Since 2019, militants of “Donetsk People’s Republic” have been holding Olena Zaitseva and Vladyslav Zaitsev captive. The mother and the son were accused of plotting sabotage. Their story was told by the Media Initiative for Human Rights.

In February 2019, militants detained 19-year-old Vladyslav in the village of Verkhniotoretske. He was accused of plotting sabotage. He allegedly intended to plant explosives to destroy a railway bridge.

Later that day, militants detained his mother, Olena, who worked on the railroad. According to former prisoners who spoke with Zaitseva, on the day of her detention she ran after her son and voluntarily got into a car of “Ministry of State Security.”

At first, the woman was told that she would not be detained, but later she was “arrested” for 30 days.

“For a whole month, Olena was kept in Izolyatsia prison – she was not taken for ‘interrogations.’ And when she met with an ‘investigator,’ she returned to the cell in tears, her hands were shaking. She was told that her son was facing up to 20 years in prison and she would also be given a long term, not specified yet. In addition, Olena heard from someone that her son was tortured and forced to incriminate himself,” the human rights activists say.

Olena Zaytseva DonbassThe woman was kept in a secret prison for two months and then was transferred to a Donetsk pre-trial detention centre. This was probably due to deteriorating health status as Zaitseva had bleeding that did not stop for several weeks.

“She lost a lot of weight, she was raw-boned. She said that she was not taken to the investigator. She was forced to sign some papers to confirm she was allegedly an accomplice. They said that she had to do it for the sake of her son so that he would not be tortured. The bleeding continued, she could not see a doctor,” says a former hostage, who met Zaitseva in the pre-trial detention centre.

The woman’s relatives consulted with doctors who believe that her symptoms indicate cancer and require immediate surgery:

“But it is impossible in a pre-trial detention centre. It is even forbidden to hand over medicines there, so Zaitseva does not have them.”

Vladyslav and Olena are currently being held in the pre-trial detention centre in Donetsk. Former prisoners say that the boy’s health condition is also unsatisfactory as he had come under fire at the age of 14 and got head burns and contusions, provoking constant headaches.

As a reminder, militants in Donbas regularly detain people, subsequently accuse them, for example, of espionage and imprison. Militants put Maryna Yurchak behind the bars for 15 years for alleged collaboration with the Security Service of Ukraine. Serhiy Kuris from Donetsk, accused of terrorism because of a book borrowed from his friend, has been held in a basement for more than a year. Recently, “LPR” militants sentenced Dmytro Orobiy to 12 years in prison on “espionage” charges.

Since monitors and human rights defenders do not have access to places of detention in the occupied territories, it is difficult to assess the information about the lives of prisoners there. However, available reports indicate that they live in inhumane conditions.

Earlier, ZMINA wrote about Vitaliy Atamanchuk, a 74-year-old resident of Donetsk who had been put to prison for 17 years allegedly for spying for Ukraine.

The hostage’s daughter, Aliona, has been seeking her father’s release for several years. Despite the fact that Atamanchuk’s name is on the exchange lists, the pensioner and a former miner is still in captivity.

ZMINA Human Rights Centre

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