May 28, 2023

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“Their lives are not protected by law.” What happens to the Ukrainians who have become collaborators of the Russians

When the Russians captured the eastern Ukrainian city of Balakliya, they turned the central police headquarters into a place of brutality.

During the next six months spent under enemy occupation, a large part of the locals were imprisoned in the cells in the basement. Survivors recounted being tortured, beaten, electrocuted and forced to endure mock executions.

The interrogations were conducted by officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service, according to documents found after the city was recaptured by Ukraine last month.

The interrogators were assisted by locals – such as Oleg Kalaida, the former head of security at a chicken farm who was elevated to the rank of police chief after agreeing to serve for the Kremlin. So some Ukrainians got involved in Vladimir Putin’s war crimes and the theft of their land.

“A manhunt has been declared for collaborators”

Kyiv has already launched investigations into 1,309 possible traitors and launched 450 prosecutions against collaborators accused of treason, writes

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Others are pursued and killed by resistance fighters. A list given by a Kyiv government source to a publication identified 29 such killings and 13 attempted assassinations.

“A hunt has been declared for the collaborators, and their lives are not protected by law,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Our intelligence services eliminate them, shoot them like pigs.”

A member of the Ukrainian government said that these people saw the Russian occupation as a chance to receive power, money and status.

In Vasylivka, a town in southern Ukraine, Natalia Romanychenko, a former actress who sells food online, became Putin’s mayor. She posted photos of her two boys dressed in Soviet military uniforms.

In another city, a crime boss – used by the Kremlin in state television propaganda – has been installed as mayor.

“They tried to leave, but the Russians didn’t accept them”

Collaborators in the Kharkiv region abandoned their posts when Ukrainian forces gained ground last month.

“They tried to go to Russia, only the Russians didn’t accept them,” said a prosecutor involved in the “hunt” for the traitors.

An example would be Kalaida, a man who made the rounds of Balakliya, serving as police chief during the Russian occupation. The man was caught by the Ukrainians while trying to escape to a territory occupied by the Russians.

Kalaida was a police officer after being head of security at a chicken farm three years ago.

Local officials told Ukrainian journalists that the man had cooperated of his own free will and had been awarded the rank of general by the Russians. Kalaida now faces up to 15 years in prison for treason.

And his wife, an operator for the fire service, would have been a collaborator, but she managed to escape.

Locals recounted the torture endured during Kalaida’s rule, such as ear cutting. And one man died after being brutally beaten.

“The tortures were different. I won’t describe them all, but the easiest was electrocution,” said Sergei Bolvinov, an investigator from Kharkiv.

A man who was held in the police headquarters in Balakliya described how the guards turned off the ventilation so that everyone could hear the screams of pain of the people who were being tortured with electric shocks.

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