Prague/Kiev, Sept 21 (CTK correspondent) – Young Ukrainian Yuriy Yatsenko, who left for a few days to Russia to buy some things and then sell last May, was soon detained and forced by the Russian authorities to confess to having spied, he has told the Czech News Agency (CTK).

At first, he was accused of having illegally crossed the border.

“I was told that I will not have problems only if I collaborate and confess to having been sent by Ukraine as a spy who is to harm Russia,” Yatsenko said in the interview.

Yatsenko said he had been unable to contact his family or lawyer and only left the Russian prison one year later.

One day after his arrest in the small town of Oboyan, Russian secret service agents appeared there and started exerting pressure on him, he added.

“When I refused again the offer to collaborate, they started using the methods of force, threats and beating,” Yatsenko said.

“In the first days, I was not given anything to eat and I was not let sleep,” said the young student of law who came to Prague at the invitation of the group People in Need.

The Russian Federal Immigration Service then accused him of having crossed the border to Russia illegally.

“I was placed in a special facility for foreigners. I was supposed to spend there ten days, to pay the fine of 2,000 roubles and to be deported to Ukraine,” Yatsenko said.

“As it was, this absolutely suited me. However, the decision was being postponed for another three months,” he added.

He only managed to send a message home with the help of another detained man. The family then hired a lawyer.

“When the lawyer appeared, the officials understood that a scandal might occur. They decided to step up the pressure,” Yatsenko said.

“I was forced into a van, a sack was put on my head and I was driven to a forest. There the agents tried to make me collaborate,” he said, adding that he refused again.

“In the forest, I had my hands tied behind my back. I was hung from a tree and physical violence started. I prayed for my survival,” Yatsenko said.

Back in the prison cell, Yatsenko realised that the only way with which to escape further torture was to push his body into the state in which no torture would be possible.

“This is why I slashed my veins and stomach. Due to the large loss of blood, I could not be driven again to the forest and beaten,” he added.

He said he was only then allowed to phone and to gain access to the Ukrainian consul with whom they wrote a number of complaints.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry asked Moscow for explanation.

Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina also tried to help him, but to no avail.

“I was still in a detention centre for foreigners with appalling conditions. The cells were overcrowded, with 15-17 prisoners in a single room,” Yatsenko said.

Three months later, a trial followed. “I received two years. The hope was gone,” Yatsenko said.

A court of appeals then ruled that he had been detained illegally and the punishment was reduced to nine months which he had already served.

Thanks to this, he was released on May 7.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says at least 11 Ukrainian citizens are being detained illegally in Russia. They include film director Oleg Sentsov, recently given a 20-year prison term for alleged support to terrorists in Crimea, and Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenkova, now tried over the death of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.

“There are not only Sentsov and Savchenko, but maybe some more unknown names,” Yatsenko said.