By no means could I act differently, Volodymyr Balukh

By no means could I act differently, Volodymyr Balukh

Volodymyr Balukh demonstrated his pro-Ukrainian position in Crimea occupied by the Russian Federation systematically and perseveringly. From December 2013, a Ukrainian flag was streaming over his courtyard, and the RF Federal Security Service officers removed this flag twice. In
November 2016, he put a tablet 18 Heavenly Hundred Heroes Street on his house, which was also galling the occupants.

Volodymyr was prosecuted by the Federal Security Service officers for his patriotic pro-Ukrainian position. They charged him with three fabricated cases – possession of weapons, disobedience to police, and “disruption of work of the temporary detention facility”. The overall period of punishment totaled five years in a prison colony.

While serving his sentence in colony, Volodymyr Balukh did not give up and did everything he could to draw attention to violations of the rights of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russian prisons.He declared several hunger strikes, which exceeded 200 days in total.

On September 7, 2019 Volodymyr returned to Ukraine due to prisoners exchange between Ukraine and Russia. Since that time, he has been  involved in social activism in the sphere of human rights protection.

In the framework of the #PrisonersVoice project, we talked to Volodymyr about his relations with occupational authorities in Crimea and the need to support both Ukrainian political prisoners currently detained in the Russian Federation, and Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas.

Why did you agree to take part in the #PrisonersVoice project? Why are such projects important, in your opinion?

The information space should be filled with something that can get to people’s hearts, not just factual information. We were released from captivity, and I am sure that happened because thoughts of many people went in the same direction, however pompously this may sound. That is why we have to reach out to people’s hearts through stories, through emotions so that they remember in their everyday routine that the world is totally determined by how you position it. If you produce mutual respect and mutual assistance, this is what the world is like around you.

it is also important that the international community should know about it. Such animated applications are very useful and necessary. It will have an English version, and pictures, animation. People live on pictures now – whether it’s good or bad, but it is so. If some guys find forms for conveying important information in such а way, it is wonderful.

You support other people as well. Among other things, you visited Svitlodarsk recently. Where else have you been in the united forces operation zone? Why do you personally need these trips? Why do our soldiers need such visits?

In the first place, I want to thank people who made my visits there possible – my good friends, fellows, people who know me. I had never been there before, and I would not be able to organize the trip on my own. This was a very powerful thing for me, for my own understanding. And it turned out to be necessary for the guys as well. These things are emblematic in a certain sense. I got to know very closely some people of scrupulous integrity.

You also behaved in an entirely sincere and patriotic way in 2016 when you put an address table with 18 Heavenly Hundred Heroes Street on it. Did you anticipate at that time that it could cause interest of the occupational authorities? Did you expect consequences from demonstrating a protect like that?

In fact, it is absolutely irrelevant whether I understood it or not. I simply could not act differently.“If a heroic act is possible, everyone decides for themselves” [quotation]. I could not act differently, by no means, because I understand very clearly that I was fighting the absolute evil, which is the Kremlin Federation in its contemporary form. Giving in to the absolute evil means prolonging the life of this evil.

That is why I am so nervous and hurt by everything happening in Ukraine now – all these proposals to “meet halfway”. It is dangerous, and most importantly – it is criminal. It is criminal not with regard to the state or with regard to me, or to political prisoners but with regard to the future of Ukraine, to those whom we will hand this country over.

Who supported you after imprisonment? In which way did you feel this support?

It was such an impressive realization when you understand how many people come to court hearings, stay in front of court buildings when people are not allowed to enter. Those who come to support your mother, send money, handmade socks, some cigarettes… This makes your life comprehensible. Sometimes you search for the sense of life, and it is very difficult to find, to determine it. But when you understand that what is happening to you is necessary for people, and that they live your life together with you, then you find this sense.

You know, the majority of those people who supported me, who would come to court hearings, they were forced to leave, to abandon everything and go to the mainland Ukraine. I communicate with them here now.


As of today, 135 Ukrainian citizens are prosecuted by the aggressor country on pollical grounds. Such information is provided by the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Liudmyla Denisova. Some of these people are banned from leaving Crimea for the Ukrainian
government-controlled territory.
Currently, the prisoners are kept in adverse conditions. For instance, a political prisoner illegally sentenced to twelve years, Emir-Usein Kuku, was sent to a punishment cell after his arrival to a prison colony of Salavat in Bashkorstan. According to the political prisoner’s wife, Meriem Kuku,
the reason for this was her husband’s request to allow morning exercises because of health problems and cold weather.
In the same colony, other Crimean Tatars illegally sentenced by the Russian court are also kept in very bad conditions – Enver Seitosmanov, Useir Abdullaiev, Emil Dzhemadenov, Refat Alimov, and Arsen Dzhepparov.
Ukraine is trying to support relatives of the illegally imprisoned persons and the Ukrainians released from captivity. Among other things, recently the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a decision on paying 100, 000 hryvnias to ten families of citizens of Ukraine imprisoned by the
Russian Federation on political grounds, and to 18 individuals released from prison.

Author: Tetiana Matychak

Note: the augmented reality application #PrisonersVoice is developed within the framework of the project implemented by CSO Internews-Ukraine with support from the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation in cooperation with the Center for Civil Liberties and other partners. The project is part of the global campaign #PrisonersVoice, which is aimed at drawing the world community attention to Ukrainian political prisoners who were or still are kept in Russian prisons, and to Russian Federations’ violations of international human rights law.

The position of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation does not necessarily coincide with the author’s opinion.