SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 09, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Horlivka Museum of Fine Arts

Region & Country:Europe | Ukraine

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 9, 2018, Olena Pekh, a research scholar at Horlivka Museum of Fine Arts, was arrested by pro-Russian rebels on allegations of espionage and treason.

Ms. Pekh was apprehended in the Donbas region of Ukraine while she was there visiting her mother and was ‘sentenced’ by the rebels in March 2020 to thirteen years imprisonment. She is currently being held in the town of Snizhne, in Penal Colony 127, and has allegedly admitted to the charges against her under duress and torture.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas region began in 2014 and continues to the present. A 2020 attempt by the Ukrainian government to secure Ms. Pekh’s released did not succeed. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the wrongful arrest, imprisonment and alleged custodial abuse of a scholar — conduct that is expressly prohibited under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine academic freedom and harm free society generally.