Russian activist who helped Ukrainian refugees returning home dies in pretrial detention

Photo courtesy of Alexander Demidenko

Photo courtesy of Alexander Demidenko

A Russian activist who assisted and often housed Ukrainians attempting to return home from Russia has died while in pretrial detention in the southwestern city of Belgorod, according to a report by independent news outlet Vot Tak on Monday.

Citing two friends who wished to remain anonymous, Vot Tak said that Alexander Demidenko, 61, died while in police custody on Friday. However, his relatives were not informed of his death for three days, while his lawyer, Yelena Palimova, told Russian independent news outlet 7х7 Horizontal Russia that she was unaware of her client’s death.

"We don’t know the details. I think my father killed himself, because for such an active and freedom-loving man, the thought of a probable future behind bars was intolerable,” Demidenko’s son Oleg told Vot Tak, adding that his father had already been “psychologically killed by six months” in custody without being allowed family visits or even books to read.

Demidenko had been in pretrial detention following an FSB search of his home last year in which a grenade and two detonators were found.

Demidenko’s son said that he had received a letter from his father in which he had confessed to charges of illegal arms trafficking, but added that he believed it had been written under duress and in order to save those around him from persecution.

Before his arrest, Demidenko provided assistance to Ukrainians in Belgorod who wanted to leave Russia via the Kolotilovka checkpoint. He also regularly hosted refugees who had been displaced from the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine and helped them return home.

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