Andrii Zakhtei

Andrii Zakhtei

“When my husband came to the maternity hospital to take me and our newborn daughter home, he saw her face and broke into tears. It was so moving,” The wife of Andrii Zakhtei, a defendant in the so-called “Ukrainian Saboteurs” case, Oksana Zakhtei recalls. 

In August 2016, the Russian Federal Security Service announced that they had arrested a group of “Ukrainian saboteurs” in annexed Crimea who allegedly were planning acts of terrorism at tourist and public locations.

During his detention, Andrii was beaten and tortured. “They abused him physically and morally. They made him dig a grave for himself, or brought him up in a helicopter promising that he would ‘fly’. He has scars on his hands, face, and nape of his neck. He received a blow from a rifle butt, and now he has a bad indentation on his skull, so he suffers from headaches, and his ribs were broken, too,” Oksana Zakhtei says.

“Our daughter was eight months old when my husband was arrested, and now she is four and a half. I had our family portrait made at once, so our daughter has grown up with the portrait because we did not have any contact with Andrii for months,” Andrii Zakhtei’s wife says. “We have lost everything. All our savings, our car and the house were confiscated. I had to go from Crimea to my home town with one suitcase, and here I rented a room where I live with my daughter now.”

Not many people pay attention to the families of political prisoners. That is why the activists launched a campaign called Talk to Us, Mr. President.
“During his press conference, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that when the quarantine was over, perhaps, a prisoner exchange would take place. We, family members of political prisoners, started protesting – we stood in front of the Presidential Office and hoped that someone would come out to talk to us and say when the exchange would happen, and what was being done for it. During the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is also worried about survival or our political prisoners. However, no one came to talk to us,” Oksana Zakhtei says.

“Some people think that all political prisoners have already been exchanged and brought home, but this is not true. Some write aggressive comments to us saying, for instance, that we are scammers. I want to ask people not to be indifferent,” Oksana Zakhtei says.