Abducted activist Andriy Shchekun removed for “subversive activities”
Crimea’s puppet prime minister Sergei Aksenov has effectively admitted that civic activists likely to oppose his pro-Russian line in the pseudo-referendum on Sunday are being held in custody.
On Tuesday Aksenov was reported as saying that Crimean Maidan activist Andriy Shchekun had not been abducted by vigilantes, but “detained” by Crimean security service for what he called “subversive activities”. Sergei Aksenov says that Shchekun and other activists will have their liberty “restricted” until after the so-called referendum on March 16. Aksenov claimed that “a large amount of provocative material and documents was removed. However he will be released if he doesn’t carry out subversive activities on Crimean territory”. He said that “measures of a procedural nature” had been applied, and that Shchekun was alive and in good health.
He claimed that EuroMaidan activists dressed up as police officers were pretending to check documents in order to rip up people’s passports.
Aksenov’s people are clearly following what is being reported in the social media. It was reported here on Monday that people pretending to be from electoral commissions were appearing at people’s homes asking to check documents. They were said to be either absconding with passports, or ripping them up.
In the light of objections both from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the OSCE Media Representative, Dunja Mijatović regarding the Broadcasting Council’s demand on Tuesday that cable operators remove certain Russian channels, it is worth noting Aksenov’s justification of restriction of freedom of speech.
“What should we do with such people? Simply sit and watch the situation? I’m sorry but it’s now wartime. That requires the adoption of certain harsh measures. If somebody wants to infringe and destabilize the situation, that means that they will have their freedom restricted. We have no other possibility”.
“We are asking: do not stop people from expressing their opinion? They’ll express it, say what direction we are going, and that’s where we will go. I believe that it will be in the direction of the Russian Federation.”
Aksenov was certainly elected in conditions of armed conflict, albeit undeclared. Less than half a day after armed men in uniform without any insignia seized the government buildings in Simferopol, MPs were allowed in and Aksenov “elected” prime minister. He heads a party that received only 3 seats in the last elections and a mere 4% of the votes.
By now nobody is in any doubt that the troops being amassed in the Crimea are Russian, and Vladimir Putin’s denial of this an outright lie.
The “referendum” has been condemned by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Ukraine’s government, main election watchdogs, and effectively all countries except the Russian Federation. The USA has stated that it regards the exercise as illegitimate and will not recognize the results.
Aksenov mentioned only Andriy Shchekun, head of the Crimean Ukrainian Council, and not Anatoly Kovalsky, an educationalist from Simferopol who was taken away at the same time.
The two appear to have been accosted while collecting a parcel from Kyiv. The reports suggest that vigilantes were initially involved, but after the transport police refused to draw up protocols against the men, the vigilantes called their bosses. At this point men appeared who took the two activists away.