Ukrainian human rights defender Maksym Butkevych, who is held in captivity by the Russian Federation, has won the National Human Rights Award

Human rights defender and serviceman Maksym Butkevych, whose whereabouts became known for the first time since August this year, won the National Human Rights Award in 2023.

Maksym’s father, Oleksandr Butkevych, received the award. During the presentation, he recalled the letters his son used to write to him. “War is a terrible thing, but I still hope that it will not make us so rude and cruel that after it we will push human rights to the second or third plan. The struggle is for human rights, for those democratic values that are absent in the Russian Federation and which the enemy is trying to destroy in our country,” his father Oleksandr quoted Maxim as saying.

Before the full-scale invasion, human rights defender and military serviceman Maksym Butkevych specialized in helping refugees, IDPs, and combating discrimination, as a co-founded of the project “No Borders.” He devoted more than 20 years to human rights activism, and on March 3, 2022, he joined the Armed Forces to defend Ukrainian lands from the occupiers. In June of the same year, he was taken prisoner by Russia near Zolote and Hirske in the Luhansk region.

On March 10, 2023, a Russian-controlled court in the occupied Luhansk region “sentenced” Butkevych to 13 years in prison. He was charged with “cruel treatment of civilians and the use of prohibited methods of warfare.” Maksym was also accused of “attempted murder of two people and intentional damage to property”.

Since August, neither the man’s relatives nor his lawyers have been able to obtain information about his whereabouts and condition, and letters and parcels have been returned to him. Recently, advocate Leonid Solovyov reported that he had received a response from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service – Butkevich is in a colony in the occupied Krasnyi Luch, Luhansk region.

Ukrainian human rights defenders emphasize that the international community must continue to put pressure on Russia and demand the release of Butkevych and all unjustly imprisoned Ukrainian military and civilians. In particular, the Human Rights Agenda platform, a coalition of organizations including the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Amnesty International in Ukraine, ZMINA Human Rights Center, Center for Law Enforcement Studies, including the Center for Civil Liberties and the projects “Without Borders” and “Euromaidan SOS”, awarded the National Human Rights Award to Maksym this year. The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center also issued a statement calling for the release of Maksym Butkevych.

The National Human Rights Award is a non-governmental award that recognizes personal contribution to the protection of human rights in Ukraine. Every year, the award ceremony takes place on December 10, Human Rights Day, as part of the National Human Rights Non-Conference organized by the Center for Civil Liberties. The event brings together human rights defenders from all over Ukraine to promote the value of human rights and honor the contribution of human rights work.

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