Kremlin's Ukrainian political prisoner issues impassioned plea to US State Secretary Blinken
A key issue in any meetings between the Presidents of the USA and Russia must be the unconditional release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea and Russia. This, Oleksiy Bessarabov, Ukrainian academic, political analyst and Russia’s political prisoner, stresses, is “not a political issue, but one of restoring a minimum level of trust, honour and morality of nations’ leaders in the twenty first century.”
Bessarabov is one of three Ukrainians from Sevastopol arrested on ‘sabotage’ charges in November 2016. He and Volodymyr Dudka are both serving 14-year sentences despite the absurdity of the charges and the flagrant doctoring of ‘evidence’ against them. Bessarabov points out, however, in his appeal to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, that there are political prisoners who have been imprisoned since 2014.
Bessarabov writes that he is one of over 100 Ukrainian citizens arrested by Russia’s FSB in occupied Crimea and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment on fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’; ‘extremism’; ‘spying’ or ‘sabotage’.
“Although my name, like that of dozens of other political prisoners, is on the lists of human rights organizations like Freedom House and Memorial, we are virtually forgotten. Only our relatives, friends and colleagues remember us. We are forgotten because the issue of Crimea is never discussed either during the Normandy Four negotiations, or those in Minsk. Those [negotiation] formats concern only occupied Donbas, but not Crimea. Oleg Sentsov has been freed, however the Sentsov List remains and is, indeed, constantly having the names of new prisoners added to it. Our names have been mentioned over recent years only in resolutions from the European Parliament and by the US Permanent Mission to the OSCE for which I would like to express particular gratitude to the United States. “
Bessarabov goes on to say that he and other political prisoners are aware of preparations underway for meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as for a summit between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. They ask that the unconditional release of all Ukrainians illegally held in Russian and Crimean captivity be made a key issue on the agenda. “This is not a political issue, but one of restoring a minimum level of trust, honour and morality of nations’ leaders in the twenty first century.”
There are compelling examples of how this can work, Bessarabov says, citing the US policy in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. “There they became with a joint release of prisoners on an ‘all for all’ basis, and only after that, did they seek a political settlement. The parties – the Afghan authorities and the Talibans – managed in a matter of months to exchange ‘all for all’ around six thousand people. In the case of the Russian – Ukrainian conflict, only partial releases have been carried out, with the last of these being in 2019 and concerning only Donbas, not Crimea.”*
Bessarabov writes that he has already been imprisoned for four and a half years, and others have been prisoners already for seven years.
“We can only hope that, given the political will and under the influence of the United States, we can regain our freedom.”
Details about Oleksiy Bessarabov; Volodymyr Dudka and Dmytro Shtyblikov here
* There was in fact one exchange in April 2020, however it also applied only to Donbas and aroused concerns for a number of other reasons (details here).
Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia (press the name for more information)
The list includes several Crimean men and one woman seized in the months after Russia’s last release of Ukrainian political prisoners, a victim of punitive psychiatry and a Radio Svoboda journalist
‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions
Fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists and as part of Russia’s attempts to demonize Crimean Tatars. Not one of the men was or is accused of a recognizable crime, yet several men have been sentenced to 18 or 19 years.
Sevastopol Crimean Tatars
10 May 2018 Enver Seytosmanov
Yalta Six - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.
Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him. See:
Bakhchysarai Four - four men arrested on 12 May 2016
Simferopol Five - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions
Seiran Saliyev sentenced to 16 years on same political changes as those against his great-grandfather in Soviet times
14 February 2019 ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’
27 March 2019 ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia. Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov were arrested later.
Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist
Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners
Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist
Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Rayim Aivazov Crimean Solidarity activist
Enver Ametov actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Osman Arifmemetov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist
Farkhod Bazarov Crimean Solidarity activist
Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners
Remzi Bekirov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention.
Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Riza Izetov human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist
Seiran Murtaza actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.
Yashar Muyedinov Crimean Solidarity activist
Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Seitveli Seitabdiev Crimean Solidarity activist
Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist
Rustem Sheikhaliev Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Eskender Suleimanov, Crimean Solidarity activist.
Ruslan Suleymanov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist
Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist
Asan Yanikov civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.
10 June 2019 FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”
‘Belogorsk group’ - including a father and son
11 March 2020 Another ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and their relatives
Osman Seitumerov (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seytumerov)
Rustem Seitmemetov (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)
Amet Suleimanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet). He had recently restricted such civic activism, but only because of very serious heart problems.
17 February 2021 New offensive against civic activists with the armed searches evidently only for so-called ‘prohibited literature’
Other religious persecution
‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof
Valentin Vyhivsky Imprisoned since September 2014
Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea
Mykola Shyptur imprisoned since March 2014
Accused of membership in Ukraine of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes, including the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which, despite its name, is not an armed formation
Other Ukrainian political prisoners