On 10 August, 2016 it was announced that in occupied Crimea the special services of the Russian Federation detained a Ukrainian citizen Evgenii Panov, a bus driver from Zaporizhia oblast.
Two days earlier, Russian military equipment was concentrated on the border with mainland Ukraine. Russia closed its border checkpoints without explanation.
After several days of silence, the Russian FSB announced that it allegedly prevented terrorist acts by Ukrainian intelligence and eliminated an “agent network of Ukrainian and Russian citizens”. Allegedly, one of the organizers was Evgenii Panov.
On 10 August, Russian TV channels showed a news piece where people in black masks with FSB signs guided Evgenii Panov through a corridor. He had visible signs of injury on his body. This video explicitly shows that Panov was subjected to physical abuse and possibly torture.
On 11 August, the FSB published the video of the interrogation. Evgenii Panov showed additional bodily injuries. The character of the injuries (swollen face and lips, heavy breathing) gives ground to assume that he was strangled with a plastic bag. It is also notable that he pronounced a pre-agreed text, which is indirectly confirmed by the number of cuts in the video. It is likely that they had to re-film some of the answers.
Currently, Evgenii Panov, as well as Andrii Zakhtii and Ridvan Suleimanov who were announced later, are the only persons publicly presented by the special services who allegedly belonged to the eliminated “special operation group”.
According to the words of Panov’s relatives, Evgenii went on a holiday with friends within Zaporizhia oblast on 6 August and was going to return no later than the morning of the 8th. They say that Evgenii was well aware of the threat of staying in the occupied territory and would not enter Crimea as together with his wife had planned to have a child in the near future. Eugene served more than a year as a volunteer in the Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone. On his return home, he worked as a driver, was involved in the executive committee of the local council and volunteered. His relatives believe that he might have been kidnapped from the territory of mainland Ukraine and illegally relocated by the FSB agents to the occupied territory. At their request, the Ukrainian police brought criminal proceedings under the article “false imprisonment or kidnapping”.
Thus, the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance, clear traces of violence and prevalence of torture as a method widely used by the FSB indicate the likelihood that Evgenii Panov could have been subjected to physical violence to obtain confessions.
The scenario of kidnapping of Ukrainian citizens and bringing trumped-up charges of terrorist activities have repeatedly been used by the Russian special services for propaganda purposes. It is worth recalling that Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko was also kidnapped and illegally brought to the territory of Russia. Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsova was sentenced to 20 years on false charges of terrorism while Ukrainian tractor driver Sergei Litvinov was absurdly accused of using prohibited means and methods of warfare, for which the Russian Attorney General’s Office eventually had to apologize.
As the experience of Ukrainian citizens detained in Russia and occupied Crimea demonstrates, only wide publicity and control of the international community can become a kind of prevention against torture and ill-treatment.
Euromaidan SOS draws attention of the international community to the need to monitor the Evgenii Panov case, together with the cases of Andrii Zakhtii and Ridvan Suleimanov, to ensure unhindered access of independent lawyers to provide expert legal assistance as well as access of international organizations and human rights defenders to verify detainees’ state of health and detention conditions.
Euromaidan SOS calls on the Russian Federation to publicly announce the names of the other people arrested to prevent torture and ill-treatment during their investigation.