A Ukrainian artist who was captured by the militants of the pro-Russian “Donetsk People's Republic” for putting up irreverent guerrilla art is now working on a comic book to tell the story of his kidnapping and shed light on the plight of political prisoners in occupied eastern Ukraine.
Sergey Zakharov started creating artworks mocking the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” in July of 2014, working with fellow artists to scatter plywood figures of separatists sporting clown make-up and camouflage throughout the city streets. Affixed to fences and buildings, the grotesque silhouettes immediately attracted attention and photos of them started popping up in social networks. Inevitably, this drew the ire of the “DNR” militants.
Soon after his artworks went viral, Zakharov was visited in his workshop by armed men, who escorted him to the Donetsk Security Services building (one of “DNR”‘s strongholds), along with his computer and art sketches. Zakharov spent over a month and a half in captivity, where he says he was tortured. Things like mock executions and beatings were par for the course, according to the artist.
В середині ночі, іноді охоронці напивалися, вони іноді хапали кого-небудь з ув'язнених і везли в іншу будівлю, де знову били.
In the middle of the night the guards would get drunk, seize one of the prisoners and take them to another building, where they would beat them again.
Now the artist, who moved to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after facing persecution in Donetsk, has turned to the medium of comics to share his experiences of life in the occupied city of Donetsk and his treatment at the hands of the “DNR” militants.
“If I was a writer, I would write a book, but I'm an artist, so it will be a comic book,” Zakharov told Hromadske TV in a recent interview.
Zakharov, who has been dubbed “the Donetsk Banksy” for his irreverent street art, first unveiled some of the draft pages for the future comic book on Facebook. After some of the Ukrainian media picked up the story, the artist was approached by publishers with proposals to print the book, and is still working on finalizing the details of the project.
One of Zakharov's biggest artistic inspirations is Art Spiegelman's “Maus,” one of the most prominent comic books in history, which received a Pulitzer prize for its graphic depiction of life in the Nazi concentration camps. The Ukrainian artist hopes his comic book project will help raise awareness of the plight of other prisoners and captives who suffered (and continue to suffer) at the hands of the self-proclaimed separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine.