• Human Rights Centre “Memorial”
  • Human rights violations resulting from the actions of the supporters of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”
  • The Bankrupt Referendum Findings of a monitoring mission to the Donetsk region of Ukraine

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    Human Rights Centre “Memorial”

    The Bankrupt Referendum Findings of a monitoring mission to the Donetsk region of Ukraine

    May 2014

    Report Outline

    Human Rights Centre “Memorial” 2

    The Bankrupt Referendum 2

    1.Human rights violations resulting from the actions of the supporters of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” 3

    1.1.Abduction of civilians and cruel treatment of the abducted 3

    1.2.Violence against civil society activists 11

    1.3. Possibility of peaceful assembly 13

    1.3.Situation of the Mass Media 17

    2.Civilian casualties during anti-terrorist operations 18

    2.1.Ukrainian involvement in anti-terrorist operations in the Donetsk region 18

    2.2.Events in Mariupol on May 9th, 2014 19

    2.3.Events in Krasnoarmeysk, May 11th, 2014 23

    2.4.Kramatorsk 24

    3.“Referendum” of May 11th, 2014 26

    3.1.Questions related the legitimacy of the referendum 27

    3.2.Violations during the preliminary stages (prior to voting day) 28

    3.3. Organizational and voting irregularities on the day of the referendum 28

    3.4.Vote Counting 30

    3.5.Conclusions 31

    Human Rights Centre “Memorial”

    The Bankrupt Referendum

    Findings of a monitoring mission to the Donetsk region of Ukraine

    May 2014
    This mission was carried out with the support of the international Civic Solidarity Platform

    From the 6th to the 16th of May, 2014, Oleg Orlov and Yan Rachinski of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, participated in a monitoring mission on the territory of Ukraine. The purpose of this mission was to gather information about the human rights situation in the Donetsk region before, during and after the so-called referendum on the future of the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and to monitor the referendum process itself.

    The mission was carried out in the cities of Donetsk, Druzhkova, Konstantinovka, Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Kiev. The mission members interviewed civil society activists, government representatives, individuals effected by violence and witnesses. Additionally, the mission members closely monitored internet and video resources related to the events in order to compare them to the information gathered on the ground.
    We are grateful for the assistance of the residents of Donbass who helped us in our work despite difficult conditions and we would like to thank the Center for Civil Liberties.
    Key findings for the mission include the following:

    1) Authorities and activists of the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk grossly and systematically violate human rights.

    2) The referendum of May 11, 2014 cannot be considered legitimate. The methods used rule out the possibility of reliably determining its results.

    3) Ukrainian authorities must urgently restore order within their internal power structures in order to completely eliminate the possibility of dispatching too few and poorly equipped fighters in places where they may clash with hostile civilians.

    4) The Ukrainian authorities are obliged to suppress the activities of all illegal armed groups, including those positioning themselves as defenders of Ukrainian statehood. Self-appointed militias supporting Ukrainian statehood can cause just as much damage as the activity of separatists.

    1. Human rights violations resulting from the actions of the supporters of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”

      1. Abduction of civilians and cruel treatment of the abducted

    In the weeks preceding the referendum on the independence of the breakaway People’s Republic of Donetsk (PRD), the practice of kidnapping those who did not support the referendum increased. Some abductees were taken to the regional administration building which was occupied by PRD supporters and, as is well known, were detained and interrogated on the fifth floor. Some of those abducted were taken to other buildings occupied by supporters of the PRD. In some cases, those abducted disappeared and their whereabouts are still unknown. Bodies of several abductees were later found bearing signs of a violent death.
    We can assume that these kidnappings were committed for several different reasons: to obtain information about those suspected of supporting the opposition; for the purpose of exchanging those captured for detained supporters of the PRD; for ransom, etc. Moreover, it is quite obvious that this practice is made in pursuit of an overarching goal – to intimidate opponents of the PRD. This goal has generally been achieved, as most of the active supporters of Ukrainian unity have either left the region of Donetsk, have gone into hiding or have suspended their legal activities. Civil society is largely paralyzed. As a result, many supporters of Ukrainian unity in Donetsk have been forced to admit that there remains no way to stand up for their ideals other than an armed struggle. Some of these people are located outside of the Donetsk region and are structured in “battalions” such as “Donbass”, “Azov” and “Dnepr”.
    One of the leaders of the PRD with whom mission members were able to speak did not deny that a few dozen people captured in recent weeks have been held on the fifth floor of the regional administration building. He also did not deny that these people were subjected to physical and psychological violence and attempted to justify these actions by claiming that “everyone else is doing it.” According to this person, individuals were captured for the objectives of a) obtaining information; b) exchange with pro-PRD detainees; c) re-education/conversion. Containing a large number of forcibly detained people in the regional administration building for a long period would be difficult. Therefore, a number of people subjected to “re-education” were released, others were immediately exchanged and the rest were transferred to other locations intended to confine forcibly detained people.
    We were informed that there were also illegal abductions and detentions of supporters of the PRD by representatives or supporters of the Kiev authorities. However, it has proven impossible to obtain any concrete information from PRD supporters. We have identified a specific person who was responsible for gathering information about human rights violations by the Kiev authorities in the Donetsk region. However, this individual was occupied with other tasks and was not able to provide us with information. We attempted to interview PRD activist Evgeni Potapov who claimed to have been abducted, taken out of the Donetsk region and held against his will. However, every time we tried to speak with him, he claimed to be busy or did not answer the phone.
    Several kidnapping cases in the Donetsk region are described below. These are illustrative examples and do not constitute an exhaustive list of cases.


