Human Rights Watch said Russian forces in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region accused the 25-year-old teacher, Viktoria Andrusha, of sharing information with Ukrainian authorities about Russian troop movements. When Russian forces withdrew from the area days later, after their month-long occupation, they forcibly transferred Ms Andrusha to Russia. She is one of a number of Ukrainian civilians to have apparently been forcibly disappeared since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“Russian authorities should urgently reveal the whereabouts of Andrusha and the other victims of enforced disappearances,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Russian authorities should end incommunicado detention and release all civilians being held arbitrarily.”
Ms Andrusha’s family was told through unofficial channels weeks after she was detained that she is being held incommunicado in a detention facility in Russia’s Kursk region. Authorities at the facility have denied holding her. Ms Andrusha’s lawyer was denied access to the detention facility.
The teacher was in her home village of Stary Bykiv when Russian forces took control of the area. Her sister, Olha Andrusha, told Human Rights Watch that Russian forces searched their family’s home on March 26, four days before they withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, claiming the family might be co-operating with Ukrainian forces. Olha denied this allegation.
In the process they found Ms Andrusha’s phone and alleged she had been sending information about Russian troop movements to Ukrainian intelligence agents. They then took her to a boiler room in a neighbouring village, which they were using as a makeshift detention facility, and held her there for up to three days before taking her away.
Ms Wille said: “The laws of war do not allow Russian forces to take Ukrainian civilians with them as they retreat from areas they had occupied. Russia needs to free any Ukrainian civilian forcibly transferred to custody in Russia who hasn’t had a fair trial and immediately stop forcibly disappearing or otherwise arbitrarily detaining any other civilians in occupied areas.”.