Responding to the forcible disappearance of Ukrainian human rights defender and prisoner of war Maksym Butkevych, whose whereabouts were last confirmed on 22 August, Amnesty International’s acting Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Director, Denis Krivosheev, said:
“It has been eleven weeks since Maksym Butkevych’s whereabouts were last known. Given his sham trial, the nature of his conviction and the evidence of mistreatment, his family and many of us have serious concerns about his fate and wellbeing. We demand the Russian authorities immediately disclose where he is and allow him to contact his family and his lawyer.
“This is just the latest in a litany of abuses against Maksym Butkevych since he was taken prisoner of war in June 2022. His 13-year imprisonment was imposed on him by the so-called Supreme Court in Russian-occupied Luhansk in secret proceedings, based on a video confession that was almost certainly coerced, alongside other flimsy evidence. We believe that the charges were wholly motivated as a reprisal from the Russian authorities for Maksym’s previous activism and prominent human rights work.
His family and many of us have serious concerns about his fate and wellbeingDenis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s acting Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Director
“Depriving a prisoner of war of the right to a fair and regular trial is a war crime. So is enforced disappearance, which is what his current treatment amounts to. The Russian authorities must quash the sentence handed down to Maksym Butkevych, immediately release him from custody imposed by the so-called supreme court in Luhansk and stop violations of international law and abuse of the rights of prisoners.”
Prominent Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych signed up as a volunteer with the Armed Forces of Ukraine in February 2022, and was captured by Russian forces at the front line on 24 June 2022. On 10 March 2023, he was “sentenced” to 13 years in prison by the so-called “Supreme Court of the Luhansk People’s Republic”, a court instituted by Russian-supported armed groups in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
On 22 August 2023, an appeal hearing at a Moscow court upheld Maksym Butkevych’s sentence, which he was only allowed to join via a video link.
His his exact whereabouts have been unknown since 22 August when he appeared at his appeal hearing by video link from the detention centre in Luhansk. It is a common practice in Russia to transfer prisoners in inhuman and degrading conditions to remote locations, hundreds or thousands kilometres away from home, to serve their prison sentence. This may take weeks, sometime months, during which time their families and lawyers are denied any information about their fate and whereabouts. This practice amounts to enforced disappearance.