“Does he still have arms?” Legs ? »
The cell phone stopped broadcasting on March 13. The young wife remembers precisely that day when her husband was captured while Russian troops occupied Dymer, a Ukrainian town about sixty kilometers from kyiv. Ten days later, the phone suddenly started working again. The woman calls a computer expert. As one would consult a diviner, she asks him: “Where’s the cell phone?” ». He is located in Krasnodar, in the southwest of Russia, 1,300 kilometers from Dymer: the specialist even finds him the new number through social networks. Without the war, its front lines and its impassable borders, the young wife would have already gone to Krasnodar.
Meanwhile, a neighbour, who disappeared at the same time as her husband, has been released from the Russian prison where they were both detained. She begs him. “Does he still have arms?” Legs ? You can tell me everything. Only one thing matters: that he is alive. “. The neighbor is silent. His detention broke him, it shows. He is no longer the same, physically.
Some nights, the young wife tells herself that she is going to call the cell phone. She can’t stop thinking about ” the other “, where the phone landed, there, in Krasnodar. She’s a woman, she stalked her on VKontakt, the Russian Facebook. She imagines him fat and ugly, of course. Anger seizes the young wife. “What normal person would ask her husband: if you go to Ukraine, bring me a prisoner’s cell phone? » She remembers her family photos on the phone. Did “the other” keep them? Does she look at them?
Chilling mix of torture and bureaucracy
Like many towns north of kyiv, Dymer has 58 civilians detained in Russia, including women, a significant number considering a population of 6,000. All were arrested and deported during the Russian occupation of the region from February 25 to March 22, a war crime according to the Geneva conventions, recalled a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in July. The NGO evokes “hundreds of non-combatant Ukrainians whom the Russian authorities thus forcibly disappeared”without charge.
“The agreements provide for soldiers against soldiers, wounded against wounded, But Moscow uses civilians as hostages”, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister
This situation can first be explained technically: the town of Dymer is located an hour’s drive from Belarus, a vassal state of Moscow, and therefore an easy way to evacuate Ukrainian prisoners. But why civilians? Less dangerous to catch than soldiers, “the Kremlin intended to use it as currency against Russian prisoners of war, therefore combatants”, explains Iryna Verechchuk, Deputy Prime Minister, long in charge of the file in kyiv. Exchange civilians for soldiers? “The laws of war forbid it: the agreements provide for soldiers against soldiers, wounded against wounded, continues Iryna Vereshchuk. But Moscow uses civilians as hostages, it’s business for them. » From then on, the liberations were done in dribs and drabs and the journey of these citizen prisoners today recounts a part of the war, a chilling mixture of torture and bureaucracy.
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