Life In Prisons On Ukraine Frontline
13 July, 2015

For inmates and workers in prisons on the border marking separatist and government lines in East Ukraine, life can be just as dangerous inside as outside - and not just due to shelling and attacks.

Oleksii Chuyev, First Deputy Head of Dzerzhynsk penal colony, north of Donetsk city, recalls how separatist forces have been harassing the prison: "There was a commander of the battalion with a call-sign Batia... They asked us to give them weapons. I didn’t want to cooperate with them and we made up a story with the central office that we had taken away all the weapons."

Due to the conflict and the administrative system being in flux many of the prisons are understaffed and even emptied of staff.

"The administration began to disappear. Only 3 people left, and then nobody. There were only convicts," says Serhii, convict of the Chernukhino penal colony, just east of railway transit center Debaltseve. "We could leave. Even tanks could pass through that fence."

Many inmates are conflicted about what to do, to leave or stay, to go to Russia or separatist republics or to Ukraine.

Serhii had made his mind up fairly quickly". I wanted just to get out of there and to reach territory where there were no shootings." He continues; "I understand that in Ukraine there is a law according to which convicts cannot be recruited and take part in military operations unlike LNR."

// Nastya Stanko and Oleksandr Nazarov. Filmed in May.