‘Bring my mom back’: Ukrainian civilians vanish into Russian jails

© Hanna Arhirova, AP

Alina Kapatsyna often dreams about getting a phone call from her mother. In those visions, her mother tells her that she’s coming home. Men in military uniforms took 45-year-old Vita Hannych away from her house in eastern Ukraine in April. She never returned.

Her family later learned that Hannych, who has long suffered from seizures because of a brain cyst, is in custody in the Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk region.

Kapatsyna told The Associated Press that it remains unclear why her mother — "a peaceful, civilian and sick person" who has never held a weapon — was detained.

Hannych is one of hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of Ukrainian noncombatants believed to be held by Russian forces for months following their invasion. Some are deemed to be prisoners of war, even though they never took part in the fighting. Others are in a sort of legal limbo — not facing any criminal charges or considered to be POWs.

Hannych was wearing only a sweatsuit and slippers when she was seized by Russian forces occupying her village of Volodymyrivka several weeks into the Feb. 24 invasion. It is still under Moscow’s control.

“The answers from everywhere were the same: ‘We did not take her away.’ Who took her then, if no one took her?” said Kapatsyna, who left the village in March for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Dnipro.


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