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RFE/RL contributors Stanislav Aseyev and Oleh Halaziuk remain missing, as does Turkmen student activist Omurzak Omarkuliev.

STANISLAV ASEYEV

Stanislav Aseyev, a columnist for the Service’s regional Donbas.Realii project, has been held incommunicado by Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk since mid-2017 on accusations of spying for Ukraine.

In August 2017, the Ukrainian government included his name among those officially listed for a possible prisoner exchange under the supervision of the Trilateral Contact Group, which oversees negotiations among the sides to the conflict. The bipartisan U.S. Congressional Freedom of the Press Caucus has condemned his detention, championing him as "one of the few independent journalists to remain in the region under separatist control to provide objective reporting." In November 2018, the U.S. Mission to the OSCE urged “the Russian Federation to secure the release of Stanislav Aseyev.” In recent weeks, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio and U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel have called for his freedom.

Learn more about Aseyev and his status.

OLEH HALAZIUK

The Ukrainian blogger and contributor to the Donbas.Realii project, who published a series of reports on the downing in 2014 of the Malaysian airliner MH-17, has been in the custody of the region’s Russia-backed separatists since August 2017. There is no information about his well-being, or the accusations against him.

Before he was detained in 2017, Halaziuk regularly blogged for the Donbas Realities rubric, Letters from Donbas, posting reports from Torez about gasoline shortages, the post office, and the conflict’s impact on ordinary people and children. Located east of the city of Donetsk, Torez has been held by Russia-backed separatists controlling the region since June 2014; Halaziuk was detained and tortured by the separatists that month for his pro-Ukrainian views, and released 18 days later.

In late 2018, Halaziuk’s relatives gave the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine permission to publish his name in the UN Monitoring Report on Human Rights.

Learn more about Halaziuk and his status.

OMURZAK OMARKULIEV

The case of student activist Omurzak Omarkuliev exemplifies the plight of hundreds of Turkmen who have vanished as part of a government effort to silence dissent. Omarkuliev was studying in Turkey, where he organized an association of Turkmen students. He was invited by Turkmenistan’s Central Election Commission in February 2018 to return to his homeland and attend an event ahead of the country’s March 2018 parliamentary elections. He was last heard from on March 9, 2018, when he spoke to RFE/RL just before he was arrested and tried behind closed doors on charges that have never been publicly revealed.

The international rights campaign Prove They Are Alive! told the OSCE's human rights conference in Warsaw on September 16 that Turkmenistan is backtracking on promises to curtail the practice of enforced disappearances in its prison system. Calling the practice “systemic,” the campaign lists 121 documented cases as of this month, but adds that the total number of victims is “in the order of hundreds,” with some prisoners being held incommunicado since 2002.

Learn more about Omarkuliev and his case.

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