On the night of 9 November, in Kyiv, SSU officers detained Denys Kulikovsky, also known as Palych and Hades, on suspicion of committing serious crimes in the secret prison called “Isolation” in Donetsk. According to the victims (as of today, the Interior Ministry has identified 166 victims), Kulikovsky was the Head of the secret MSS DNR prison until 2018 and personally participated in the killings, torture and rape of people illegally detained by militants.

Stanislav Aseyev, a Ukrainian journalist who has been held captive by militants for more than two years (2017-2019), described Kulikovsky’s cannibal ferocity and his sadistically gruesome tortures. This book is already available in Ukrainian, Russian, English and German. It can be called a civil sentence for the executioners of “Isolation.” The actual testimony of Aseyev and other prisoners is already included in the criminal proceedings against Denys Kulikovsky and his subordinates, as law enforcement officers were preparing a procedure of sentencing against them in absentia.

However, Palych-Hades will have to appear in person in front of a Ukrainian court. His actions are entirely under the definition of crimes against humanity. The circumstances of his detention remain unknown. The key question: how did Kulikovsky appear in the Ukrainian capital? The official version has not been announced, the unofficial ones range from a special extortion operation to an “agreement under the SSU guarantees.” Whatever the mechanics of the detention, a law enforcement officer found himself in the hands of Ukrainian law enforcement, the trial of which could be strong evidence of the criminality of the regime itself, which Russia had established through its puppet governments in Donbas.

Kulikovsky may hope to be on the prisoner exchange list. But here is an important detail: he was removed from his position in “Isolation” for abuse. According to Stanislav Aseyev, in an interview with “Radio Svoboda,” the formal reason was excessive rigidity, although it was more about some financial deals. But Palych really left the “bodies” (security bodies) in the self-proclaimed republic and lived in Russia for some time.

“Isolation” is an extremely inconvenient topic for militants and their Russian curators. For a long time, they generally denied the existence of this “institution.” There could be no talk of admitting human rights activists or representatives of the Red Cross. A real concentration camp on the site of an art space before the war, and even earlier, in Soviet times, a factory of insulating materials, was for a long time a gloomy place, which Donetsk residents preferred not to even mention in private conversations. The topic of “Isolation” came to the general public and international level after Stanislav Aseyev began to talk and write about it. In January this year, the Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the PACE, Mariya Mezentseva, made a report on the “Isolation” concentration camp at a meeting of the Assembly. Kulikovsky’s testimony may also become material of interest to Western human rights activists and politicians.

Meanwhile, the secret prison “MSS DNR” continues to operate today. In October, Stanislav Aseyev wrote: “Brief, but news about “Isolation” (information is about two months old): no one from the former administration of war criminals remained there. These people just disappeared (I understand, due to publicity). So, the system has changed a bit – there are no people close to the new people. Because of this, the radio and doing sports were banned (the horizontal bar was removed from the yard for walks), it is still impossible to lie on bunks during the day, and there is still movement with packages on one’s head. As for torture in basements, it is as if the “main work” is being done in the “office” (in the “MSS” – Ed.), so, there is no exact data on “Isolation,” except for the traditional “holding the wall.” The rotation of personnel in the concentration camp may be a kind of silent reaction to international publicity: the occupation regime is not going to admit its crimes, but is always ready to remove the most odious figures. This was the case with LNR atamans and other field commanders and political leaders of self-proclaimed republics.

Stepan Nazarenko

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