    Six individuals were kidnapped during the day on May 4th, 2014 in Novogrodovka (a town located 45 kilometers north-west of Donetsk). They included two miners who worked in the “Russia” mine and were activists of the Independent Trade Union of Miners, Alexander Vovk and Alexander Gurov, deputies of the Novogrodovka city council Valeri Pavlik (Party of Regions), Oleg Bubich (Communist Party of Ukraine), Konstantin Museyko (Defenders of the Motherland Party) and another young man whose name will remain undisclosed.1
    The abductees all held a pro-Ukrainian position and some of them had previously obstructed the hanging of the PRD flag from the city council building. When visiting Kiev, we were able to interview Konstantin Museyko and Alexander Gurov. Their story painted the following picture.
    On the day of their abduction, all six men were gathered in the courtyard of Museyko’s home to discuss the possibility of further actions to “resist the separatists”. No one was in the house apart from them as the owner had previously moved his family out of the Donetsk region.
    Suddenly, ten people armed with Kalashnikovs burst through the fence into the courtyard. Seven of them were wearing uniforms of the special police forces of Ukraine “Griffon”, three wore camouflage uniforms (according to the respondents, these three were natives of the Northern Caucasus). The intruders immediately began shooting – they killed dogs and the home owner and his five companions laid face down on the ground. The armed men then entered the house and shot the ceiling, floor, mirrors, furniture and audio/video equipment. They took money and gold jewelry from the house and demanded to see documents related to Museyko’s business. During this time, Konstantin Museyko received a gunshot wound to the thigh. All six men were then thrown into a vehicle belonging to Museyko and, accompanied by several passenger cars, were taken to Donetsk. En route, Alexander Gurov managed to jump from the moving van, but he was unable to escape as the kidnappers opened fire with their machine guns and he was forced to lie on the ground. Gurov was beaten with rifle butts and thrown into a passenger car that followed the minibus to Donetsk.
    At the entrance of the regional administration building their heads were covered by their own clothes and they were led up the stairs to a higher floor (Gurov estimated it to be the 4th or 5th, Museyko thought it was the 5th or 6th). There the abductees were taken to separate rooms, their heads were uncovered and they began to be interrogated and beaten. Some of the people beating and interrogating the abductees were wearing masks while others had their faces visible. They ripped a gold chain from Alexander Gurov’s neck and removed a signet ring from his finger. This was done by a man whose face was not covered and who, according to Gurov, was a resident of the North Caucasus. The interrogators found a tattoo on Gurov’s upper arm depicting the state emblem of Ukraine and the words, “Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the Heros!” The man began to cut his arm, explaining that he was “removing” the tattoo. As he was being moved to a different room, Gurov saw a badly beaten Vovk.
    During the interrogation the abductees were asked questions about their connections to the “Right Sector”, about how much money was spent on their activities against the PRD and by whom, whether or not they were aware of the “Dnepr” and “Donbass” battalions, who finances their activities and how, etc. As they were being asked questions, they were punched in the face and kicked and clubbed in the body. The man interrogating Gurov hit him in the head with the handle of a pistol.
    Gurov and Museyko are sure that the interrogators were professionals – they showed them professionally compiled documentation of the interrogations of others.
    At some point, the detainees were taken to a medical center located in the same building. There the bullet was removed from Museyko’s hip and Gurov received some kind of injection after which he said his “legs became cotton and his head became heavy.” The questioning then recommenced.
    Late in the evening on the same day, the abductees were moved to the TV and radio broadcasting center in Donetsk which was also occupied by PRD activists. They were handcuffed to chairs and kept all night. They were occasionally beaten and subjected to psychological pressure. The captors threatened to shoot them, cut their feet, etc. Museyko was told that his only chance for survival was to transfer his business to someone else. However, in this building they were beaten less than they had been in the regional administration building. They were allowed to go to the bathroom in the morning, they were given water and some of the guards even gave them a cigarette.
    Gurov stated that in the TV and radio center he saw a detained Nikolai Yakubovich who had been kidnapped previously.
    On the morning of the 5th of May, five of the abductees, Alexander Vovk, Alexander Gurov, Valeri Pavlik, Oleg Bubich and Konstantin Museyko were released. First were Bubich, Vovk and Pavlik, followed by Gurov and Museyko. The freed men were put into ambulances and transferred to the city hospital where they received medical assistance and were then reunited with their relatives.
    We do not know whether the abductees were released in exchange for detained PRD supporters, or whether their release was a result of the increased reporting on abductions in Ukrainian and foreign media which has drawn the attention of international institutions (such as the UN mission and the OSCE). It is possible, however, that the main goal of the captors was to intimidate their opponents and force them to leave the Donetsk region.
    On the same day, all five men travelled to Kiev. There, Vovk and Gurov spoke about their experience at a press conference.

    Alexander Gurov at a press conference
    All five men are facing a long recovery process. As a result of the torture and beatings, Konstantin Museyko suffered three broken ribs and a broken nose. He had seven bruises across his face and doctors documented injuries to his chest and back. As of May 16th, he has no movement in his right hand. Alexander Gurov suffered two broken ribs and a broken nose. He had to have surgery on his elbow and hand which were damaged during the beatings and his upper arm is healing slowly. Alek Bubich suffered two broken ribs and Valeri Pavlik received a head injury. The following photo of Alexander Bubich clearly shows the results of the treatment given to those abducted and held within the regional administration building.


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    The Bankrupt Referendum Findings of a monitoring mission to the Donetsk region of Ukraine

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