Stanislav Aseev – a journalist from Donetsk, from the moment of the occupation and until his arrest, he was being published on various Ukrainian media under a pseudonym “Stanislav Vasin”. Stanislav was abducted by the fighters of DPR in May 2017. On the 29th of December 2019, as a result of the exchange between Ukraine and the Isolated districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (IDDLR), Stanislav arrived in the territory under control of Ukraine.
Most of the time, after the abduction and before the release, Stanislav was being held down in the secret prison of the Ministry of State Security of “DPR” – “Isolation”, which Stanislav, quite literally, calls a modern concentration camp in Europe.
*“Isolation” is a former factory for the production of insulating materials. Since 2010, the non-governmental “Isolation” fund had been in operation here, which was organizing art and educational projects. After the occupation of Donetsk, this territory was being used as a secret prison of so-called Ministry of State Security of DPR.
**DPR – Donetsk People’s Republic.
Stanislav told us in this interview that tortures and murders were being committed in the “Isolation” prison and also shared his plans for the future
– Stanislav, good afternoon! Could you begin with telling us about how, when and why were you arrested?
– It happened on May 11, 2017. On that day, the so-called Republic Day was held and they celebrated the “referendum”, which took place in 2014, and I was making report for “Radio Svoboda”. I went to Donetsk city center, only carrying a backpack and a smartphone to make the report, and while returning back home to send the materials to the editor’s office, at Lenin square, an ordinary patrol approached me. They asked me to provide the documents, I showed them my passport, they started calling somewhere and 5 minutes later two persons in civilian attire ran up to me, wrung my hands, put the handcuffs on, shoved me into the car, put a bag on my head and took to the Ministry of State Security building on 26 Shevchenko Street, in the center of Donetsk. First they were just beating me there, and then the tortures along with interrogation began.
– Can you recall now, who those people were, who arrested you, tortured you and carried so-called investigative activities?
– After two and a half years of captivity, I can already tell, how the things were going there. Generally, a horizontal level of the operative agents, investigators and the head of the investigation department were all locals, these were members of the former Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine. The Russians appeared there starting from the deputy minister rank. Here, the person who spoke with me himself was the representative of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, and he coordinated the whole system there at the time of 2017. And the interrogations and tortures are carried by the locals mainly.
– And what exactly was incriminated to you after the arrest?
– I already have seven sections in criminal history due to my journalistic activities. The first section, of course, is for “espionage”. All the rest are related with my work in journalism. They took all my texts and send them for the expertise and found that these texts contain the elements of incitement to hatred and national hatred, and this point to the extremism. Since I am a representative of Ukrainian journalistic community, they designate this entire community as extremist – so this point to “participation in extremist community”. Another section is “call to extremism”. Then, “the abuse of the DPR symbols”. Generally, espionage and different kinds of extremism, associated with my journalistic works.
– Was there any “trial” in your case and what was its court decision?
– The trial passed in one day, just because I was being prepared for an exchange. On August 5, I received the first sentence – 15 years of imprisonment and then, another sentence was awarded at the end of August – 15 years more for the same criminal sections.
– Could you tell us where have you been detained after the abduction?
– The first month and a half I have spent in the cellar of the Ministry of State Security building in the center of Donetsk, on 26 Shevchenko Street. And there, in the cellar, in the solitary-confinement cell, they kept me for a month and a half. After that, I was transferred to the “Isolation”, where they kept me for 28 months, then 18 days I have spent in pre-trial detention facilities, and then a month and a half spent in prison colony № 32, and after that I was released as a result of an exchange.
Just for you to understand, what the cellars on 26 Shevchenko Street was, – this was 2 at 5 meters cell, very damp, cold, with moldiness on the walls, there was no toilet, one have to go to the toilet using plastic bottles, which were left there. It was permitted to visit toilet only twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. So if you needed visiting toilet during the day, you had to use containers only, in which the food was brought for you, and all this was under monitoring of the video cameras. Later, I was transferred to the “Isolation”, and a toilet was already present in the cell.
Generally, the basement on 26 Shevchenko Street building and the “Isolation” are all the conditions of the Ministry of State Security; these are the places, which do not exist officially, and its existence that they keep secret.
– Could you tell us, who were those people who are being detained in “Isolation”?
– There were indiscriminately anyone, everything was mixed up, and none separated anyone. Broadly speaking of the criminal sections, presented there, – espionage, extremism, terrorism, treason against the State, weapons and drugs sales were incriminated to these people. Speaking of political focus, people could be roughly divided into two categories. This, as they called them “the ukrops” – people of pro-Ukrainian position; espionage, extremism and terrorism were incriminated to all of them. The second category consisted of so-called “militia”, people who were generally thrown there because of the weapon sale incriminated. Yet they were treated much more brutally than us. While I was tortured by electricity, those people were being literally broken, because they understood that those prisoners will not pass through the exchange procedure, none gave a damn about them. They were being wrapped with mattresses and used in the function of the punching bags.
As for the Russians, there were citizens of Russian Federation imprisoned; they were treated even more severe, because the administration of “Isolation” camp hates Russians in general, since they believe that the Russians have betrayed them.
