International observers, journalists, pro-Ukrainian activists, priests and ordinary citizens, all and sundry are been routinely kidnapped in the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels. “Abductions began from the very beginning of the insurgency and today we estimate the number of those being detained illegally at 200,” said Maria Oliynik, an activist with Ukrainian rights watchdog Prosvita.
Those held hostage are usually kept in basements and safe houses guarded by gunmen from the rebel “authorities” of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine — and the United Nations says they can face beatings, torture and even execution.
But after almost two months of bloodshed in the region the situation is chaotic and with rebels splintering into different groups it is sometimes difficult to tell which faction is actually holding the detainees.
A recent UN report cited “numerous instances of killings, torture, beatings, kidnappings and intimidation mostly perpetrated by well-organised and well-armed anti-government groups in the country´s east”.
The report highlights “the alarming increase in kidnapping and illegal detention of journalists, activists, local politicians (and) NGO representatives”.
“Although some people were ultimately released, the remains of many others were thrown into rivers and other places,” says the document.