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Human rights activists call for Russia to release unlawfully sentenced POW Maksym Butkevych

13.03.2023, 18:00
Photo: Hromadske Radio
Photo: Hromadske Radio

Human rights advocates, media workers, volunteers and activists call for the release of Maksym Butkevych, a prisoner of war illegally convicted by the occupiers.

The according statement was published by the Zmina Center for Human Rights:

On March 10, 2023, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced the conviction of Ukrainian human rights advocate and army serviceman Maksym Butkevych, who had been captured by the Russians last summer during the hostilities in Luhansk oblast, to 13 years in prison on completely fabricated charges. Two other Ukrainian prisoners were sentenced together with him: Viktor Pokhoziy and Vladyslav Shelya, to 8.5 and 18.5 years in prison, respectively.

Maksym Butkevich is a Ukrainian human rights advocate and journalist; co-founder of the "Bez Kordoniv" Project, which focuses on helping asylum seekers and Ukrainian immigrants and on countering hate speech; co-founder of the ZMINA Human Rights Center and Hromadske Radio; before that, he worked in multiple Ukrainian and international media outlets. He enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces in March 2022, and was taken prisoner near temporarily occupied Zolote and Hirske, Luhansk oblast, in June.

According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the so-called "Supreme Court of the LPR" found Maksym Butkevych guilty of allegedly abusing the civilian population and using unlawful methods in an armed conflict, attempted murder with a generally dangerous device, as well as intentional damage to someone else's property: on June 4, 2022 he allegedly fired a grenade launcher at the entrance of a residential building in Severodonetsk, Luhansk oblast. No evidence in this clearly fabricated case has been shown, except for the prisoner's official "confession" that the Russians recorded. However, according to our data, the "Berlingo" unit, where Maksym Butkevich serves, was not deployed to and took no part in the hostilities in Severodonetsk.

It is worth noting that until the aforementioned statement by the Investigative Committee, there had been no reports of any charges brought against POW Maksym Butkevych, which made it completely impossible for him to involve a lawyer and have access to a fair trial. No international organization was able to adequately monitor his detention conditions or clarify the details of his treatment, as Russia does not admit independent observers to the places of detention that it creates in the occupied territories.

At the same time, multiple Russian propaganda media have published content about Maksym Butkevych which is clearly false, such as attributing to him statements he never made or views opposite to those he holds. All this testifies to the deliberate fabrication of the case on the part of the Russians, probably aimed at constructing an image of the Ukrainian military as war criminals.

We condemn Russia's practice of using prisoners of war for propaganda, demand an end to the illegal persecution and allow POW Maksym Butkevich, as well as other Ukrainian POWs to be swapped.

We demand that the Russian Federation allow international observers to visit POWs and civilian hostages in order to monitor the conditions of their detention and prevent their ill-treatment and other violations of their rights.

We call on the President of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to keep putting pressure on the Russian Federation for the immediate release of all citizens illegally imprisoned by the occupation regime.

We call on the international community to step up the sanctions against Russia in view of the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights committed by it.

Signed by organizations:

ZMINA Center for Human Rights

"Bex Kordoniv" Project

Hromadske Radio

KRF "Public Alternative"

Educational House of Human Rights – Chernihiv

"Sich" Association – France

Media Initiative for Human Rights

Ukrainian Crisis Media Center

NGO "Women in Media"

Crimean Human Rights Group

Free Belarus Center

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association

Anti-authoritarian volunteer network "Solidarity Collectives"

NGO "Insight"

NGO "Ukrainian Branch of the International PEN Club"

NGO "Internews-Ukraine"

Ukrainian Guild of Directors

"Vostok SOS" Charity Foundation

Cedos Analytical Center

Vinnytsia NGO "Information and Educational Center VIS"

"Feminist Lodge" initiative

European Civic Forum

Odesa regional organization NPO Committee of Voters of Ukraine

"Intent" media outlet

Human Rights Initiative

Center for Democratic Integrity

"Occupy Kyiv Cinemas" initiative


NGO "League for the Protection of Women's Rights 'Harmony of Equals'"

NGO "Interregional Center for LGBT Studies Donbas-SociProject"

Solidarus e.V.

