Ukraine: Russia’s reprisals against prominent Ukrainian human rights defender who joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine

10 August 2023 marked five months since Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, a prisoner of war captured by Russian forces, was “sentenced” to a long prison term by a court established by Russian-supported armed groups in eastern Ukraine in 2014. By decision of this so-called Supreme Court of the Luhansk People’s Republic, Maksym Butkevych will spend 13 years in a Russian prison for purported war crimes. Ever since Maksym Butkevych was taken captive by the Russian forces in eastern Ukraine on 24 June 2022, his family, friends and colleagues have been running a campaign for his release and justice, #FreeMaksymButkevych. At the same time, the Russian Investigative Committee, a stand-alone agency responsible for investigation of serious crimes, and state-controlled Russian media and social media have been circulating manifestly false claims about Maksym Butkevych and details of their case against him. His imprisonment and the concurrent smear campaign appear to be retribution against one of Ukraine’s most prominent human rights defenders.

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