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Ukraine detains alleged head of illegal prison accused of torture, execution of inmates

By Katharina Krebs, CNN

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has detained the alleged head of an illegal prison who is accused of involvement in the murder and torture of Ukrainian citizens, the agency said in a statement.

Denis Kulikovsky, who is also known as “Palych” or “Pershiy,” was detained in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Tuesday night, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said.

He is accused of running an illegal prison known as “Isolation” or “Izoliatsiia” in the occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

According to the SBU, Kulikovsky — who is described as being a former militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) — organized and took a direct part in the murders and torture of illegally detained Ukrainian citizens.

The pre-trial investigation in this case has been carried out for the past year by investigators of the National Police of Ukraine under the procedural guidance of the Prosecutor’s Office, according to a statement published online by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

“For more than a year, investigators in cooperation with the migration police have been investigating the horrible crimes of ‘Palych’ against people,” said Denis Monastyrsky, Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs.

“Law enforcement officers interrogated the victims, identified their executioners, and identified 45 members of this organized criminal group. In September this year, materials on eight war criminals were sent to court for absentee sentencing.”

Kulikovsky was detained after police received information that he had arrived in territory controlled by Ukraine, the ministry statement said.

The fact he is already in the hands of Ukrainian law enforcement officers is the result of joint work of the National Police and the Security Service of Ukraine, Monastyrsky said. “No matter how much time has passed, these horrible crimes will not go unpunished,” he added.

The deputy chief of the main directorate of the National Police in the Donetsk region, Artem Kysko, said 166 people had been identified who were held in that prison so far, but that this was not an exhaustive list, according to the ministry statement.

Donetsk police have been investigating what happened at the site for the past year, Kysko said.

Among those identified as having been held there are two journalists and employees of the border service, migration service and SBU, as well as the members of the Ukrainian armed forces, Kysko said.

According to Kysko, the Donetsk police have also managed to identify people belonging to various branches of the so-called DPR government, in particular the prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of State Security of the DPR, and judges allegedly involved in torture, harassment and other actions against victims held in this prison.

Pro-Russian separatists have been in conflict with Ukrainian government forces in the Donetsk region since 2014.

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