Recently, the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) exposed a former Berkut officer who defected to the enemy and built a network of spies in the Donetsk region. However, journalists managed to find out that this traitor was also involved in the deportation and torture of Ukrainian children.

 This is described in a new video by Slidstvo.Info. The video has English subtitles.


On April 12, Ukrainian law enforcement officers served a notice of suspicion to Valeriy Astakhov, a former member of the disbanded Berkut special police unit.

According to the SSU, after the occupation of Crimea in 2014, he defected to the enemy and joined the ranks of a group controlled by the Russian secret service called the Yevpatorian Company of the People’s Militia.

This company was allegedly created to ensure the holding of a so-called referendum on the peninsula in favour of joining Russia. 

This movement included various formations, including former Berkut officers. The State Bureau of Investigation has already found more than 20 security officers fighting on the side of the Russian Federation, including Valeriy Astakhov.

The head of one of the companies of the so-called ‘Yevpatorian militia’ was Oleh Sanne. He later became the deputy head of the administration of the Saky district on the Crimean coast.

Oleh Sanne

Now Oleh Sanneh, along with other former so-called ‘militia’ members, is involved in running the youth army in Crimea, preparing children for the army and celebrating the ‘Crimean Spring’.

Ukrainian investigators found that during the full-scale invasion, Astakhov organised a group in a telegram where he collected information about the location of Ukrainian troops and then leaked it to the Russian military.

Astakhov and his associates collected information on the location of Ukrainian Grad systems in Bakhmut. Some of them are already on trial for high treason. Astakhov himself is hiding in the occupied territories. He faces imprisonment for up to 15 years (Article 111, part 2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). 


The journalists of Slidstvo.Info found that Astakhov was involved in another crime — the abuse of Ukrainian children.

The deported children, who were returned to Ukraine, recognised Astakhov not as an FSB agent, but as their executioner.

Two Ukrainian girls from Kherson deported to Russia — Nastya and Masha — about whom Slidstvo.Info made a documentary, also identified Valeriy Astakhov.

Insider journalists collected testimonies from children who eventually managed to return from the occupation and asked them to identify the perpetrator. One of the boys who returned home last month recognised Astakhov.

The children spoke about various types of torture, detention in basements, beatings and punitive psychiatry. 

“We were forced to do things we didn’t want to do: sing the Russian anthem, raise the Russian flag. To do this, they sent us the lyrics to the group. They kept us in the basement, saying ‘you are for Ukraine, you are not needed’,” a Ukrainian boy told journalists.

The children said that the occupiers beat everyone who had pro-Ukrainian views.

“They beat us with an iron stick. Astakhov. He is in charge of security, but he pretends to be a king… They hit a girl on the back, she had a bruise in a strip shape,” the boy who returned home said.

Astakhov’s crimes against children date back to 2014. Back then, he was involved in the deportation of children from Sloviansk. Astakhov helped to take 38 people to the Rostov region, including 21 children aged 2 months to 12 years. 

The documents of the official investigation indicate that Valeriy Astakhov lives in Yevpatoriya. It was here that the occupiers took many Kherson children, including girls Nastya and Masha, who were rescued by journalists.

Currently, Astakhov is on the occupied peninsula, as evidenced by propaganda videos from local TV channels.

A screenshot of the video with Astakhov


Slidstvo.Info journalists found Valeriy Astakhov’s page on the Russian social network VKontakte. The child torturer is hiding there under a different name — Viktor Zarubin. However, the man does not hesitate to post photos of himself in Russian military uniform.

At first glance, Astakhov seems to be an ordinary ‘vatnik’ who posts anti-Ukrainian posts, supports military actions and is nostalgic for the Soviet Union.

Before the full-scale invasion, the man posed as a blogger. For example, as a former Berkut member and protest expert, he wrote about “rallies” in Russia and Belarus. And at the beginning of the war, he “predicted” Ukraine’s defeat and said that the Kyiv regime should be “dismantled”.

In addition to political topics, Astakhov does not hide his interest in deported children. 

He posts about “holidays in Crimea for children of Donbas” (the very “holidays” with iron sticks) and collects aid for children who have been injured. On his page, you can find many compassionate videos with children from the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

A screenshot of Astakhov’s page

Slidstvo.Info journalists found Astakhov on the Russian dating site Dom 2. There he is looking for a romantic relationship and describes himself as “calm, balanced and without cockroaches in his head”. The child torturer tries to pass himself off as an ordinary person to gain attention on the site.

Astakhov’s page on the Russian dating site

At present, law enforcement officers have charged Valeriy Astakhov with only one crime, but we hope that he will receive a fair punishment for the abuse of illegally exported Ukrainian children.

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