The Kremlin stated on Friday that Russia is not required to reveal the whereabouts of a Ukrainian volunteer soldier who was found guilty and sentenced to prison for attempting to kill two civilians.
Amnesty International, a human rights organization, and PEN International, a writers’ organization, have both demanded information from Russia regarding Maksym Butkevych. His family and attorneys claim they have not been able to locate him since August.
Leading a refugee charity and volunteering to enlist in the military following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year—which Moscow refers to as a “special military operation”—Butkevych is a journalist and human rights activist.
“The Federal Penitentiary Service has no obligation to disclose, in response to such requests, the place of detention of a person sentenced to a long (jail) term,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about the case.
“He was convicted of a certain crime, there is a corresponding court decision, he is serving his sentence. That’s all there is to say.”
Butkevych was arrested last year when his unit was captured on the front line, and subjected to what Amnesty called a sham trial, without access to his lawyer.
He was sentenced in March to 13 years in prison. At the time, Russian investigators released a video of him confessing to a masked interrogator that he had deliberately fired from a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on a residential building, with intent to kill civilians.
Amnesty said the confession was made under duress, noting for example that Butkevych refers to the Russian-controlled Luhansk region of Ukraine as the Lugansk People’s Republic, the term used by Moscow.
“This is not the name for the location Maksym Butkevych would have used freely,” it said.
Two other Ukrainian men, Viktor Pohozei and Vladyslav Shel, were shown making similar confessions in the video and were sentenced to 8.5 and 18.5 years respectively in what Amnesty also described as sham trials.
Russia says its judicial system is free from political interference and last year revoked Amnesty’s registration to operate on its territory due to what it said were violations of the law.
Amnesty said at the time the move forced it to close its Moscow office and that it believed it was being punished for defending human rights.
(with inputs from agencies)