Ukrainian journalist and blogger Stanislav Aseev, held captive by militants of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People’s Republic," has declared a hunger strike, according to former MP and friend Yegor Firsov.
Firsov wrote on social media yesterday that Aseev began his hunger strike a week ago, protesting mistreatment by Russian-backed separatists.
"Stas is being kept in a damp room, he’s sick, but doesn’t receive the medicine he needs,” Firsov posted on Facebook.
According to Firsov, Aseev’s health has been deteriorating since March 2018.
The ex-deputy also fears that Aseev could be force-fed because “this isn’t even a Russian prison.”
“They do what they want there,” he said.
Aseev was captured by "DPR" militants in June 2017. Prior to his arrest, he spent years secretly writing about life in occupied Donetsk for news outlets like Ukrainska Pravda, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Donbas.Realii project, under the pseudonym Stanislav Vasin.
READ MORE: A Journalist Disappears in Occupied Donetsk
“DPR” leaders initially denied Aseev’s arrest. They later, however, admitted he was detained under suspicion of espionage.
Donbas.Realii journalist Andriy Dykhtyarenko said he knew the journalist not as Aseev but as Vasin.
“We talked on the phone, he gave us his materials about Donbas, we have to remember that,” he said.
Firsov called on international organizations to turn their attention to Aseev’s hunger strike and, if possible, facilitate his early exchange.
Organizations including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have urged the “DPR” militants to release Aseev. However, the blogger was excluded from the large-scale prisoner exchange between the occupied territories and Ukraine last December.
Aseev is one of at least five Ukrainians on hunger strike in Russia and Russian-occupied territories.
Earlier this week, Crimean Tatar and political prisoner Emir Usein Kuku, who was arrested in Russia-occupied Crimea in 2016 on suspicion of being a member of pan-Islamist political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, also announced a hunger strike.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been outlawed by Russia as a terrorist organization but is legal in most countries, including Ukraine.
Kuku is one of more than a dozen Crimean Tatars detained by Russian authorities on what human rights groups and Western authorities say are fabricated charges. Kremlin-controlled authorities have been persecuting Crimean Tatars, the majority of whom oppose Moscow’s occupation of the peninsula, since its illegal annexation in 2014.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov, serving a 20-year sentence in a penal colony in Russia’s north, has been on hunger strike for 54 days. He is demanding that Russia release all Ukrainian political prisoners.
Crimean farmer Volodymyr Balukh, also imprisoned on what are widely recognized as fabricated charges, has been on hunger strike since March 19.
Oleksandr Shumkov, who is the ex-bodyguard of former Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh, also reportedly began a hunger strike in May.
Kyiv is now seeking a meeting with Moscow to discuss swapping 23 Russians and 13 prisoners with dual citizenship for Ukrainian political prisoners, including Senstov.
/By Natalie Vikhrov