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Russian-held human rights advocate's whereabouts unknown since August

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 7, 2023 5:42 PM 2 min read
Maksym Butkevych, Ukrainian human rights advocate and journalist, before Russian captivity. (No Borders Project)
This audio is created with AI assistance

There is no information on the whereabouts of Maksym Butkevych, Ukrainian human rights advocate-turned-soldier held in Russian captivity, since his Moscow court proceedings in August, his father told Hromadske Radio on Nov. 6.

Butkevych enlisted in the Ukrainian military following Russia's full-scale invasion and was captured in Luhansk Oblast in June 2022. Russian occupation authorities "sentenced" him to 13 years on trumped-up charges without any legal grounds, human rights groups said.

In August this year, a court of appeals in Moscow upheld Butkevych's "sentence."

The activist was said to have been taken to an unknown location following the Moscow proceedings.

Inquiries on his whereabouts by the lawyer representing his case, Leonid Solovyov, have been ignored, Butkevych's father Oleksandr said.

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"In Russia, all legal norms, as well as human rights, are completely ignored," Oleksandr Butkevych told Hromadske Radio.

"For example, as a convicted person, Maksym has the right to correspondence, but the letters and packages sent to him by his friends were returned to them with a note 'correspondence not allowed.'"

According to a statement released by PEN America in July 2022 calling for his immediate release, Russians have "claimed that Butkevych is actually a fascist with strongly-held Nazi sympathies, as well as a punitive squad commander masquerading as an activist."

Before the full-scale invasion, Butkevych co-founded Hromadske radio, the ZMINA Human Rights Center, and the No Borders Project, the latter of which aids asylum-seekers.

Last month, Butkevych was awarded the 2023 Anne Frank Special Recognition Award "for his work to uphold human rights and combat xenophobia and racism," with his father accepting the price in his name.

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On the evening of Feb. 24, Nataliia Sivak received a terrifying message from her younger brother, Ukrainian soldier Yakiv Nehrii. “Tell everyone I love them very much,” the message read. “We are under heavy attack.” It was the last time she heard from him. When Russia launched its full-scale war
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