– Mr. Potekhin, last year you were held in captivity in Donetsk for 48 days and right now your case is being decided by European Court of Human Rights. Can you tell us who are you suing?
– I’m suing first of all Russia, of course, for the terrorist operation. This terrorist organisation is doing a terrorist operation in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and Ukraine – for the failure to provide rule of law on these territories.
– How did you come up with idea of suing Russia in the European Court Of Human Rights?
– It’s natural because Russia annexed the Crimea and Russia is helping the terrorists in Donetsk, and Russia itself is a terrorist organization basically. We still for some reasons call it ‘country’, for some reasons this organization has its diplomats in the UN Security Council, and here in Kyiv, but actually they are not diplomats, they are representing Russia, but they are representing not a country, they are now representing terrorist organization called Russia.
– There is international diplomacy, there is international law, but obviously Russia is continually denying presence in eastern Ukraine.
– Yes, but the world must recognize that today Russia is not a country anymore, it’s a terrorist organization. Sorry.
– When you filed your lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, what kind of evidences did you provide for the court to consider this case at all and did the court accept a case against Russia?
– Yes, of course. It accepted the application even before I was released. The case was filed by my sister, and when I was out, I of course provided more evidences, not only from myself but also from the people who were detained together with me, from the friends whom I contacted before I was arrested, because I managed to send several pictures while in Donetsk.
– What stage the case is at right now? Have there been any hearing were you invited the court to give any statements? Can you tell us?
– No, there were no hearings yet for this type of cases. They are not necessary live hearings for this type of cases, like what we know from some videos, from movies about courts. It can be done in a different way. My British lawyers from European Human Rights Advocacy centre of the Middlesex University in London, they are working on the case. And also Ukrainian Helsinki Group is helping with the case. I’m pretty sure that they are good guys and they are working on the case professionally. And I’m terribly thankful to all the people who are helping me now.
– Who is paying the legal fees for your lawyers?
– It’s arranged through international organizations, not me. I can’t pay the lawyers from the United Kingdom.
– You were held on the premises of the former art centre Isolyatsia which. In turn, is was former production facility, industrial facility and here is Google Maps screenshot of the part of Donetsk where this art centre Izolyatsia is located. Can you tell us what was happening here?
– Actually, it is a former plant, as you’ve mentioned, and former art centre, and it was turned into concentration camp, actually there are several places where people were held and probably they are still kept there. I know that people who were kept with me together, they were released, because I managed to contact them when I was released, but I’m not sure that international organisations, lawyers, OSCE or Red Cross or others they are visiting this place, because throughout these forty eight days of my detention there were no international organizations, no international observers, nobody. So, this place was unknown for international community before I left it.
– Looks like it was an outlawed place… Dmytro, could you make a step towards this map and show us what exactly was there on the premises of this detention facility?
– Actually this is an administrative building like any plant has and several hangars, and production facilities. I was kept first in an underground, in that basement cell and then I was interrogated and moved to an accounting room cell, it’s in this building. And then when I asked the prison guards or this concentration camp guards about the rights of detained women I was to the ‘lux’ cell. It’s not lux at all; it’s probably the worst cell in the whole concentration camp.
– So it’s quite sarcastic that it called ‘lux’?
– It was named this way by the prisons guards themselves and they were threatening people with sending to that cell. It’s very small cell actually, no windows, almost no oxygen there and I was kept there twice. First for three days with a bunch of people, ten other people. It was quite tough. We were not given water regularly and that was really serious.
– What is an Art Interrogation Room and Video Interview Spot?
– Well, Art Interrogation Room is a part of this factory which was really turned into art room. It’s a kind of fancy room, you can find such rooms in any art centre all around the world and it was quite absurdly that nice room with nice pictures on the walls and we were interrogated there – me and several other people before me. One week into detention I was asked to give interview for the journalists, definitely they were not journalists, contrary to Ukraine.
– Russian journalists?
-Well, they did not introduce themselves. I asked them… Because they were asking me who did I work for, like what agency, what CIA or something like that. But of course in return I asked them who did they work for and they did not answer the question.
– Can we discuss a little bit the details of your release? You were held there for 48 days, you were released. Did the government of Ukraine take part in your release negotiations? Was it some sort of prisoner exchange?
– In my case no exchange. I was not held as a military prisoner, so in my case I do not know how it worked frankly. I know that the terrorist, one of them after I was brought for interrogation by a FSB officer, it was about one week into the detention, he told me that actually Ukraine was not willing to exchange me and I answered that “I’m not insisting on exchange, I can just go.” And they said that also Russia does not want to take me. I said it’s not a problem at all, I’m not insisting on that too and they suggested to work for them, to work for the Life News Propaganda Channel and I of course said ‘no’. For a very simple reason: actually I could hear people being beaten for hours with words from the Russian and Donetsk propaganda channels. And I saw people beaten and seriously injured and they were beaten by the people who were indoctrinated by the Russian propaganda.
So, for me to give okay, to agree to this cooperation would mean to participate in violence. Not just in propaganda, but in violence.
– Again about your case with the European Courts of Human rights. Is the government of Ukraine helping you in any way with this case?
– Probably, but I do not know about that. I know that international human rights lawyers and activists they are seriously helping me with that. But I was asked several times and interviewed, and interrogated several times by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies. But it looked more like, you know, official and bureaucratic need to just report.
– Looks like it’s just you and the NGOs were helping you. Dmytro, many thanks for coming and talking to us.
– Thank you for having me today.