IBF "Public Health Alliance"

NGO "Virus Off"

NGO "Democratic Initiatives Incubator"

NGO "Real Stories Production"

NGO "The Republic Institute"

NI "Active Community"

NYPO "Foundation of Regional Initiatives"

Initiative group "By the way, Bureau of Communications"

LGBT Human Rights Center "Our World"

NGO "Social Action Center"

NGO "Social movement"

Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Vaad) of Ukraine

Congress of National Communities of Ukraine

NGO "Kyiv Educational Center 'Space of Tolerance'"

NGO "Ukrainian Feminist Network for Freedom and Democracy"

NGO "FemSolution"

NGO "Center 'Women's Perspectives'"

NGO "Cultural Agency Ɐ"

NGO "Resource Center of All-Ukrainian Association of People with Drug Addiction 'VOLNA-Donbas'"

ReSew sewing cooperative

NGO "Human Rights Vector"

Individual signatories:

Anastasia Moskvychova, journalist and public activist

Iryna Dumych, human rights advocate, public activist

Liza Kuzmenko, head of the NGO "Women in Media", member of the Commission on Journalistic Ethics

Hanna Dovbach, social activist, psychologist and cultural researcher

Karina Schulte, public activist

Julia Kotlyar, IT

Oksana Dutchak, researcher

Artem Chapai, writer

Tetyana Ignatenko, journalist and public activist

Volodymyr Kuznetsov, artist

Myroslava Barchuk, journalist

Yana Salakhova, public activist

Olena Shevchenko, head of NGO "Insight"

Margarita Tarasova, human rights advocate

Tetyana Teren, journalist, executive director of PEN Ukraine

Serhiy Movchan, activist

Oleksandra Binert, Chairman of the Board of the "Alliance of Ukrainian Organizations" – Germany

Serhiy Burov, director of the Educational House of Human Rights – Chernihiv

Olga Pishel, public activist

Yulia Krasilnikova, director of the "Vostok SOS" Charity Foundation

Natalia Lomonosova, researcher, Cedos analyst

Svitlana Dubina, human rights advocate

Oleksandr Prima, communicator, volunteer

Anastasia Chebotaryova, public activist

Maria Golovyanko, public activist

Yuliia Melnyk, public activist, Ekoltava

Hanna Pochtarenko, public activist

Yana Dzyubenko, public activist, volunteer

Oksana Kovtun, researcher

Henry Demyanovych, human rights activist

Polina Malec, young author, volunteer

Vyacheslav Likhachov

Anton Shekhovtsov, researcher

Serhiy Ishchenko, journalist

Mykhailo Shtekel, journalist

Vira Zaporozhets, journalist

Olena Rotari, journalist

Ihor Tyshchenko, "New Housing Policy"

Andriy Savenko, teacher, translator

Mykhailo Lebed

Dafna Rachok, researcher, PhD student at Indiana University

Roksolana Mashkova, translator

Maria Palchyk, chemical laboratory assistant at the Ludwig and Maximilian University of Munich

Olena Komar, philosopher, associate professor at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

Anastasia Bezverkha, communicator, media expert

Yakiv Goldenberg, honored teacher of Ukraine

Vitaly Dudin, Chairman of the Council of the NGO "Social Movement"

Yevheniy Leshan, journalist, head of the NGO "Ukrainian Defense"

Oleksandr Volodarskyi

Olena Litvishko

Roman Kiselyov, philologist, translator

Olena Syrbu, researcher

Halyna Potapova, teacher

Bohdan Ivashko, designer

Denis Pilash, NGO "Social Movement"

