Ukrainian swimmer flees persecution in Crimea: “It’s worse than Soviet times!”

Sevastopol marathon swimmer Oleg Sofyanik has decided to stay in mainland Ukraine after being summoned for questioning about another Ukrainian, Yury Ilchenko who is in detention, seemingly for an article opposing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Sofyanik has also openly expressed his opposition and fears he will be arrested if he returns.

The 51-year-old swimmer is known beyond Ukraine and has taken part in many marathon swimming events. The 51-year-old was apparently a dissident in Soviet times and faced KGB persecution. Like Ilchenko, he made no secret of his opposition to Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea. Although facing FSB harassment, and FSB questioning as to why he didn’t take Russian citizenship, he had until recently managed to remain, He explained to that he had been monitoring rights abuses in Crimea. This, he said, was needed as others who would normally be reporting abuses are either imprisoned or have left Crimea.