World should be aware of Russia’s crimes: human rights defenders met with OSCE, and opened photo exhibition in Vienna

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The representatives of Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), which is member of Ukraine 5 AM Coalition, opened the photo exhibition “Ukraine. After the Invasion” at the Central European University in Vienna, on June 25. The exhibition features the works by 25 Ukrainian photojournalists, which have been made since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As the organizers noted, the Coalition documented all Russia’s crimes depicted in the pictures.

“I was preparing another speech, but today, at 5 am, I woke up to the sound of a plane flying over my hotel. This is a very scary sound for Ukrainians. At the same time, I received a message from my ten-year-old son, whom I left with my parents in Zhytomyr: ‘Mom, there is shelling and rockets fly here.” That night, the Russians fired 24 rockets at Zhytomyr. We live such a life every day. All organizations of the Coalition are experienced and professional as we have been dealing with this topic since 2014. But now it has become very personal matter for each of us. We document the crimes that happened to our relatives, the destruction of schools where we studied, hospitals where our children were born. I don’t want anyone to feel that. I ask you in Europe to unite to stop this war,” said MIHR coordinator Olha Reshetylova at the opening of the exhibition.

The pictures feature the aftermath of shelling in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Donetsk, and Zhytomyr regions. Moreover, survivors of Russian aggression told their personal stories during the opening of the exhibition: Aliona Lapchuk, the wife of Vitaliy Lapchuk, a former soldier from Kherson, whose body with traces of torture was found in a river in occupied Kherson; and Olena Shevchenko, the sister of Liudmyla Shevchenko, who went missing during the occupation of Hostomel (the woman’s whereabouts are still unknown).

On June 27, in Vienna, the representatives of Ukraine 5 AM Coalition, namely MIHR and ZMINA, joined the OSCE event dedicated to enforced disappearances during the full-scale war. This event was initiated by the delegations of Ukraine and the US to the OSCE.

Head of ZMINA Tetiana Pechonchyk spoke about the abduction of active Ukrainian citizens by Russia. Since the beginning of the invasion, ZMINA has documented 234 cases of enforced disappearances of activists, journalists, local government officials, educators, and religious figures. Of them, 114 people were released, often after torture, 110 people are still missing, 10 people were tortured to death. At the same time, Pechonchyk notes, these figures are not final and keep growing as the Russian servicemen abduct activists to suppress the resistance of the population and encourage them to cooperate.

During the event, MIHR coordinators Olha Reshetylova and Tetiana Katrychenko presented a map of locations of missing persons. Thanks to interviews with witnesses of the occupation, released hostages, and open sources, MIHR journalists managed to establish 22 detention locations.

Aliona Lapchuk and Olena Shevchenko also attended the meeting and told the stories of their relatives who suffered crimes committed by Russian troops.

As a reminder, Ukraine 5 AM Coalition has been documenting war crimes from the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Currently, 29 NGOs are Coalition members. On June 25, the Central European University awarded the Coalition the Open Society Prize for its efforts and aspirations for the fundamental values of open society – global justice and human rights.