Olena Dmytryk, researcher, PhD student at Cambridge University

Vitaly Kulyk, director of the Center for Researching Civil Society Problems

Tetyana Gomon, head of the NGO "Lyatoshinsky Foundation"

Oleksandra Golub, lawyer, head of NGO "League for the Protection of Women's Rights 'Harmony of Equals'"

Oksana Bunkivska, journalist, editor, translator, Maksym Butkevych's classmate

Tamara Marceniuk, associate professor of the Department of Sociology, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Ksenia Rybak, researcher

Zhanna Mylogorodska, public activist, CineMova union, Berlin

Sarah Phillips, Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University

Svitlana Melnyk, teacher, Indiana University

Oleksandr Stryapunin, system administrator, Megacomputer

Stanislav Menzelevsky, film historian

Taras Bilous, activist, editor

Oleksandra Nazarova, psychologist, "Bez Kordoniv" Project

Oksana Tsomko

Oleksiy Kozlov, head of Solidarus e.V.

Yaroslav Kovalchuk, PhD student, University of Alberta

Andriy Klepikov, executive director, IBF "Public Health Alliance"

Inna Gavrylova, communicator and public activist

Oleksandra Kantser, activist of the NGO "Feministic Workshop"

Armen Agadzhanov, public activist, human rights advocate

Yaryna Voloshyn, human rights advocate, communications head at the Association of Women Lawyers of Ukraine "JurFem"

Tetyana Perepelitsa, consultant, IBF "Public Health Alliance"

Nazariy Boyarskyi, human rights advocate, NGO "Democratic Initiatives Incubator"

Vitalia Chukina, honored teacher of Ukraine

Anastasia Kelym, volunteer

Volodymyr Zadyraka, journalist and public figure

Tetyana Vydaychuk, philologist, associate professor

Tatyana Salyuk, head of research projects

Hanna Kiyashchenko, head of the Poltava branch of the Suspilne Ukraine

Oksana Fedak, Ukraine-Hilfe Berlin e.V.

Viktor Isakov, program head at IBF "Public Health Alliance"

Andriy Kravchuk, public activist

Polina Vlasenko, researcher, professor, University of Akron

Kira Kreiderman, psychologist, coordinator and informal education trainer

Yosif Zisels, former political prisoner, member of the "December 1st" Initiative Group

Emily Chenel-Justice, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

Roman Myronenko, Jr. lieutenant of the Armed Forces

Oleksandra Nabieva, curator, culture expert

Anatoly Chernousov, student of Charles University (Prague)

Alisa Novichkova, PhD student at Toronto Metropolitan University

Roman Bondarenko, lawyer of NGO "BATKY SOS"

Yulia Basmanova

Vera Sachenko, researcher, PhD student of the University of Potsdam

Ing. Dmitriy Doroshenko, IT odborník, občanský aktivista, dobrovolník (Praha)

Oleksiy Komar, scientist, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Nadia Babynska, co-founder of the OpenUp Ukraine community

Hanna Manoilenko, public activist

Iryna Ivanenko, volunteer

Sam Hardy, criminologist, Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research

Aliaksandra Baravikova

Maryna Shevtsova, director of the NGO "Platform of Equal Opportunities", researcher at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Maya Ivanenko, activist

Dáša van der Horst, Program Director Prague Civil Society Centre, the Czech Republic

Paul van der Horst, writer, the Netherlands

Marta Chumalo, human rights advocate

Aleksandra Kuvshynova, public activist

Olena Horobets, NGO "Dzherelo Community Development Center"

Alla Kotlyar, journalist

Olena Gorbenko, PhD, scientist, San Diego, US

Maryna Dykuha, graphic designer, artist

Valeria Prorizna, creative producer and director, Center for Spatial Technologies & K

