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7 Aug, 2014 01:56

Abductions, lawlessness: Amnesty International slams pro-Kiev ‘vigilantes’

Abductions, lawlessness: Amnesty International slams pro-Kiev ‘vigilantes’

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the abuse of power by pro-Kiev “vigilantes,” including Ukrainian ultra-radical MP Oleg Lyashko. The organization described instances of abductions and physical abuse of victims.

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So-called “interrogations” carried out by Lyashko – which he has boasted about on his official YouTube page – alarmed the human rights watchdog. Amnesty issued a report calling for the lawmaker to be held accountable for his actions.

“Amnesty International has recently raised its concerns with the Ukrainian authorities about one particularly errant MP who has been ‘detaining’ – in effect abducting – and ill-treating individuals across the region,” the organization said in a statement.

Oleg Lyashko (RIA Novosti / Evgeny Kotenko)

Lyashko is the leader of the pro-Ukrainian Radical Party, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and a former presidential candidate who is notorious for his nationalist and anti-Russian views.

“Oleg Lyashko is supposed to be a lawmaker, but he has taken the law into his own hands,” the statement said. “‘Glory to Ukraine, death to the occupiers’ is his rallying cry.”

The lawmaker is always accompanied by armed young men in military clothing as he travels and records his abductions.

Members of the Ukrainian far-right radical group Right Sector (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

After kidnapping and abusing individuals who he believes are supporting the self-defense forces, Lyashko posts videos of the kidnappings, praising his own actions.

The videos show abuse that violates “the rights to fair trial, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.”

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One of the videos posted shows Lyashko, along with armed persons, “interrogating” two men. One of the captives is shown in his underwear with two bleeding wounds. The person identifies himself as Igor Khakimzyanov, the former minister of defense of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk.

Warning: Some viewers may find the footage disturbing.

Another clip shows the kidnapping of a member of the Lugansk regional council, Arsen Klinchayev. He is shown bare-chested, handcuffed, and clearly dazed.

An additional video shows Lyashko forcing the mayor of Slavyansk to write a “voluntary” letter of resignation. The mayor gives in after Lyashko threatens to throw him out of the fourth floor window.

According to Amnesty International, Lyashko’s actions are a “flagrant violation of international legal standards which clearly state that only competent authorities can arrest or detain people.”

Warning: Some viewers may find the footage disturbing.

The human rights watchdog sent a letter to the Ukrainian general prosecutor, calling for an investigation into Lyashko’s abuse of power, as well as other cases of kidnappings and mistreatments by pro-Kiev forces.

“All those responsible for, or complicit in, these violations must be brought to justice, and the victims of such abuses must receive reparation,” the organization said in the statement.

The Ukrainian crisis began in November after President Viktor Yanukovich put on hold the signing of the association agreement with the EU, saying it would be against national interests at that moment. The decision sparked months of fierce protests on Kiev’s Maidan square, which ended with a February coup and the ouster of Yanukovich.

However, the largely Russian-speaking southeastern regions of Ukraine did not support the coup-imposed Kiev government, which led to the rise of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics and the popular self-defense movement. In order to suppress the self-defense forces, which Kiev has blasted as “terrorists” trying to “disintegrate” the country, the newly formed Ukrainian government scrambled to create the so-called National Guard and sent it to eastern Ukraine along with regular armed forces.

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Since then, the bloody standoff has displaced over 117,000 people in eastern Ukraine, UN refugee agency UNHCR reported on Monday. As of August 1, at least 168,000 people have fled to Russia. However, Russian authorities have put the total number at 740,000 since January.

Ukrainian forces have been accused of shelling and launching airstrikes at residential areas, which Kiev officials have blatantly denied.

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Meanwhile, fighting continues in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, where at least 1,129 people have been killed since April, according to UN data.

Ukrainian servicemen gather near a cannon being fired during a military operation near Pervomaisk, Lugansk region August 2, 2014 (Reuters / Maks Levin)