Former Kremlin prisoner Balukh severely beaten in Kyiv
Volodymyr Balukh, a former Ukrainian political prisoner in Russia, was assaulted and beaten up late on Sept. 7, exactly one year after he was released from jail as part of a major prisoner exchange between Ukraine and the Kremlin in 2019.
According to the police, Balukh was found severely beaten near the Hydropark metro station, in a park in the center of Kyiv. He had neither a mobile phone nor a bank card with him.
The incident was first reported by Oleg Sentsov, another former captive who was freed as part of the same swap. According to Sentsov, Balukh was attacked overnight and discovered on the morning after.
“He is in a hospital, in a severe condition,” Sentsov wrote on Facebook on Sept. 8.
Later, Sentsov also added that Balukh was awake, and that he had his arm and his collar bone broken.
According to the police, Balukh’s life is not in danger.
“An inquiry group of the most experienced police officers has been created to investigate the crime,” law enforcers said. “The police are also present at the hospital to talk to the victim as soon as doctors allow it.”
Ukrainska Pravda, a media outlet, said referring to its sources in law enforcement Balukh had sustained a severe head injury and was prepared for being operated on.
Before Russia’s invasion in Crimea in early 2014, Balukh was a village farmer living in the peninsula’s northwest. He refused to give up on his Ukrainian citizenship and acquire a Russian passport as the Kremlin invaded and annexed Crimea, and he was reported to have waived the Ukrainian flag over his farmstead.
For that, Balukh came under pressure by Russian occupational authorities, which searched his house on several occasions and then eventually detained and sentenced him on charges of illegal possession of munitions in 2017. In September 2019, he was eventually released and sent to Ukraine as part of the prisoner swap between the two conflicting conflicting countries.
The Presidential Office said that “there is no confirmed evidence in favor of political motives behind the assault” of Balukh.
“But all versions must be carefully checked, specifically the political one,” President Volodymyr Zelensky’s press service said. “Street violence in Ukraine has lately reached a dangerous level. Criminals have decided that the principle of imminent justice is not working. We expect that law enforcers demonstrate more systematic work to restore order in the street and prevent crimes.”