Prominent Ukrainian Scientist is Held Hostage in Donbas
7 March, 2017

What You Need To Know:

Ihor Kozlovskiy is Ukrainian scientist, historian, who was detained in Donetsk in January, 27th, 2016. He has been captured by ‘DNR’ representatives for almost 400 days already;
He was accused of spying activity. According to his nephew Denys Kozlovskiy, his uncle was tortured for giving a false confession.
Self-proclaimed authorities of ‘DNR” refuse to exchange him as they consider Ihor Kozlovskiy ‘a citizen of DNR’. He was staying in Donetsk after the occupation to take care of his ill son.

Ihor Kozlovskiy is a Ukrainian scientist, the head of number theologian organizations in Donetsk, who also used to practise yoga, has been captured by representatives of so-called ‘DNR’ on January, 2016. He was accused of spying activity and weapons manufacturing. He has been in a prison for almost 400 days. In March he celebrated there his 63d birthday.

‘A religious scholar and a pacifist, he was an active participant in the Donetsk ecumenical prayer marathon for United Ukraine back in 2014, back when Russia-backed separatists began to form a stronghold in parts of the east,’ mentioned in the article  ‘They Do Exist’ by Tanya Lokshina.

His nephew Denys Kozlovskiy has been pushing for his uncle’s discharge for almost two years. According to him, he tried to make UN and OSCE, Red Cross and all the other international organizations that work in occupied territories to influence the situation, but nothing happened.

Hromadske spoke to Denys Kozlovskiy in March, 2017 about the condition of Ukrainian scientist, detained in Donbas, and efforts that should be taken to set him free.

Photo: Ihor Kozlovskiy (second from the right) at a peace march with the Buddhist monk, Junsei Terasawa, in Donetsk, 2014 / (personal archive photo)

Can you tell us his [your uncle’s] story? How long has he been detained in Donetsk? Who is he? This is not a unique case, because other people have been detained, but he has a very unusual personality.

He is a well known person, especially in scientific circles and in the sphere of religious organizations. He visited the US several times as a lecturer. He is an “Honorary citizen” of Oklahoma state. He has awards from different countries for his scientific and humanitarian activities. He has even met Pope Paul II, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel... He's not only a scientist, theologian and cultural expert. He's also a person who has always tried to establish dialogue between all the religions. That has always been one of his main goals and was successful in this area. We know that in Donetsk, representatives of almost all faith confesional centers usually met in his round table conferences. They all could communicate when he was a moderator. It was a very unique situation for Ukraine and the world.

So what happened? For how long has he been detained? What's happening to him?

He was captured on 27th of January, 2016. Since then we haven't had the chance or possibility to meet him. We only know that he was arrested by the so-called Ministry of State Defense in the 'DNR'. All we know is that he is imprisoned in Donetsk.

Why did he stay in Donetsk?

The main reason was that his son was ill, he had a broken spine and Down syndrome. He was worried how his son could survive moving from Donetsk to somewhere else. He was a pensioner already. He was unemployed at that moment when he was captured.

Photo: Ihor Kozlovskiy (at the back, fourth from the right) during a meeting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, 2004 / (personal archive photo)

Have you had a chance to talk to him?

Yes, we talked for a few times by phone last year. It was a short period when he was allowed to call. It all ended at the beginning of December, we haven't heard a word from him since that time.

How did he sound when you talked?

He is a really unique person in the way how he sees in the world around him. If you ask him how he's doing in prison, he will say he's “OK.” He is a very spiritual person. It helps him to survive and stay strong in this situation. It's difficult.

Is there any information about tortures? Do you have any information of that kind?

Yes, we know that in the beginning, there were tortures for sure. They tried to make him admit he was a spy. We know that for a fact.

Photo: Ihor Kozlovskiy (left) with the Buddhist monk, Ilkhe Synym / (personal archive photo)

Your uncle is not only a theologian, he's the author of a number of books about yoga. We would like to know this part of the story.

He has had a passion for yoga since childhood. When I was a child he was the person who told me everything about yoga. All my practices in this field happened because of him. I know for sure that he was a really big specialist in the former Soviet Union, people from all over the country came to Donetsk to have consultations with him.

So he is a yogi, he has been practicing it for decades. That was something that led people to believe that he's in better condition.

This is true. But we should realize that in prison the conditions are hard to survive for any kind of person. He is in a cell with 4 people and it’s really small. You can imagine how hard it is, when you're 63 years old, and all the time you spend it in a small room with three other people. They don't go for a walks. They are only allowed out once a week. We don't know for sure what conditions they have. Because everything we know now, only come from rumors. All we can say about the food, “they eat”. All the food comes from relatives or friends.

It's been a while since you were trying to really do something. What has been done? What's happening with opportunities to influence, to help him and to free him?

From the very beginning, we started to communicate with different international organizations about this case. We tried to communicate with the UN, OSCE, Red Cross and all the other international organizations that work in occupied territories to influence the situation, to help to find some solutions. But nothing really happened, mainly because they have no influence there. The Ukrainian governmental institution doesn't help either. All they can do is to ask questions during Minsk meetings, it's always the same question, and getting the same answer.

Of course, the Ukrainian state is not a body that can really argue for the Ukrainian citizens in Donetsk, it really wouldn't do much good. It's also a bit risky to make a strong appeal for the Ukrainian public. What do you think could be done at this stage?

I think the only way to set him free, is to raise this question not in the Minsk meetings, but in the Normandy format as well. We try to get the attention of the international media. We have had a briefing for the international information agencies such as Reuters and Associated Press. We asked all the journalists we knew personally, to share this information and try to make it as loud as they can. It is the only way this information can get to the Normandy format. We sent letters to all the ambassadors of European countries. We tried to reach some American senators and the Council of Europe.

What would be your appeal now? We will share this story with other people. What do you think people could also do?

I think the best way is to share information. We live in a time where information is passed on very quickly. We can reach many people we couldn't reach years ago. For example, we can talk to somebody from the government in social media. If people share this information it can work in the end.