– As I understand from your story, the tortures in those conditions are more like a norm than the exception?
– Yes, indeed, tortures in conditions of “Isolation” are not an exception; an exception is if the person was not tortured. 19 of 20 people passed through endured tortures, including women; women were often being tortured even more brutally, I just cannot go into details, such details are too hard to describe. While men were often tortured with electro wires tied to their genitals, then women were being tortured in similar way.
– Could you, please, tell us in more detail about the tortures, used by the “Isolation” camp members against the people who are being detained there?
– Often people were tortured there without any operational necessity. The owner of the “Isolation” camp is a pathological psychopath and a sadist. When a person had already signed all papers, and when investigative actions were already being held, they continue to abuse the prisoner: one is beaten, one is driven under a board bed, one is forced to bark, and women are being beaten and raped.
The owner of the “Isolation” camp used to get drunk from Friday to Sunday, and then there began a horrible things one can hardly imagine. I was locked within the fourth cell, the third cell was women’s. And the owner directly told the girl that his assistants would come and take her to the shower where she would wash herself and then, after the bed time start, she should come to him.
And when I use the expression “concentration camp”, I want people to understand that this is not a figure of speech, this is not a loan translation of the Ukrainian media, who hate the Russian Federation. If one compares this with the Nazi concentration camps, the only exception is that there were no gas chambers in “Isolation” camp. In the territory of “Isolation” camp, there were murders, raping of men and women, cruel tortures, humiliation, breach of human dignity, forcing to a hard physical work. All these components allow calling this place a modern concentration camp, which is completely under control of the Federal Security Service.
– Have you been tortured personally?
– As for me, I was not tortured as hard as rest of the people. Indeed, I was tortured. In the first half an hour, after my arrest, I was just beaten with a rubber batoon in the same part of my leg, so it bloated like a ball. Then they brought me into the office, where the real tortures by electricity began. They tied an electro wires to my thumbs and tuned electricity on. Then they tied another wire to my ear and turned the electricity there too. And so I had to answer the questions under the influence of contraction of the facial muscles, due to which my speech became incoherent as after an apoplectic attack. And at the same time, they continued beating me for the fact that I could not clearly articulate my thoughts. Yet still I was not tortured the most severe way. The most common form of torture was tying the electro wire to genitals of men, and another wire, some sort of an electrode, was inserted into the anus and poured from above with water, the tortured person had to provide testimony at that time. This was one of the most common forms of torture. It happened that person could be tortured this way during seven hours. Moreover, the prisoner was taken into the cell, stripped naked and forced to dance openly to music turned on the mobile telephone.
– You said there were cases of murder on the territory of “Isolation”. Perhaps, you could tell about some specific cases?
– Certainly, but, in fact, the massive killings took place in 2014-2015. The indiscriminate killings were related mainly the gangs of Cossacks, who were transported to Donetsk, then they were off-loaded and those who refused to fight were just wasted and left right on this territory. In the summer, when we were taken to an outdoor shower, a smell of decaying corpses came from the ventilation; all those dead bodies were lying just there. As for year 2017, a man was killed just in front of my cellmates’ eyes, his spleen was beaten off, he began to get stained and just fell into hallucinations. It was told the head of “Isolation” that this person was dying and he needed urgent help, but, instead of providing help, the head of “Isolation” beat him even more relentlessly, and in three days this person died in the cell.
– You mentioned that people there were forced to a hard physical work. Can you recall what kind of work people were forced to do?
– The point is that the prisoners were actually used as slaves. We were fed very poorly, it used to happen that they did not give us food for a week, but at the same time, people were involved in hard work on the territory of “Isolation” camp, the prisoners could carry metal, move the bricks etc. Also the inmates were being taken out to work at a military training ground.
– As a journalist, you worked directly on the occupied territory and covered the military conflict. Could you tell something about this war and what is the role of the Russian Federation in it?
– Definitely, above all, we are at war with the Russian Federation. I was imprisoned along with people, who fought on the other side, and they told how they took part in the battles for the Donetsk Airport along with “Wagner” Private Military Company, and there were both contract soldiers of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and professional mercenaries. Another detail is that the whole vertical, both the military and special services, and also politics are all permeated by Russian curators. I say it again, I was interrogated by the deputy minister, who is a personnel officer of the Federal Security Service.
– Half a year has already passed since your release. What are you doing now, and what are your plans for the future?
– After the release, I spent three months in Czech Republic in rehabilitation, and now I am in Kyiv. All this time I was engaged in writing a book about this concentration camp in which I was imprisoned. I wrote part of these materials being in “Isolation”, but they were predictably taking away during the search and seizure, so I had to restore them from my memory out of necessity. The book will be about what we discussed in this interview, yet everything will be described in more detail there. Today, the book is already finished. I hope it will be released this autumn.
I would like to say that my goal now is to communicate to as many people as possible and tell about the fact that today, in 2020, in the territory under control of the Russian Federation, there is an active concentration camp exists.
Materials prepared by Mykhailo Batrak, translation by Helen Nikolova.