Ukrainian authorities say they have identified the suspected kidnappers of a Crimean Tatar activist who was abducted in broad daylight more than five years ago as he protested Moscow's seizure of Crimea -- and who turned up dead weeks later.
Ukrainian prosecutors alleged on September 10 that two members of a pro-Russian militia were acting on orders from a Russian military veteran when they abducted Reshat Ametov, 39, on a central square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol in March 2014 as he staged a one-man protest against Russia's military incursion.
Two weeks later, Ametov's body was discovered in a forest 60 kilometers east of Simferopol, and he is widely seen in Ukraine and among Crimean Tatars as an early martyr to the cause of opposing Russia's takeover.
"Thanks to the cooperation of the prosecutor's office, the police, and human rights organizations, the crime was solved today,” Hunduz Mamedov, Kyiv's top prosecutor for Crimea, said in a statement.
Kyiv’s police directorate responsible for Crimea identified the two suspected kidnappers as 44-year-old Oleksandyr Bahlyuk and 33-year-old Oleksandyr Rudenko.
They are accused of carrying out the abduction under the direction of 53-year-old Yevgeny Skripnik, described by Ukraine as a retired Russian serviceman who later took part in Russia-backed military operations against Kyiv’s forces in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has issued international warrants for the arrest of the three men, Ukrainian prosecutors said. They have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Ukrainian authorities conducted the investigation remotely, as they do not have access to Crimean territory, which Russia seized in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by 100 members of the United Nations.
Video of Ametov’s abduction was published online weeks after the incident. It shows him being frog-marched into a car just meters in front of a man wearing a red armband typical of so-called "self-defense" units that coordinated with Russian forces in Crimea at the time.
It was the last time Ametov was known to have been seen alive.
In a statement in March, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine said it had "received information that indicates Crimean self-defense's involvement in Ametov's disappearance and killing."
The mission told RFE/RL at the time that its information was based on interviews with "a number of people," including Ametov's relatives and activists at pro-Ukrainian rallies at the time of his disappearance, as well as an analysis of the video of his abduction.
In 2017, then-President Petro Poroshenko posthumously awarded Ametov the nation's highest title -- Hero of Ukraine.