On 10 March, it was reported that the occupiers had convicted three Ukrainian servicemen, including the captured human rights activist Maksym Butkevych. A court of the self-proclaimed LPR found Butkevych guilty of 'war crimes' and sentenced him to 13 years in a strict regime colony.
We are convinced that the crime charged against Butkevнch is a demonstrative reprisal and an example of Russia's war on the information front. The Russian Federation is waging a disinformation campaign trying to portray a well-known public figure with a clear anti-fascist position and an impeccable professional reputation as a "Nazi" and "punisher."
"Maksym is a prisoner of war who should be protected by the Third Geneva Convention. He is also an 'accentuated' or charismatic prisoner because many different people speak for him. So he was simply used for a show trial that was identical to the trials of the Stalinist era. Back then, the convicts confessed that they were preparing an assassination attempt on the country's leadership, wanted to dig a trench to Australia, or were Japanese spies. This is the same. The episode described as the fact of a crime that took place on 4 June 2022 in Sievierodonetsk simply could not have involved Butkevych because he was in Kyiv at the time. But on camera, he says that he was in Sievierodonetsk," explains Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Member of the Board of Directors of NGO Docudays UA, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.
NGO Docudays calls on the Ukrainian and world cultural and human rights communities to demand that Maksym and other service members be included in the exchange procedure and returned to Ukraine and to spread information about the absurdity of the fabricated "criminal offences" against the Ukrainian military.
Human rights organisations emphasise that both the Ukrainian side and independent international organisations do not have access to prisoners of war held by Russia. According to those who have returned from captivity, the detainees usually confess as a result of torture.
In late June 2022, it was reported that Maksym Butkevych was taken prisoner during hostilities near the seized settlements of Zolote and Hirske in Luhansk region. In March, Maksym temporarily suspended his human rights, journalistic, humanitarian and educational activities, joining the Armed Forces of Ukraine as part of the Special Separate Battalion Berlingo.
Sources: Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Suspilne Media, BBC.
Maksym Butkevych is a Ukrainian human rights activist and journalist who joined the Ukrainian army in March 2022. Maksym is the coordinator and co-founder of the project No Borders, which aims to help Ukrainian IDPs find asylum. He has been involved in human rights work for about 10 years and is one of the most prominent Ukrainian human rights activists. He specialises in assisting refugees, IDPs and combating discrimination. Previously, Maksym also worked for the BBC World Service and a number of Ukrainian TV channels, was a guest lecturer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy for several years, and was a board member of the Ukrainian office of Amnesty International and the Public Council at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.