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Russian soldier & two paramilitaries charged with savage murder of Hero of Ukraine Reshat Ametov

Halya Coynash

The Ukrainian Prosecutor for Crimea has identified three men believed to have been behind the abduction of Reshat Ametov as he stood in silent protest at Russia’s invasion of Crimea on 3 March 2014, and his savage murder.  

The investigators accuse two Ukrainian nationals – 33-year-old Oleksandr Rudenko and Oleksandr Bahlyuk (44)  – of having carried out the abduction and murder.  The two were members of the so-called ‘’self-defence’ pro-Russian paramilitaries who helped Russian soldiers without insignia seize control of Crimea in February and March 2014. They are believed to have acted under the direction of 53-year-old retired Russian military man, Yevgeny Skripnik, who subsequently left Crimea to fight with other Russian and pro-Russian fighters against Ukraine in Donbas.

International warrants have been issued for the arrest of all three men, Skripnik is also believed to have been behind an analogous abduction, this time of three officers of the Alpha SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] special forces unit in April 2014.

International warrants have been issued against all of the men, to face charges of involvement in an illegal armed formation (Article 260 part 2 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code) and Article 146 part 3 (abduction with grave consequences).  In announcing the findings on 10 September, Chief Prosecutor for Crimea, Hunduz Mamedov said that the progress had been achieved through cooperation between the prosecutor’s office, the police and human rights groups.   

Reshat Ametov was a 39-year-old Crimean Tatar who was married with three small daughters. In the evening of 2 March 2014, he had tried to persuade the neighbours who were guarding their village against the armed paramilitaries to come with him in peaceful protest on 3 March.  They were fearful and advised him to also stay at home. 

He set out the next morning alone and took position on the square outside the Crimean parliament, holding a Ukrainian flag.  He spoke with journalists if they approached him, but otherwise stood in silent protest.   He had been there for about an hour and a half when he was abducted by armed paramilitaries. 

His mutilated body was found two weeks later, on March 15. His head had been bound with tape, and handcuffs were lying nearby.  The torturers had used something like a knife, and he died finally from brain damage after they gouged out his eyes.

Reshat Ametov’s last post on Facebook had been a question: “Russian friend, if they order you to, will you shoot me?” 

The de facto authorities under Russian control seem to have only ever imitated an investigaiton,  and have persistently claimed that they could not identify the culprits,  This is manifestly absurd.  Within weeks of the discovery of Ametov’s mutilated body, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine had established, through conversations with witnesses, etc. that the ‘self-defence’ paramilitaries were likely to be behind the abduction and murder. Most importantly, his abductors, who were almost certainly also his murderers, can be clearly seen on video footage, as can the car he was driven away in. 

Rather than trying to find Ametov’s killers, the occupation authorities subjected his family to intimidating surveillance.  Zarina Ametova reported that a black Opel had kept following her when she took the children to kindergarten or school.  This was around a year after Ametov’s murder and left her terrified.

Lerane Khaibullaeva is a close friend of the family who took part in the desperate search back in 2014.  She was once asked why Ametov was targeted when he had not been a well-known activist.  She replied “He had a very clear civic position. He had, after all, come out in protest for the sake of his children.  He had always wanted them to live in a free, democratic country”

Reshat Ametov was formally declared a Hero of Ukraine in March 2018, informally much earlier.

The armed paramilitaries are believed to have been behind the abduction and likely killing of several Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian civic activists, including  Timur Shaimardanov who was just 33 when he disappeared on May 26 2014 and Seiran Zinedinov, who disappeared after visiting Shaimardanov’s family to discuss efforts to find him.  There has never been any real attempt to investigate these, nor the abduction by men in uniform of Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov, and 18 other Crimean Tatars.

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