Amnesty calls for Russia to release Ukrainian prisoners

10th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Russia to urgently investigate allegations of war crimes in Ukraine and free two prisoners it said were illegally taken across the border.

"We are calling on the Russian government to immediately hand over two of the prisoners they are holding from Ukraine in Russia," Amnesty chief Salil Shetty told journalists in Moscow.

He named one as Ukrainian air force navigator Nadiya Savchenko, who has been detained and charged in Russia over the deaths of two Russian journalists.

The other was Ukrainian film maker Oleg Sentsov, who has been arrested on charges of plotting "terrorist attacks" in Crimea after its annexation by Russia, Shetty said.

"We believe both of them have been unlawfully removed from Ukraine. They have been detained on fabricated charges, so we are calling for them to be immediately returned to Ukraine."

Shetty was visiting Moscow following a trip to Ukraine during which he met Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Amnesty International has accused fighters on both sides in the Ukraine conflict of war crimes including indiscriminate shelling, abductions, torture, and killings.

Shetty reiterated that "we are calling for a full investigation of allegations of war crimes on both sides".

Liability for war crimes goes "to the very top" of the chain of command in both countries, Shetty said.

Russia is "directly and actively involved in the conflict and is party to the conflict," Shetty said.

He cited satellite imagery showing "the level of buildup of mobile artillery and armoured units" that he said it was not possible for the pro-Russian separatists to have carried out on their own.

"The denial from the Russian government that they are involved in the conflict in the east (of Ukraine) does not absolve them from responsibility," he said.

Shetty said he had asked to meet President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov while visiting Russia but the requests were turned down.

"We are disappointed," Shetty said.

He said Amnesty International was investigating "recurring reports of Russian military servicemen receiving treatment for wounds and of secret funerals" after apparently serving in Ukraine.

"These are servicemen who are wounded or dead in unexplained circumstances," Shetty said.

"It has been very difficult for us to gather detailed information about this for understandable reasons, but we are working on this," said Anna Neistat, senior research director at Amnesty International.

© 2014 AFP

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