The seventh year of war hostilities in Donbass is even more complicated due to the COVID-19 crisis, and so it is even more difficult to obtain information from the non-government-controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
To get the information necessary for the analysis, we have to rely upon sources among civilians living in the area.
Thus, in December 2020 reports came that the security department (the MGB) of Donetsk detained Roman Manekin, a local blogger critical of the leaders of the self-proclaimed entity, including Denis Pushilin, its head. Roman Manekin, born in 1965, is suspected of “cooperating with Stanislav Aseev”, a native of Donetsk who contributed to Radio Liberty under the penname Stanislav Vasin. He was arrested in Donetsk in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years, but released as part of prisoner exchange and handed over to Ukrainian authorities in December 2019. Stanislav Aseev confirmed the fact that he was in communication with Roman Manekin but claims that the accusation that Manekin got any money from Ukraine is fabricated.
This is already the third or even fourth arrest of Roman Manekin in Donetsk. He was held by the MGB in 2018 but released. The previous detention occurred in August 2020. In one of his last entries in the Telegram-channel Roman Manekin wrote, “I am very sorry for people in Donetsk. Every day I see broken human destinies”. Roman Manekin also exposed the arbitrary detention in Donetsk of the local deputy Sergey Kuts. Kuts went missing on December 3, 2020. The next day he was thrown out of a car with a bag over his head. Local social networks claim Kuts was beaten. He stated that his abductors were trying to extract information on the court trial in Rostov-on-Don at which Kuts is appealing a negative decision to issue him a Russian passport.
Several Russian media confirm the aggravated situation of human rights abuses inside the Donetsk-controlled territory. Thus, Moskovsky Komsomolets, running an article on Roman Manekin’s arrest, states, “It seems to be part of a larger campaign against the undesirable…” The article also provides other facts of an ongoing purge there. It claims, “The high-profile arrest this December is not the first. On December 24th, the former kickboxing champion of Ukraine and the founder of the Donestsk “People’s Guard” Roman Troshin was arrested as well as the leadership of the “Water of Donbass” company, including the former head of the administration of Donetsk (under Alexander Zakharchenko) Maxim Leschenko. The article in the Moskovsky Komsomolets also refers to the “Izolyatsia” prison facility where people have been kept in torture-like conditions.