, he will surely take revenge.”
The whole family tried to dissuade Sinchenko from his plans but returned to the territory of Donetsk, illegally went around the border, prepared explosives and blew up the local Phoenix cellular station.
On the morning of October 27, a loud bang sounded in Donetsk and smoke started. In less than a few hours, a corresponding video appeared on YouTube. At the end of the recording, an unknown person shows a piece of paper on which it is written that this was done in order to draw attention to the inhuman torture in the basements. A few days later, mother Tetiana has lost contact with her son.
After all the exchanges, the Ukrainian authorities always offer the liberated people to undergo psychological help. Maryna Chabanova is one of the specialists working with such people. She claims that all former prisoners have a post-traumatic disorder, and its symptoms can occur within two years. The case of Hryhotiy Sinchenko is a vivid confirmation of this.
Sinchenko’s case, of course, is tragic, but at the same time, it is useful for relatives of all those who managed to be exchanged earlier and will be released in the future. After torture and difficult moral trials, the family should be especially attentive to the person, says Chabanova. Now several dozen former prisoners are undergoing rehabilitation in a sanatorium near Kyiv. These are the Ukrainians who managed to change on December 27. Immediately after returning from the occupied Donbas, they were sent to the Feofania clinic in the capital.
But there is another side to this coin. Before the occupation, the cell tower in Donetsk belonged to Ukraine’s Kyivstar operator. If the explosion happened in the territory controlled by Kyiv, the company would have definitely appealed to the police with a statement. Nevertheless, Ukrainian law enforcement officers have every right to investigate criminal offenses committed on the other side of the demarcation line, and without it. This is stated by the article 214 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It stipulates that one of the reasons for starting a pre-trial investigation may be the independent identification by the prosecutor or police officer.
"If they see news about an explosion on the Internet, they should open this production. However, there is one caveat here. The Cabinet’s resolution, according to which the authorities located in uncontrolled territories do not do their job. But, on the other hand, there are police that these territories are assigned to, and therefore the situation is twofold," Yevhen Chekarev, a lawyer at the center for strategic affairs of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, commented.
At the moment, no criminal cases related to the undermining of the cell tower have been registered with the police of the Donetsk region, and there have been no complaints from anyone, the press service told us. The status of Hryhoriy Sinchenko remains incomprehensible. At the moment, he is illegally held by the militants, but what will happen if the production is still opened?
The case of Sinchenko is very revealing in the legal plane, as well as in the field of psychological rehabilitation. There is a moral side to the issue: the guy was severely tortured, his mind underwent changes, and the desire to take revenge was very logical. But the Ukrainian Constitution declares the rule of law, and, most likely, we can only see the position of the state after the liberation of Sinchenko. There is still a possibility that he will fall into the next exchange between Kyiv and the occupation administrations of Luhansk and Donetsk. The mother claims that Ukraine’s Security Service is aware of his detention. It remains to receive confirmation from the local representatives. Last week, during his visit to Israel, Volodymyr Zelensky said: Ukraine is working on a list to complement the list of established prisoners.