Pro-Russian Separatists Run Prisoner Camps in Donbass With Slave Labour

The Ukraine conflict is sometimes on the way of being forgotten, unfortunately. Except when the separatists proclaim a state „Little Russia“ in Donezk and Luhansk, what even the Moscow paper Kommersant brings to a smile and to say that „[this] proclamation … will not bring any big consequences“ (Kommersant, 19.7.2017). Indeed, if the Kremlin would support this „state“, then all Western negiotation partners would have to consider this as withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements. This would kill the Moscow expectation for a certain working relationship to the USA and above all to the EU and its Member States. But this is not even worth a substantial reporting in European media.

But what is worthwhile and should be repeated again and again is the strange way of „rule of law“ followed by the Donezk and Luhansk separatist administrations. This includes, besides everything else, also slave work in the form of forced labour for prisoners of these two „Peoples Republics“.They have to work, if they do not want to be thrown into a kind of dungeon, and they are not paid at all. They just get some tea and cigarettes. With their unvoluntary „assistance“ their wood chucking, welding, quarrying and other very hard work, they make money for the budget of the two „Peoples Republics“ (or of „Little Russia“, as now they call themselves) – amounting to approx. 500.000 EUR  per month. There are, following the investigations of the up to 10.000 prison inmates now many illegally in prison. They have done their time, or they should have been in freedom due to a 2014 amnesty by the Ukrainian President. But this latter seems not to concern the separatists, as they do not accept decisions by the Ukrainian Government or state institutions.

Karte Straflager "Luhansker Volksrepublik" (Ostukrainische Menschenrechtsgruppe)

(Map pf prison camps in The „Peoples‘ Republic of Luhansk, by the East Ukraine Human Rights Group, which helped to reveal These practices)

It is clear that these „gulags“ in nowadays‘ Europe, in an otherwise modernizing state of Ukraine, are not made without – at least – the toleration by the Russian authorities. Like in e.g. Transnistria, another „frozen conflict“ area, the Kremlin pays for most of the budget of the „Peoples republics“ – big Russia pays for „Little Russia“.

The prison camps have been revealed by Sabine Adler, one of the most experienced journalists of public radio Deutschlandfunk in Germany. (see her report, with interviews and photos, under http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/zwangsarbeit-in-ostukrainischen-separatistengebieten-gulags.724.de.html?dram:article_id=390676; there are also PDF links on that page in English and Russian language) She knows Ukraine since many years – as well as the whole system as she studied in Leipzig during GDR times. She had various leading posts in Deutschlandfunk and had worked also for a while as press & communication director for the German Parliament (Bundestag). Several times rewarded prestigious journalism prices, she is high on a list of self-proclaimed media critics from German nationalist or Russian troll orientation. If someone stands not for fake news, it is her. BBC from London raised the same issue.

It is indeed not easy to fight for the rights of the prison inmates in Donezk and Luhansk. While the Ombudswoman of Ukraine manages transports of prison inmates to normal correction centers in Ukraine from Donezk, she did not yet from Luhansk. But to stand for the rule of law which includes human treatment for prisoners, above for those who have served their time, is a permanent request to every responsible lawyer, journalist and pf course politician. In this context, the problem should be seized e.g. by the European Parliament, the EEAS – EU Diplomatic Service and all other EU politicians who from time to time are on their pilgrimages to Moscow.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ), http://www.eufaj.eu