Peremozhne village, Lutuhyne district, Luhansk region is located 20 km. from the city of Luhansk and 3 km. from Luhansk International Airport. Since April 2014, together with other neighbouring villages and towns, Peremozhne came under the control of illegal armed groups of the so-called “LPR.”
During an interview with residents of Peremozhne village, the Documentation Center of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (hereafter the UHHRU Central Committee) revealed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the context of the July-August 2014 defence of Luhansk airport. Violations of the right to life, liberty, personal integrity and freedom of expression were recorded in the testimonies of the respondents.
UHHRU believes that shooting of civilian homes, confiscation of property, intimidation and killing of civilians, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions and torture are illustrative examples of typical violations of human rights and international humanitarian law due to the conflict in the East of Ukraine. The persecution of civilians in the settlements of Luhansk Oblast was based on the differences between their political views and those of the militants.
Killings of Civilians
From April to the end of May 2014, the residents of Peremozhne, who worked at the airport, continued to perform their duties. At the end of May, the NPF began shooting in the outskirts of the resort. Due to the danger that threatened the workers, on 11 June 2014, Lugansk International Airport was officially closed. According to Ukrainian servicemen, local residents and volunteers, from the very beginning of the military’s stay in Luhansk airport (when air defence units could not provide them with food, hygiene, medicine, fuel and other necessities), aid came from Luhansk residents and locals, including residents of the Peremozhne village.
The UHHRU Central Committee received information that during the events at Luhansk airport, armed groups of the so-called “LPR,” together with Russian military personnel, were involved in the killing of civilians. According to the sources, the killings were targeted (“listed”) and were not widespread or systematic. The victims of the killings “according to the list” were 37 people from the settlements around the Luhansk airport, among them seven people (three women and four men) were residents of Peremozhne village.
During an interview, the UHHRU Central Committee found out that three residents of Peremozhne were victims of detention, torture and ill-treatment by illegal armed groups of the Luhansk People’s Republic. People were detained at checkpoints and taken away in an unknown direction. The detainees were accused of aiding the Armed Forces and / or the pro-Ukrainian position and were detained for information. The conditions in which the victims found themselves were similar to ill treatment.
The Impact of Hostilities on People
As a result of the fighting in the area of Luhansk airport and nearby villages, there was a devastating impact on the lives of civilians. The population of Peremozhne in 2013 was 656 people.
According to villagers, constant shootings damaged private houses and outbuildings. Residents of Peremozhne were forced to constantly hide in basements unsuitable for this purpose, without a ventilation system and toilets.
One of the residents says: “The neighbour’s house is also broken, everything burned down there, everything. They were sitting in the basement. As the shooting began, I went down to them. It is not clear that the bullets are whistling, and the three of us were hiding in the basement. And we sat. We were sitting, we didn’t know what to do next.”
People were left without electricity and gas, had difficulties with food supplies, disconnected communications, and had limited access to hospitals and medicines. Sources mentioned cases when doctors and paramedics of Ukrainian volunteer battalions provided them with medical care.
In June-July 2014, civilian volunteers assisting the Ukrainian army became the target of increased attention from illegal armed groups controlled by the Russian Federation: they were meticulously checked at checkpoints and collected information about their movements.
“Many of Peremozhne’s residents worked at Luhansk airport. And when the fighting began, some residents of the village began to provide humanitarian assistance to the military, mostly products. And for that they got shooting lists of fighters. In addition, there were not only those who helped the army but also those who more or less actively testified to their pro-Ukrainian position, those who had more property than the rest, who were more successful”, recalls lawyer Euhenia Zakrevska.
The Militants Were Looting
There was no evacuation from the settlement organised by the government. With the beginning of shooting Peremozhne, some residents went to safer areas on their own. The events of 10 August (a couple of Alyokhin volunteers were detained and taken away in an unknown direction, later found dead) and 13 August 2014 (shooting of Peremozhne with BM-21 “Hail”) prompted people to leave for government-controlled territory, many residents of the district left their homes. According to witnesses, Ukrainian servicemen helped them cross the uncontrolled territory.
At that time, members of the NPF were engaged in looting: all valuables, equipment, furniture and cars were confiscated from the owners, and the remaining houses were used as a military commandant’s office in Peremozhne. Even now, the number of dead and injured among the civilian population as a result of the chaotic shooting of Peremozhne village from July to the end of August 2014 is not known for sure.
Torturing for Helping the Ukrainian Army
Interviews held by the UHHRU Central Committee revealed that the victims of torture and ill-treatment by the NPF were civilians suspected of aiding the Ukrainian military. They were kept in inhumane and degrading conditions, often without food and water at high temperatures. Victims were beaten to obtain confessions for “illegal” acts or information about others.
One of the victims stated that he was detained on 13 August during crossing the checkpoint between the villages Krasnodon and Peremozhne. His documents and money were taken and sent to the commandant’s office. The detainee was beaten, imitated a shooting, and intentionally wounded. Having received four bullet wounds in the leg, the victim did not receive any medical care. After the wound festered, the victim, under the supervision of a security guard, removed three bullets with a bayonet. For five days he was handcuffed to a ladder on the street, for some time with a bag on his head. He was taken away for questioning every day, beaten and chained to a ladder again. All the time in captivity, the victim was in the open air, without any amenities.