Russian authorities finally admitted detention of Crimean human rights activist after holding her for 12 days

The Crimean activist and nurse went missing on her way home from work in Peninsula annexed to Russia almost two weeks ago. On Wednesday, her loved ones finally received confirmation that she had been detained by Russian authorities, who until now have refused to say whether, where or by whom she was being held.

Danylovich’s lawyer, Aider Azamatov, has spent the past 12 days looking for her in detention centers across the peninsula. He told CNN that, like his friends and family, he was repeatedly rejected and authorities told him they had no information on Danylovich.

Everything changed on Wednesday afternoon.

“We went to the Simferopol Detention Center again and I was finally told that Iryna is there. They didn’t let us talk or see each other,” he said.

Azamatov told CNN that he was provided with documents showing Danylovich was charged with illegal handling of explosives or explosive devices, a charge she denies.

Danylovich’s father Bronislav told news site Krym.Realii, an affiliate of Radio Liberty, that his daughter went missing on the morning of April 29, after finishing her shift at a medical facility in Koktebel, South. east of Crimea.

Around the same time, Azamatov said, balaclavas of the Russian special police unit came to the house Danylovich shares with his parents in the village of Vladislavovka near Feodosiya. Vladislavovka is located approximately 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Koktebel.

She told CNN that officials who ransacked the family’s home told her father she was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest for “transferring unclassified information to a foreign state.”

However, they refused to hand over any documents.

Crimean authorities were not immediately available to comment on Wednesday afternoon.

When CNN inquired about Danylovich on Tuesday, Crimean authorities refused to comment. The officer on duty at the prosecutor’s office for Russian-occupied Crimea has referred CNN to the authorities in Danylovich’s hometown.

When CNN reached Feodosiya Police Station on Tuesday, the person who answered the call said he knew nothing of the case and hung up.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian-occupied Crimea did not respond to a written request for comment. A phone number listed on its website is unreachable.

Iryna Danylovich has been missing since April 29.

Through his work as a city journalist, Danylovich exposed the problems in the Crimean health system, including in his response to the coronavirus pandemic. You have written for numerous Ukrainian media outlets and posted your findings on Facebook.

Human rights organization Crimea SOS said Wednesday that Danylovich faces up to eight years in prison.

“Human rights activists are now investigating whether there has been a falsification of evidence. Iryna is known not to admit her guilt and refused to testify,” the group said in a statement.

He added that the case had “all the elements of a forced disappearance”.

The term enforced disappearance describes disappearances perpetrated by state actors or others acting on behalf of or with the support of state authorities, followed by a refusal to reveal the person’s fate and whereabouts.

Because the authorities refuse to recognize the detention, the victim has no legal protection and the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, according to the United Nations.

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The UN says the practice is often used as a strategy to spread terror within society.

Danylovich’s case is the latest in a series of reported disappearances of activists, journalists and ordinary citizens over the past decade in Crimea.

According to a report released in March 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Office documented at least 43 cases of enforced disappearances in Crimea between 2014 and 2018.

The United Nations said that these were mainly kidnappings and kidnappings and that some of the victims – 39 men and four women – had been subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Eleven of the men were missing and one man remained in detention at the time of the report.

The United Nations said it was unable to document any criminal proceedings in relation to any of the cases.

CNN’s Anna Chernova contributed to the report.