Ukrainians held in prisons in the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) but not mentioned by the media actually paid money to be included on prisoner exchange list, former LPR prisoner Denys Sekatsky told Censor.NET in an interview.
“I paid money for my freedom. That is, they demanded a ransom from me, for them not to kill me, and to confirm that they had included me on the list for exchange from the LPR. People came and handed over money through my attorney… I was not the only one. Perhaps I’m the only one who is talking about it, but more than half of us paid to get out,” he said.
However, the former prisoner pointed out that this was not the case with soldiers.
“They were lucky, at least luckier than the boys who came with us from Luhansk. Because journalists immediately found out about them, and they were mentioned in the news – and they were untouchable. Yes, they were also kept in inhumane conditions. But everyone found out about them straight away, and it was impossible to fudge the issue with them, impossible to deny they were there. They could hide us, not show us, and deny that we’d ever been there. I personally had been ‘missing’ for five months,” he said.
Sekatsky claims to have paid $32,000 for his freedom.
On December 29, 2019, Ukraine and the Russia-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics exchanged prisoners. 76 Ukrainians returned from the separatist-held territory, but four decided to remain with their families in the separatist-controlled territories.
The released Ukrainians included 12 soldiers and 64 civilians, including drivers who had transported passengers across the demarcation line and locals accused of working for the Ukrainian Security Service.
Ukraine handed 127 people over to the separatists, while another 14 refused to return to the temporarily separatist-held territory. Ukraine even handed over five former Berkut (special police) officers who were accused of shooting 48 unarmed people in Kyiv in February 2014.
Ukraine and Russia also exchanged prisoners in September 2019, in the format “35 for 35”. Russia returned to Ukraine the 24 sailors captured in the Kerch Strait incident and 11 political prisoners: Roman Sushchenko, Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, Stanislav Klykh, Mykola Karpuk, Olexii Syzonovych, Pavlo Hryb, Edem Bekirov, Yevhen Panov and Artur Panov.