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«Worse than beating»: Melitopol Vedomosti publisher's daughter says she was kidnapped and interrogated by the Russian military

On March 21, Russian soldiers kidnapped several journalists of the Melitopol Vedomosti newspaper as well as the daughter of the newspaper publisher, Israeli citizen Tatyana Kumok. After interrogation, the abductees were released. They were threatened and coerced into cooperating with the occupation authorities. Tatyana Kumok told via a video link how she was kidnapped and interrogated.

According to Kumok, the newspaper's editorial office was seized by the Russian military, who first approached the director of the newspaper and demanded cooperation. In the morning of March 21, the journalists Yulia Olkhovskaya and Lyubov Chaika, and the editor-in-chief of Melitopol Vedomosti, Yevgenia Boryan, were kidnapped, Tatiana's father told her. Immediately afterwards, the occupants also came to Tatyana Kumok's parents. The newspaper publisher Mikhail Kumok managed to warn her daughter that armed men were at his house, and then the phone call cut off.

Through an intermediary, Tatyana Kumok informed the occupants they had captured two Israeli citizens. Then she called the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Israel and the Israeli press to report the kidnapping.

According to Kumok, only her parents knew her address. On the same day, Russian soldiers came to the door of her apartment. They brought Tatiana's crying mother, who started asking her daughter to open the door. Kumok let the military into the apartment and was also detained. «This was not a kidnapping of Tanya the blogger, who tells a lot about the life in Melitopol. It was primarily the kidnapping of a child whose father has access to the newspaper, which has been in the business of telling the truth to its readers for thirty years,» believes Kumok.

On the way to the interrogation, she talked with one of the Russian soldiers. He stated it was not Putin who had declared the war, but Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.

The interrogators also raised the question of the reasons behind the war, which the Russian side calls «the liberation from the Nazis.» «If you liberated Melitopol from the Nazis, why hadn't we seen them before?» Kumok asked.

The Russian interrogators said the Nazis allegedly «fled» from the city, and with the arrival of the Russian army, it would be easier for local folks who do not know the Ukrainian language to conduct business. «Russia is attacking Ukraine, destroying cities, and kidnapping people just because some people in Ukraine aren't comfortable doing paperwork?» Tatiana interjected.

The interrogators hinted they might send Kumok to a holding cell because she was «impertinent» during questioning. «I'm not impertinent. I'm just a free person from a democratic country,» she replied.

Toward the end of the «interview,» Kumok was asked to sign a paper stating she had been treated politely and had not been physically abused. «You see, I'm in great shape, unlike my mother, who wasn't beaten either, but, you know, there's certain pressure that ... can be worse than beating,» Tatiana added.

According to her, she was «at the mercy of the armed men,» who at any moment could switch from polite persuasion to physical violence.

The general director of MV Holding which owns the Melitopol Vedomosti newspaper, Anna Medvid, said that a week ago she was also summoned for an interview by the Russian military. «We met at the editorial office, which they had broken into and searched. They want us to be loyal and support them. I did not agree, and we parted ways,» she said.

The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine notes that the Russian military also put pressure on journalists in other occupied cities, including in Berdyansk and Kherson, Ukrainska Pravda reports. On March 15, the Hromadske journalist Viktoria Roshchina disappeared in Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhia Region. She was found today.

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