Volodymyr Cherkas was kidnapped in Donetsk on September 6, 2017.
Volodymyr’s ex-wife Tetyana has reported to the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) that since that day Volodymyr does not pick up the phone.
The day before, Mr. Cherkas went to the non-government controlled territories in Eastern Ukraine. Due to the death of his father he was determined to help his elderly mother to move to the government controlled territories.
Prior to the Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine, Volodymyr Cherkas used to live with his wife and three minor children in Donetsk, he ran his own enterprise. After the war broke out, he openly expressed his pro-Ukrainian views.
Family members told the MIHR that the last time they heard from Volodymyr was at the moment he crossed the checkpoint on his way to Donetsk. He gave a short call to inform that he is fine. After that, within several months, Volodymyr’s whereabouts remained unknown. His mother was looking for him in Donetsk – she wrote numerous inquiries to the occupying government, met with the representative of the so-called Commissioner for Human Rights of the DPR, but did not manage to figure out any information as to where her son is being kept.
After some time, she was contacted by the man who introduced himself as a lawyer of Volodymyr. He said that the investigation against Volodymyr was started by the de facto authorities in Donetsk, however, he did not report on where exactly his client was being held and what are the allegations.
“We were not even sure he is still alive,” says Tetyana.
The exact whereabouts of Volodymyr became known only after the large-scale prisoners swap in December 2019. Those released and transferred to the government-controlled Ukrainian territories said that Volodymyr was accused of sabotage and collaborating with the Security service of Ukraine and that he was kept in “Isolyatsia”, an illegal place of detention in of the so-called Ministry of State Security of the DPR (“MGB”). This place located in Donetsk is known as one of the most cruel places of illegal detention where hostages are heavily tortured and beaten by the illegal armed groups.
One of the former “Isolyatsia” prisoners Oleksandr Tymofeev told the MIHR that he recalls Volodymyr, and that he is “a good, calm man, who always tried to support others”. Mr. Tymofeev claims that Mr. Cherkas has been heavily beaten by militants, mocked, and used as a slave, similar to other prisoners.
“Once I’ve witnessed how badly Volodymyr suffered after the torture – he could barely stand on his feet due to pain in his heart, but he was not provided with the medical care,” says Mr.Tymofeev.
Currently, according to unconfirmed information obtained by the MIHR, Volodymyr Cherkas is being held in the penal colony 97 in Makiyivka, in the pre-trial detention center. His family is not aware whether he has already been sentenced by the occupying court as well as what his health condition is.