Family searches for answers to disappearance of Crimean health activist

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Health activist and blogger Iryna Danylovych was returning home from work at a boarding house in southeast Crimea on April 29 when she disappeared, allegedly detained by Russian authorities on the peninsula for allegedly passing information to a non-governmental organization.

But his family and lawyer cannot be sure. They have been unable to determine Iryna’s whereabouts despite filing an abduction complaint with the police and appealing to Russian authorities who have been in control of the Ukrainian peninsula seized since 2014.

More than a week after her disappearance, Iryna’s family and legal representation have few clues to work on.

Her father, Boronyslav Danylovych, told RFE/RL’s Crimea Realities bureau of Ukraine’s service that video footage from a local gas station emerged showing a woman who looks like his daughter standing at a bus stop when several people plain clothes jump out of a black vehicle and force her into the car.

Her attorney, Aider Azamatov, determined that she was not at the local detention center where she would most likely be held, in the Black Sea town of Sudak, and extended his search to the entire Crimea.

When it became clear that Iryna was not in any of the regional detention centers covering the Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, Azamatov appealed to the territorial branch of the Russian investigative committee and the prosecutor’s office. military of the Black Sea Fleet. Azamatov has yet to get a response.

Despite the sequel reports by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center that she was in the remand center in Simferopol, Azamatov was informed by the facility on 6 May that she was not there.

The situation left Boronyslav Danylovych hopeful that his daughter – who was due to celebrate her 43rd birthday on May 6 – is still alive.

“How is this possible in a democratic country? asked the elder Danylovych in a interview with Crimea.Realities. “Let her be the worst serial criminal if you want to believe it,” he said of Russian authorities, “but you should tell me where she is.”

Unable to celebrate Iryna Danylovych’s birthday in person with her on May 6, her friends showed their support by laying gifts and flowers in front of the Simferopol remand center where she was reportedly held.

The 75-year-old father-of-two said that even during the upheaval of the 1990s, when he recalled that organized crime groups ruled after the fall of the Soviet Union, “they would have said something “.

“It already looks like she’s not alive,” he said of his youngest daughter, “and we have to look in the morgues.”

Iryna was born in the Vitsebsk region of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and moved to Crimea with her family in 1983.

“Here she went to school, entered the medical institute and got a degree in addiction medicine,” her father said. “There was no money at that time, so she was transferred to study at Simferopol Medical College.”

From there she studied midwifery and moved to work in Belgorod, a region in western Russia where troops massed before the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

After returning to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, shortly before the Russian invasion and seizure of the territory that year, Iryna found work as a nurse at a drug treatment center in the eastern town of Feodosia, not far from his parents’ house in Vladyslavovka. , and eventually became the head of the Alliance of Doctors medical union.

“I know that she did this job conscientiously. She respected the opinions of others, and that thanks to her natural qualities, she could protect people,” her father said. “She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t shy and she came into the fight openly.”

frank and frank

Her reputation as one of the few medical workers to speak candidly about the health care situation on the Crimean peninsula has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, and she has been outspoken about workers’ rights and issues. medical services with the territory’s Ministry of Health.

After the Feodosia Doctors’ Alliance demanded bonuses promised to medical professionals by Russian President Vladimir Putin in early 2020 – which doctors in Crimea said they had not received despite sending funds to the territory – she and her colleagues were placed under administrative pressure.

Iryna, who worked for the city medical association’s narcotics department, continued to appeal for salaryuntil the department is disbanded and she and her colleagues are fired in 2021.

She continued her advocacy for health workers as a blogger and on social media and contributed as a source to articles on the health system in Crimea by outlets such as Crimea.Realities. She most recently worked as coordinator of the initiative Crimean Medicine Without Cover.

Boronyslav Danylovych told the regional office of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service that he and his wife were preparing breakfast, waiting for their daughter to return from her shift, when their home was raided by riot police.

“They showed me a court order [for the search] and said, ‘Do you want us to read it to you, or can you do it yourself?’ “, he said. “I said, ‘Read it.’ And they read it and half understood, half didn’t understand. Then they said, ‘Sign it.'”

Boronyslav Danylovitch

Boronyslav Danylovitch

The officers who carried out the raid, the elder Danylovych said, did not show up and confiscated numerous items, including a laptop and cell phones, leaving him without communication.

They also failed to provide a copy of the search documents and the inventory of the seized items, which he noted when he signed the documents under reservation.

When Boronyslav Danylovych asked the officers where his daughter was, according to Azamatov, they replied that she was detained for 10 days for transferring what the lawyer described as “unclassified information to a non-governmental organization”.

Without a phone or computer, he was only able to seek help on May 2, when his daughter’s colleagues came to pick her up when she failed to show up for work.

Once communication was restored, he filed a missing person report with local police and made contact with Azamatov. Following the discovery of surveillance video that appeared to show Iryna’s abduction, he filed a new complaint demanding that a criminal case be opened and that the video footage be presented as evidence.

Boronyslav Danylovych said he was not allowed to have a copy of the video, which he said on May 6 had still not seen by the policeand RFE/RL could not verify the images.

On May 4, the prosecutor’s office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the official name of the territory internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, announced that it had initiated criminal proceedings for “violation of the inviolability of the home and imprisonment of a citizen journalist who covered health issues in the temporarily occupied peninsula.”

Call Iryna Danylovych illegal detentionthe office said that “occupying security forces first unjustifiably searched the activist’s apartment in the Feodosia region of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, then took her to an unknown direction, while his fate and legal status are unknown.”

Unable to celebrate Iryna’s birthday with her in person, her friends showed their support by leaving gifts and flowers outside the Simferopol remand center on May 6. express their concerns about his fate.

Written by RFE/RL Senior Correspondent Michael Scollon based on reporting by Crimea desk Serhiy Mokrushyn. Realities from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, with additional reporting from Current Time.
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