Officials seek release of North Dakotan prisoner as Russia bombards Ukrainian city where he's held
A request for Kurt Groszhans' release is now in front of Ukraine's Prosecutor General Office, the agency in charge of prosecuting crimes and conducting pre-trial investigations. The office has the ability to grant Groszhans' release, Sen. John Hoeven said.
BISMARCK — As Russia appears to be ramping up its threat to seize Ukraine's capital city, North Dakota's congressional delegation is waiting to hear from Ukraine's government about whether a fellow North Dakotan can be released from a Kyiv detention center for fear over his safety.
Russian forces conducted artillery strikes on Kyiv on Monday, March 14 , causing the death of multiple civilians.
Kurt Groszhans, a farmer and businessman from Ashley, North Dakota, has been detained in Ukraine since November for allegedly plotting the assassination of Ukraine's Minister of Agriculture Roman Leshchenko.
Groszhans' family previously told AgWeek, a publication owned by Forum Communications, that they are concerned for his safety and well-being. They have denied the allegations against Groszhans.
North Dakota's congressional delegation has been working with Ukrainian officials to advocate for Groszhans' well-being since his arrest.
Initially, the delegation worked to ensure his case received fair handling in the Ukrainian judicial system. However, since Russia's attacks on the country began, the delegation has requested Groszhans' release from the Kyiv detention center and for his removal from Ukraine based on humanitarian grounds, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told The Forum on Monday.
A request for Groszhans' release is now in front of Ukraine's Prosecutor General Office, the country's agency in charge of prosecuting crimes and conducting pre-trial investigations, and this office has the ability to grant Groszhans' release, Hoeven said, adding that U.S. officials are expecting an answer to the request sometime this week.
Groszhans' family did not respond to The Forum's request for comment.
"...(O)ur brother is a sitting duck in that prison and we need him to be released so at least he can try to survive on his own," Kristi Magnusson, Groszhans' sister, told The Associated Press earlier this month.
Hoeven said Monday he is unaware of the current condition of Groszhans' detention facility amid the increasing conflict in and around Kyiv. But the senator said officials are working to get him out of the country even though it's been more difficult since the U.S. withdrew its diplomats from Ukraine.
About five Americans, including Groszhans, are currently thought to be held in pre-trial detention centers in Ukraine, according to the news website Axios.
In a statement, a U.S. Department of State spokesperson said the department is "closely monitoring the detentions of all U.S. citizens in Ukraine and are in frequent contact with Mr. Groszhans’ family, legal counsel, and Congressional representatives from North Dakota."
The State Department said it's monitoring Groszhans' situation but declined to comment further.
Before Russia invaded, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., visited Groszhans in the detention facility and they "prayed together and Senator Cramer conveyed messages from his family and loved ones," Cramer's spokesperson Molly Block said in a statement.
With Russia's invasion and strikes bombarding Kyiv, Hoeven said the city is not safe.
"Obviously, with what's going on, (Groszhans) is not safe in Kyiv and nor is anyone else," Hoeven said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.