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Occupiers in Melitopol kidnap journalist Iryna Levchenko and her husband

30.05.2023, 15:13

Local journalist Iryna Levchenko and her husband Oleksandr have been kidnapped in temporarily occupied Melitopol (Zaporizhia oblast). This information was confirmed by IMI's own sources in the city.

According to the sources, the occupiers detained the couple on the street, first keeping them together and then separating them. Their current whereabouts are unknown. Iryna and her husband have been retired for several years.

Iryna's sister, Olena Rudenko, told the Center for Journalistic Investigations that the couple has not been in contact since May 6.

According to Olena, the couple's acquaintances started searching for the Levchenkos after they stopped getting in touch. Another difficulty in finding out what happened to the family is that the occupiers require the people coming to the "commandant's office" to ask questions about the abducted to be their close relatives. Iryna and Oleksandr have none in the occupied area.

The Levchenkos were last in contact on May 5. It was probable that Iryna and Oleksandr had gone to their dacha in the Melitopol suburbs for the weekend and have no mobile connection, or to the cemetery on the city's outskirts to tend to the graves of their relatives, or that they had just gone for a ride. So it was only three days later that the relatives started sounding the alarm.

"We went to their dacha – there was no one there. The apartments are locked, the bicycles are in place. We can't know for sure what happened to Iryna and Sasha!" said Olena.

Their friends tried to learn something about the Levchenkos' fate from the occupying "law enforcers", but they were told that this information will only be provided to close relatives. All their relatives have left the occupied territories, however.

Currently, the family has fairly approximate information about the fate of the abducted couple. On the first day, the Levchenkos were supposedly kept in a building on Chernyshevsky Street, where the occupiers are using as an office for one of their law enforcement structures.

Then Iryna was taken somewhere else, and Oleksandr remained. He is allegedly accused of "terrorism".

The relatives did not report on the disappearance of the Levchenkos at first, hoping that they would be released, but now they are asking for maximum publicity, as they consider all the accusations to be absurd.

"Of course, it's nonsense, what kind of terrorism a couple of retirees could have committed", say the family's friends, who do not lose hope that Iryna and Oleksandr will come back home shortly.

Iryna Levchenko has been a journalist since 1981. She worked for large-circulation newspapers, for the Melitopol district newspaper "Novy Den", was a correspondent for regional and national printed media.

She has not been working as a journalist in recent years due to family circumstances, and is now in retirement.

Oleksandr Levchenko used to work at the Melitopol tractor hydraulic units factory and an engine factory. After retirement, he devoted most of his time to the dacha.

As IMI reported, on March 13, 2022, the Melitopol city and district newspaper "Novy Den" stopped printing. As IMI learned later, the occupiers eventually appropriated the editorial office.

Information about the disappearance of Iryna Levchenko and her husband has also been posted by the Telegram channel "Missing in Melitopol".

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