Two LGBTI activists have gone missing in separatist territory in eastern Ukraine.
Grey Violet, a Russian agender activist, and Victoria Miroshnichenko, a 27-year-old listed in some reports as a girlfriend, vanished in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).
We do not know Violet’s preferred pronouns, but will use ‘they’ as Violet is also known as Oleg Vasilyev or Maria Shtern.
The pair were traveling to Donetsk, where they wanted to stage and film a public performance in support of the LGBTI community.
Now it is feared Violet and Miroshnichenko may be detained by the police or security services.
They successfully passed Uspenka, a checkpoint on the Russian side of the border, and arrived in Donetsk on 31 January.
Since then, nobody has heard from them; they are not answering their phones or online messages.
‘It is distressing that no one has been able to find out where Grey Violet and Miroshnichenko are since they arrived in the DNR 10 days ago,’ Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
‘Their sudden disappearance requires prompt and effective investigation.’
According to Russian website Mediazona, one of Violet’s friends contacted DNR authorities to enquire for their whereabouts.
They were told neither the police nor security services were holding the activists.
Since the armed conflict in the region began, the situation for LGBTIs in Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk has gotten worse.
In 2014, Luhanks region authorities, which is also held by separatists, said they were considering punishing homosexuality with the death penalty.
According to Human Rights Watch security services in both territories leave victims ‘fully at their mercy’ as they do not adhere to the rule of law.