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22.07.2014 | Halya Coynash

Yalta man could face year imprisonment for flying a Ukrainian flag

   

Russia, together with its occupation regime in the Crimea, clearly defends only the “right” of Kremlin-backed militants to raise Russian flags.  In other cases, as with a peaceful protest in Yalta involving a Ukrainian flag, the full repressive weight of Russian law is invoked.

Radio Svoboda’s Crimean site reports that the state flag was recently raised over the city administration building in Yalta.  The flag was immediately removed and the man, an ethnic Russian, arrested.

54-year-old Sergei had heard about an AN-26 plane shot down by the Kremlin-backed militants and taken this to heart, as he has all the events since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the troubles in eastern Ukraine.

He was planning to visit relatives in Kyiv, and decided, as a reaction to the new downing of a plane, to carry out a flashmob: to climb up and substitute the flag above the building and then leave by train.

In the evening he used a fire staircase to climb up the 9-metre tower over the administration building and change the Russian flag for a Ukrainian flag.  Hearing shouts from below, he leapt from the tower and hurt his leg.  He was first marched to the prosecutor’s office, but since he began losing consciousness, was then taken to hospital.

The Ukrainian flag flew for around 30 minutes.  Sergei’s home was subjected to a search the following day.  They were looking for any signs of membership of the nationalist movement Right Sector, but found none.

The Prosecutor is planning to charge Sergei under Article 329 of the Russian criminal code – “desecration of the state flag of the Russian Federation” which can carry up to 1 year imprisonment.

Alena Lunevaya from the Network of legal advice centres says that this case, like those of Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko and the other two men facing ‘terrorism charges’ are of a purely political nature.

Other observers suggest that giving this case publicity could backfire and be bad for the puppet regime under Russian occupation, showing as it does that by no means everybody is happy with Russia’s annexation of their home.

Moscow has been extremely vociferous in defending the right of armed ‘rebels’ in eastern Ukraine to seize government buildings and raise Russian flags.  As can be seen above, this is not tolerated in areas under Russian occupation.

Please also see the case of three men in detention in Kalingrad and facing long sentences for a peaceful protest in which they raised a German flag.  Kaliningrad FSB finds ‘deep offence’ in a German flag

It is also worth noting that the overtly repressive measures against veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev and, increasingly, against the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People began after Dzhemiliev first returned to Simferopol after the Russian invasion.  He noticed that the Ukrainian flag was no longer raised, together with the Crimean Tatar flag, over the Mejlis building  and ordered that it be returned to its rightful place.  This was deemed ’extremist behaviour’ by Russia’s puppet regime in the Crimea.  More information here.

 

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