Images and videos of people tied up to poles throughout Ukraine have been dividing public opinion for many years, but a Cypriot journalist outside Irpin who took a photo of a man with his buttocks exposed raised questions over vigilante justice.
A story in daily Politis on Wednesday featured photographs by two Greek Cypriot journalists who are currently on assignment in Ukraine to document the war.
One of their photos showed a man tied to a utility pole with plastic wrap, while his buttocks were left exposed.
According to the story, a man with a bloody hand said through a translator that the tied individual tried to burglarize his home and attacked the homeowner with a piece of glass.
“The neighbors made a citizen’s arrest and tied him up using nylon until police could arrive,” Politis said.
A piece of cardboard wrapped in plastic with the word marauder (мародер) could also be seen on the man’s back, meaning “looter” in both Russian and Ukrainian.
But after the Euromaidan in Ukraine, images and videos of men and women tied up in similar fashion with pants down began to emerge on social media, with “marauder” also referring to people thought to be saboteurs or pro-Russian.
The first widely-circulated video was taken in 2018 in Chernihiv where a man was tied to a pole for allegedly damaging a memorial dedicated to those killed during the Maidan uprising
Similar reports from freelance journalists pointed to locals taking justice in their own hands in an ongoing battle against “saboteurs and looters” with some videos showing physical violence while others did not.
“The cardboard says ‘thief’ and his trousers were pulled down to punish him,” Politis wrote.
“Unbelievable! In such conditions, victims can turn into perpetrators and go against victims,” the authors said.
“Really? In the eyes of some or somewhere in the middle? There is no absolute truth in war,” they added
Critics have been speaking out against the practice after several videos emerged last month, saying no evidence is presented of their guilt and in some cases people were assaulted.
The first widely-circulated video was taken in 2018 in Chernihiv where a man was tied to a pole for allegedly damaging a memorial dedicated to those killed during the Maidan uprising.
But some took to social media after the Russian invasion began in late February saying public-shaming was an appropriate way to handle looting in the war-torn country.
Politis said the particular man in the story was tied up because residents had nothing else to keep him tied up until police could arrive.