Earlier this summer, mysterious, surrealist, and deeply irreverent art began appearing on the streets of Donetsk. The graffiti and wooden cutouts openly mocked the city’s pro-Russian rebels, depicting them as devils. A graffiti portrait of the rebel leader, Igor Strelkov, urged him to commit suicide. The rebels did not take kindly to the art. Sergey Zakharov, the artist behind the project, has disappeared. His friends and family say that he is a prisoner of the Donetsk People’s Republic, as the putative leaders of the breakaway regions call their new “country.”
Zakharov, the founder of the art collective Myrzilka, was forcibly taken from his workshop on Aug. 6 by four armed men.
Zakharov said he was beaten intensely and tortured for 10 days straight, during which his captors, repeatedly bludgeoning him with truncheons, broke his ribs. “In the middle of the night, sometimes the guards would get drunk and grab some of the prisoners and take us to another building where they would beat us again,” Zakharov said. “After one of the beatings, I was taken to a small iron box where two people could barely fit and left for two days under the scorching sun,” adds Zakharov. “I lost consciousness.”
He also provided a set of drawings depicting his experience in the custody of eastern Ukraine’s rebels. They show the artist being apprehended and beaten and confined to miserable quarters.
With little explanation, Zakharov was released in late August. He then promptly met his girlfriend and was taken to the hospital, where he was determined to have 10 broken ribs. “We talked about leaving, but my passport and documents were still at the SBU building,” Zakharov said. A day after his release, Zakharov returned to the site of his torment to reclaim his documents, which would be needed to navigate the checkpoints out of the city, but was rearrested and did not leave again until nearly a month later.
Compilation from Foreign Policy