Hunger-striking Political Prisoner Falls Ill in Crimean Court
15 June, 2018

Ukrainian political prisoner Volodymyr Balukh fell ill during his court trial today in annexed Crimea, RFE/RL reports. An ambulance was called to the court.

The 47-year-old has been on hunger strike for nearly three months now.

Photo credit: Anton Naumliuk/RFE/RL

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marina Betsa wrote later on Twitter that the imprisoned Ukrainian activist is in critical condition.

According to Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Klyment, Balukh’s public defender, the political prisoner had been complaining of heart pain for the last three days.

“When he requested to see a doctor, he was categorically refused permission by the Simferopol detention center [where he is being held]. That now he’s had a heart attack is tied to the fact that Volodymyr has been searched every day since Friday. These searches go on in the morning, during the day, at night. This man is being driven to a nervous breakdown. The head of the Simferopol detention center Berezhnyi is responsible for this,” said Klyment.

Just prior, on June 15, the Kremlin-controlled Rozdolnensky District Court questioned Balukh’s former wife Nataliya. She described the frequent clashes between Balukh and the Simferopol detention center head. Nataliya said Balukh is continuously subjected to insults about his nationality.

On March 19 Volodymyr Balukh announced a hunger strike to protest his conviction on fabricated charges.

READ MORE: Crimean Political Prisoner Declares Hunger Strike

The “court” of annexed Crimea sentenced Balukh to three years and seven months in a penal colony-settlement and fined him 10,000 rubles (about $160) in January 2018. This is already the second “court case” opened against Balukh.

The administration of the Simferopol detention center has not been monitoring the illegally imprisoned Ukrainian activist’s hunger strike.

On June 8, the families of Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia met with President Petro Poroshenko for the first time. Family members, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov’s cousin, had been demanding a meeting for several years.

The President was given a letter from Crimean political prisoner Volodymyr Balukh, who had been on hunger strike for 82 days. Balukh appealed to the president to facilitate the creation of a civic coordinating committee, which would oversee the process of freeing the Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in Russia and Crimea, as well as the hostages in Donbas.

/Translated by Larissa Babij