As Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches the 1-year mark, Volodymyr Vorovka, a professor of marine biology at Melitopol Pedagogical University in Ukraine, was kidnapped from his home by Russian authorities in the early morning of December 13, 2022. Melitopol, a city in Zaporizhzhia Oblast of Ukraine’s southeastern region, has been occupied by Russian forces since March 2022 and has since remained a highly militarized site. Vorovka is one of over 700 Melitopol residents who have been abducted since the war began, according to Mayor Ivan Fedorov, who himself was abducted and tortured by Russian occupiers last year.
A report by Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group stated that witnesses saw men in military gear “burst” into Vorovka’s home around 5:30 am before emerging with Vorovka and forcing him into one of the vehicles. Vorovka’s relatives have not heard from him since his abduction. Russian military authorities have given up no information as to his whereabouts.
The abductions, threats, and attacks perpetrated by Russian military forces on academics in Melitopol and elsewhere across the country reiterate the motive of the Russian army to suppress and annihilate critical thinking and freedom of speech to break down Ukrainian resistance. Universities and other education facilities are at the center of this mission. Since the Russian invasion last year, 93 missile, drone, and artillery attacks have been launched against Ukrainian universities, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian academics and students have been displaced from their homes and universities. Civilians, too, face atrocious attacks on their livelihoods. Ukrainian residents of Melitopol have reported that since November 2022, Russian soldiers have begun taking over schools and positioning artillery weapons in and around the city to retain control. Mayor Fedorov told The New York Times that the coordinated efforts have been an attempt to close all access, both in and out, to the city, with Ukrainian war prisoners forced to dig trenches around the borders of the district.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) condemns the kidnapping and assaults of Professor Volodymyr Vorovka and other academics, students, and civilians by Russian soldiers, which constitute crimes against humanity, a violation of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. ESW calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights and the Ukrainian people to also protest these war crimes which continue to characterize the injustice of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Please send appeals to the following:
Embassy of the Russian Federation in the United States
2650 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: (202) 298-5700
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York, NY 10065
Phone: (212) 861-4900
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland