Cops beat me up on a research trip to Ukraine because they thought I was a spy

They broke my jaw and put me in a cell for five days

A Plymouth third year who travelled to Ukraine to research his dissertation was detained and beaten by police — because they thought he was a spy.

International Relations student Ivan Saltykov, 24, decided to travel to Ukraine to gain first-hand sources and experience.

He was out one night enjoying a drink with friends he had met on his trip when Russian officials approached the group and asked to see their passports.

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He was then transported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow, where he was beaten up and dumped in a cell, forced to sleep on ammo cases with a broken jaw.

Ivan, who lives in Exeter, grew up in Saint Petersburg but has lived in the UK for the last 10 years.

He is currently undertaking a huge research project into the conflict in Ukraine, visiting Russia as well to focus on how much the press is being censored.

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Ivan said: “In June last year I went to the borders of the anti-terror operation held by the Ukrainian government, and in February 2015 I visited the separatist stronghold, Donetsk.

“What is not being told is that in Russia everybody thinks people in Ukraine are all fascists.

“It’s a complete mess but the people suffering are the civilians.

“Anybody who wants to fire a gun or wants to shoot somebody is more than welcome; they just join any of the battalions.”

Despite making several successful journeys to both Russia and Ukraine, on his most recent trip his luck ran out.

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He said: “They brutally beat me up and broke my jaw.

“I was in a cell for five days in the Ministry of Internal Affairs in one of the cellars.

“They made a makeshift prison with no bunks — you’re sleeping on ammo cases basically.

“Being a spy is a massive offence in war time and even in peace time.

“Part of me was hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible, and part of me realised if they haven’t killed me yet they probably won’t at all.

“I was more afraid in Ukraine because of all the propaganda, but being far away from Russia or Ukraine for a long time and then going back you do see different perspectives.

“I knew what to expect when I went there. I knew you can bribe border guards and I knew I’d be okay among my own people.”

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After intense questioning, Ivan said officials finally decided he wasn’t a spy and released him from custody.

He boarded a train back to Ukraine and continued his research before coming back to the UK last month.

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Ivan said: “I’m very disappointed [the conflict] hasn’t been resolved already; everybody’s blaming everybody.

“It’s been left to untrained and unprofessional murderers.

“The first day I was there it was dusk and the beginning of the ceasefire, but when I got there the whole horizon was lit up by artillery.

“But the media reported that everything was quiet and there were no losses, when in fact there was intense firing all night.

“It might intensify again. I think peacekeepers should have been implemented a long time ago.

“It’s a no-win situation and I’ve learnt that through what I’ve seen with my own eyes.

“There is a lot of things kept in the dark but the information is out there — you just have to look for it.”

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