Oksana Rosenblum, translator

Yevhen Lesnoy, documentary director, TV and radio host, journalist

Darya Kuzmina, volunteer

Oleksiy Kvitkovskyi

Halyna Poshtarenko, public activist

Victoria Chernilevska, producer, mother of a fallen UAF soldier

Oleksiy Furman, journalist, co-founder of Reklamaster, father of a fallen soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces

Oleg Golovko, film director, soldier of the Armed Forces

Ihor Lukyanets, colonel, teacher at the military academy

Victoria Tortika, volunteer

Victoria Sharko, designer of Ukrainian ethnic clothing, volunteer

Oleksandr Ostrovsky, long-distance sailing captain

Olga Smetanska, journalist

Svitlana Maksymets, journalist, editor of the edition "Weekend in Kyiv"

Natalia Wolff, actress, director, volunteer

Victoria Melkovska, poet, writer

Tamara Romanova, artist

Rodion Safronov, honored coach of Ukraine (pentathlon)

Petro Prybutko, colonel, professor of philosophy

Yevgenia Miropolska, professor, teacher of KNTU

Anastasia Kuntsevska, professor of psychology

Oleksandr Zavalsky, Honored Artist of Ukraine

Adelina Borets, film director

Oleksandr Pustarnakov, sound engineer

Oleksandra Vityazeva, screenwriter

Oleksiy Kulesha, photographer

Olena Grom, laureate and winner of international competitions, finalist of LensCulture Portrait Awards UK, YICCA International Contest of Contemporary Art, Kaunas Photo Star Lithuania, Slovak Press Photo, The Tokyo International Foto Awards

Oleksiy Komarovskyi, screenwriter, expert at the Ukrainian Cultural Fund

Oleksandr Raskazov, producer of UMH radio holding

Oleksiy Pelepeichenko, rehabilitation doctor, volunteer

Andriy Babik, screenwriter, head of the Guild of Screenwriters of Ukraine

Hanna Zakharash, PR director of "Kyivstar"

Natalia Krupa, founder of "Asteroid" production

Andriy Rybin, co-founder of the "Propeler" studio

Vitaly Rozenko, co-founder of the "Propeler" studio

Dmytro Gudov, sound engineer

Mykhailo Voychuk, honored actor of Ukraine

Oleksiy Gedeonov, writer

Viola Burda, journalist

Victoria Khmelnytska (Belous), actress

Alina Semyeryakova, screenwriter

Alina Piskaryova, volunteer

Ksenia Didenko, film producer

Anton Kasyan, film producer

Lidia Voloshko, doctor, volunteer

Bohdan Borysenko, cinematographer

Marta Molfar (Natalia Lukyanets), journalist, screenwriter, public figure, volunteer

Anton Baibakov, composer

Olena Deineko, coordinator of the "Organic Initiative" association, head of the Organic Business educational project

Andriy Pochtarenko, teacher

Ruslan Shelenko, citizen

Mykhailo Agafonov, public activist, beneficiary of the "Without Borders" project

Olesya Zadyraka, journalist

Maryna Kornilova, project manager, researcher, IBF "Alliance of Public Health"

Andriy Tvardievich, programmer

Kostyantyn Gomma, communicator

As IMI reported, on March 10, the Investigative Committee of Russia announced the "sentences" issued by ORDLO "courts" to three Ukrainian POWs: Maksym Butkevych (13 years in prison), Viktor Pokhoziy (8,5 years) and Vladyslav Shelya (18,5 years).

The men were convicted for "of abusing the civilian population and using prohibited methods in an armed conflict (Part 1 of Article 356 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation)."

The Ukraine 5AM Coalition condemned the "sentences" issued by the "courts" of ORDLO to three Ukrainian POWs, including human rights activist Maksym Butkevych.

The "Ukrane 5AM" coalition began on February 25, 2022 – the day after the new stage of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine started. As of now, the coalition has 31 members – Ukrainian and international public organizations.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on the international community to condemn the sentence issued to POW, human rights advocate Butkevych.

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