Almost two weeks after Ukrainian political prisoner Volodymyr Balukh went on hunger strike in the Russian-occupied Crimea, his lawyer has only just been able to see him. She reports that he is looking gaunt, and that the remand prison staff are putting pressure on him to end his hunger strike.
The Russian-controlled authorities have also blocked any access to the prisoner, and it remains to be seen whether the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman will respond to her Ukrainian counterpart Lyudmyla Denisova’s request that doctors examine him, according to KHPG, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
47-year-old Balukh declared hunger strike on March 19 in protest at his 2.5-year prison sentence on grossly fabricated charges after he refused to conceal his pro-Ukrainian position. Aside from a brief period under house arrest, he has been imprisoned since December 8, 2016, and there have been repeated concerns about his state of health.
Balukh is imprisoned in Simferopol, a fair distance from his home in Razdolne, making it effectively impossible for his elderly mother, who is in very bad health, to visit him.
Read alsoUkraine demands Russia release Balukh who's on hunger strike due to verdictHe was arrested on Dec 8, 2016, nine days after he nailed a plaque renaming his home No. 18 “Heroes of Nebesna Sotnya St’ in memory of the over 100 Maidan activists who were killed during Euromaidan. He had rejected demands from the head of the local council to remove it.
During a grossly irregular "search" of his home, 90 bullets and several TNT-filled explosive devices were allegedly "found" in his attic. He had no record of violence and the constant searches and series of administrative prosecutions he had faced since Russia’s invasion of Crimea for his openly pro-Ukrainian position made it inconceivable that he could have held anything illegal in his home.
There had been an almost unconcealed level of falsification in this case. The officer who had supposedly found the ammunition had not been on duty that day and could not name the individuals who had instructed him to be present or their position in the law enforcement bodies. He also had no explanation for why he had also climbed onto the roof and removed the Ukrainian flag flying there.
The ammunition "found" had no fingerprints or other traces to indicate that any member of the family had touched them.
During his final address on August 1, Balukh pointed out that there was in fact no criminal case, only a farce acted out by those instructed to play it to the end. His words were essentially a message for all Ukrainians and any person confronted with the possibility of retaining his liberty by betraying his principles and acting against his conscience.
“I don’t want my descendants, by that I mean the children of all Ukraine, to one day reproach me for having been cowardly, shown weakness," he said.