Photo from UNIAN

Over a dozen former prisoners of Vladimir Putin's regime who were eventually released from Russian captivity are launching a platform aimed to help free the remaining political prisoners still held by Russia and its proxy forces.

The founders presented the Platform at the Theological Academy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Kyiv on March 4, 2021, Euromaidan Press reports.

The founders stress the platform will be engaged in fighting for the release of "all Ukrainian citizens held behind bars – political prisoners, hostages, and prisoners of war."

"The platform is a non-partisan association set up to protect the rights of and release all those imprisoned for political reasons in the occupied territories and in [Russia]. Our goal is to restore justice for everyone, have political prisoners released, and counter Russian aggression," said Pavlo Hryb, one of the platform's co-founders who is also an ex-Kremlin prisoner.

Read alsoMedvedchuk, Surkov talk power supplies to occupied Crimea, prisoner swap – leaked call from 2014Hryb, along with ten other political prisoners and 24 Ukrainian sailors, returned to Ukraine in September 2019 as part of a major swap deal with Russia, the last effort of such scale ever since.

The platform was founded by:

  • Stanislav Aseyev, a journalist imprisoned in the occupied Donbas for over two years;
  • Volodymyr Balukh, a Crimean farmer jailed for flying a Ukrainian flag over his home;
  • Edem Bekirov, a disabled Crimean Tatar activist the Russian occupation authorities of Crimea accused of plotting an attack he physically could not have pulled off;
  • Akhtem Chiygoz, a leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis earlier persecuted by Russian occupation authorities of Crimea;
  • Pavlo Hryb, a Ukrainian teenager the Russian FSB lured out to Belarus, kidnapped and transferred him to Russia where he was accused of a terror plot;
  • Mykola Karpiuk, a Ukrainian hostage Russia tortured into "confessing" of Chechnya crimes;
  • Oleksandr Kolchenko, a Crimean left-wing activist Russia charged with plotting terror attacks as part of a hardliner Ukrainian nationalist group;
  • Ihor Kozlovskyi, a religious scholar earlier held in Donbas dungeons for nearly two years;
  • Ihor Movenko, a Crimean imprisoned for his pro-Ukrainian views;
  • Yevhen Panov, a Ukrainian activist the Russian occupation forces framed as a "saboteur";
  • Ismail Ramazanov, a Crimean Tatar jailed on fake extremism charges;
  • Mykola Semena, a Crimean journalist prosecuted for protesting Russia's landgrab;
  • Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker sentenced to 20 years for protesting the occupation of his native Crimea;
  • Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist earlier jailed in Russia on trumped up "espionage" charges;
  • Oleksandr Shumkov, a Ukrainian serviceman kidnapped across the Russian border and convicted of being a member of the Ukrainian Right Sector organization;
  • Volodymyr Zhemchugov, a Donbas-born Ukrainian guerilla fighter who lost his arms in the clash against Russian proxies; and
  • The clergy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Mufti of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Deputy Speaker of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz, says Russia will continue to illegally detain citizens of Ukraine as long as it continues its aggression and occupation of Ukrainian territories.

Over the last year the list of Kremlin hostages grew by 24. At the end of 2020, a total of 69 Crimean Muslims, most of whom are representatives of the indigenous minority population of Crimean Tatars, were imprisoned for being members of a Hizb ut-Tahrir organization, which is banned in mainland Russia. On February 17, six more Crimean Tatars were detained.

Filmmaker Oleg Sentsov shared that the Platform will hold information campaigns raising awareness about Ukrainian prisoners – both in Ukraine and beyond – to create pressure on the Russian leadership.

"At the international level, meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin should begin with questions about the release of Ukrainian political prisoners," he said.

Read alsoUkrainian film director, ex-Kremlin prisoner Sentsov welcomes third baby (Photo)Former hostage Ihor Kozlovskyi said that each of the Platform's participants is reaching out to international partners. The Platform is open to cooperation.

Currently, there are over 100 political prisoners from Ukraine being held in Russia or occupied Crimea. At least 150 Ukrainian hostages are being held by the Russian puppet "Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics" in eastern Ukraine.