“Why do you hate us?” The director of the Kherson theater recounts his abduction

The kidnapping of Oleksandr Knyga started like in the movies. It was even this that troubled him. The director of the Kherson theater, kidnapped Wednesday March 23 by the Russians, then released in the evening, told by telephone to the World those “stressful hours” with tragicomic overtones.

It is 7 a.m. when he sees a dozen armored Jeeps arrive at his home in Olechky, near Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city to fall under Russian control. “We could see machine guns from the windows, the whole yard was surrounded by soldiers”says this 62-year-old cultural figure, also a member of the regional council and leader of a small local party. “My family woke up. I was asked to move forward in the house. Armed men stood behind my back, with a bulletproof shield. Honestly, at that moment the fear left me, and I started laughing”, says Mr. Knyga. There were so many Russians then that he asked them if there weren’t others still in the house and if they weren’t afraid. “They searched the whole house, talked to me for a bit in my library, checked our social networks, then told me to pack my things and took me outside. Almost the entire area was cordoned off. »

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His captors take him in a car with three Russian soldiers. “We drove to Kherson. The funny thing is that at that time the Ukrainian radio was playing a song about Bayraktar », named after the Turkish drones bought by Ukraine to counter Russia. This song, released on 1er march, insults the Russian army and criticizes the invasion. She has become very popular in the country.

The convoy stops at the Kherson regional administration, then the chosen one, blindfolded, finds himself in an empty cell. “They asked me who I was and why I was here. Then some men took me away, took my fingerprints and photos. » His captors are masked, but Oleksandr Knyga understands, during the interrogation, “that they are not simple soldiers but officers, probably from the secret services”.

“I have the impression that they cannot understand”

Why did you remove him? “They were looking for me as a public figure. » The director of the theater was undoubtedly all the more suspect since many employees of his establishment take part in the demonstrations which take place every day against the occupation in the Kherson region. “People were tired of being scared, hearing explosions and sitting in basements. They are happy to see each other at rallies”says Mr. Knyga.

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