Ukrainian blogger and RFE/RL contributor Oleh Halaziuk was held by Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk from August 2017 through December 2019, in connection with his reporting on the effects of the conflict on daily life in the region.
On December 27, 2017, a Ukrainian hostage released in a prisoner exchange was able to pass a message from Halaziuk to an RFE/RL editor, confirming that he was being held by the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).
Iryna Herashchenko, the deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and a former presidential envoy for the settlement of the Donetsk-Luhansk conflict, said in a comment to RFE/RL, “Several [former] prisoners confirmed that they had seen Oleh in the detention center. We immediately included in him in the [prisoner exchange] lists. But the question of exchange was blocked by Russia.”
No representatives of international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine have been allowed to see Halaziuk or confirm his condition.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service has not been able to contact Halaziuk since he was taken into custody; his current condition is unknown.
There are no known formal statements, charges, or other legal documents associated with Halaziuk’s case.
According to Lina Kushch, first secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJU) of Ukraine, one theory for Halaziuk’s detention is that he found himself in a dispute with the city administration of Torez.
Halaziuk is a long-time resident of the eastern Ukrainian city of Torez, Oleh Halaziuk began writing for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in 2015 from his separatist-occupied hometown, using the pen name Myroslav Tyamuschiy.
Prior to the war, Halaziuk taught at the Torez branch of the Kharkiv Institute of Economics of Market Relations and Management. He holds a PhD in Philosophy.
Halaziuk contributed over 60 articles to RFE/RL, detailing a pro-Ukrainian local’s perspective on the conflict. His articles related to life in occupied Torez, examining schools, gas shortages, and the downing near Torez of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by Russia-backed separatists in 2014.
Halaziuk has been detained by the pro-Russia separatists of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic since August 2017.
This is the second time separatists have detained Halaziuk. In a 2015 interview with Hromadske Radio, Halaziuk said he was tortured by the separatists when he was held captive for 18 days in June 2014.
Several journalist organizations including NUJU and Human Rights in Ukraine have called on the Donetsk separatists to immediately release Halaziuk and other journalists, including Stanislav Aseyev. At NUJU’s behest, the European Federation of Journalists adopted a resolution at its 2019 general meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, calling on “Donetsk decision makers” to release Halaziuk and fellow RFE/RL contributor Stanislav Aseyev.
On November 29, 2019, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, urging him to seek the release of Halaziuk. A month later, on December 29, 2019, Halaziuk was released as part of an exchange between the separatists and Ukrainian authorities involving dozens of prisoners from both sides of the fighting.