Flash mob with the hashtag #FreeKozlovskyy is gaining popularity on social media in Ukraine. It is orginized in support of scientist, philosopher, religious scholar Ihor Kozlovskyy, who is imprisoned in occupied Donetsk, and who was awarded with the Medal for his peacekeeping activities from the Austrian Society Albert Schweitzer. Law enforcers of the so-called Donetsk People’s republic (DPR) detained the 63-year-old man on January 27, 2016, when he left the apartment to take out the garbage. His son of Slavik, who has Down syndrome and is confined to a wheelchair, remained at home.
The scientist was first charged with "espionage", then with "storage of two combat grenades". The family of Ihor believes that the charges against him are fabricated and that he has been imprisoned illegally for more than a year.
The nephew of the famous Ukrainian scientist, Denys Kozlovskyy, in an interview with Ukrinform, told about what he knows about the health of Ihor Kozlovskyy and about the problems his son Slavik faced after moving to Kyiv.
-As understood, the family doesn’t agree with charges against Ihor Anatoliyovych and considers his imprisonment in the occupied territory in Donetsk region as absurd?
- That's it. It’s a completely groundless and unjustified detention and imprisonment of the person who has never been related to any conflicts. He has been occupied with scientific and humanistic activities for his entire life, he devoted much of his time and efforts to building an inter-confessional consensus in Donetsk region. Peacekeeping activities, in general, was a vocation of Ihor Kozlovskyy, and he was always associated with the aspiration for building a dialogue "with everyone".
- Where is the scientist now?
- As far as I know, he is in detention center No.5 in Donetsk, not far from the Central Department Store.
In February, the so-called trial began. There were two hearings, the second one was held on March 15. The next is scheduled for April 20, 2017.
Almost immediately after the arrest, we hired a lawyer who can work in the territory of the "DPR". Although, there is no hope that he will manage to influence the situation.
- When did you last get in touch with your uncle? What did you speak with him about?
- Last year, Ihor Anatoliyovych made several short calls to the family. But he did not say anything about what was happening to him, because in the prison cell he is not alone, most likely, all phone conversations are taped.
We talked about common things, I wanted just to hear his voice, to make sure that he is keeping well, to support him morally.
We do not have any reliable information about the state of his health. We know from some sources that his legs hurt, that arthrosis in his knee aggravated, that there were serious disruptions in his digestive system. And in general - staying in captivity without proper nutrition, fresh air and sunlight, of course, it affects the body.
My uncle was taken out of the detention center once to the second hearing [March 15, 2017]. Our relative managed to get there and see Ihor Anatoliyovych, but we could not talk to him. She said my uncle looked pale, haggard, and it was obvious that the man was exhausted.
- What were the reasons for Ihor Anatoliyovych’s detention?
- We do not know. Only certain circumstances of his detention are known. One evening law enforcers were waiting for the scientist at the entrance of his house and then he was detained while he went out literally for a minute to take out the garbage. Then they came into the apartment - either taking an advantage of the fact that my uncle did not close the door, or they simply took the keys - and began to search, seize documents, money, things.
- What is imputed upon Ihor Kozlovskyy, what is he suspected of?
- He is charged with the first part of article 256 of the so-called "Criminal Code of the DPR" - illegal storage of explosives. Allegedly, they found two grenades in the bookcase during the detention, which, of course, is absurd. He had never had any grenades, or any other weapon. I think they did not even bother to put these grenades in his apartment, but just wrote that they had seized them.
- The Ukrainian side added Ihor Anatoliyovych on the lists for “exchange" with the separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the issue of his release was raised at a meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk. Why hasn’t he been released?
- As far as I know, after Ihor Kozlovskyy, in May-June 2016, was included on the lists for exchange, the Ukrainian side during almost all meetings of the humanitarian subgroup in Minsk raised the issue of his release. But the opposite side always refused to include him on the list under various pretexts. Representatives of the “DPR” confirmed that they imprisoned him, and explained that they refused to put him on the list for exchange, according to the latest version, because he was a citizen of the “DPR”, and not a prisoner of war detained during the conflict.
- Does your uncle have a passport of the “DPR”?
- No, he hasn’t re-registered anywhere. All the documents he has are the Ukrainian documents.
- Why do you think he is being held there? The family probably has some suggestions.
- We have no suggestions. Obviously, someone on the side of the separate districts of Donetsk region blocks all attempts to free the scientist. What are the reasons - we do not know.
- Ihor Anatoliyovych did not leave the city after the beginning of the occupation until the moment of his detention. What did he do all this time?
- My uncle had the common life of a pensioner and never left home for more than two-three hours, as his sick son requires special care.
- Where is the family of Ihor Anatoliyovych now?
- The family of Ihor Anatoliyovych left occupied Donetsk separately. When the conflict reached the heated stage, his youngest son Oleksandr left the city, then his wife Valentyna moved. Ihor Anatoliyovych stayed in the city with Sviatoslav (Slavik).
After the arrest of the scientist, the family started looking for a way to take Sviatoslav away, but since all the documents were seized during the search, it was impossible to cross the demarcation line and move to the territory that is controlled by the Ukrainian government. I had to wait about nine months, while the investigator of the so-called "Ministry of State Security of the DPR” would return at least the passport of Slavik.
In October 2016, we finally managed to transport him. Now the family lives in Kyiv. However, since Ihor Anatoliyovych was appointed as guardian of Slavik, after his father's detention, he doesn’t receive any financial benefits: either a pension, or assistance for displaced persons, anything from what should be paid in line with the law. In order to resume payments, you need to re-register the documents, collect dozens of references, and it is extremely difficult to do this.
- You have recently organized the flash mob #FreeKozlovskyy on social media. Why have you decided to attract public attention to the release of Ihor Anatoliyovych right now?
- When a year passed since the arrest of Ihor Anatoliyovych, we realized that it is impossible to solve this issue at the level of the Minsk Group, we need to transfer the dialogue into the level of the Normandy format, international summits. There must be a pressure on the political leadership of Russia from the first persons of the Normandy Four states. First of all, these are Germany, France, as well as the leadership of the United States of America. As it was with all political prisoners, like with Nadia Savchenko, whose story was in all news reports, and whose release was on the agenda. I think, now it’s the only way to achieve the release of Ihor Anatoliyovych.
Reference: Ihor Anatoliyovych Kozlovskyy, the 63-year-old resident of Donetsk, Ukrainian scientist and religious scholar, candidate of historical sciences, professor, teacher, president of the Center of Religious Science Research and International Spiritual Relations, head of the International Center for Christian-Muslim Dialogue and Cooperation.
Ihor Anatoliyovych is the author of more than 50 scientific books, more than 200 articles in dictionaries, encyclopedias, periodicals. For more than 25 years he worked as a chief specialist for religious affairs at Donetsk Regional State Administration, was a lecturer at the universities of Donetsk.
All professional activity of the scientist was aimed at fostering respect and tolerance, peace and mutual understanding among various faiths, at promoting the formation of multicultural, multinational and polyconfessional assortment of Donbas. He visited various religious and social leaders in different parts of the world, met with Patriarch Alexy II, Pope John Paul II, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS Levi Levayev and others. As a lecturer, he visited the universities of the United States - Harding University, Pepperdine University
He was awarded the Medal for his peacekeeping activities from the Austrian Albert Schweitzer Society.
Kateryna Zavada, Kyiv