Ethnic raids in the Crimea


The occupation ‘authorities’ in the Crimea have now resorted to armed raids of markets and cafes in Simferopol with people obviously targeted because of ‘non-Slavonic appearance’.  An indicator that the measures are aimed at intimidation is seen in the fact that the raids are not being carried out by migration service officials but by men from the department for countering ‘extremism’

Raids were carried out at the central Simferopol market on Friday, Nov 21, with around 100 people detained.  This followed another such raid on the Tavria market in Simferopol on Nov 15.  On that occasion police without any explanation stopped over 60 people, and took fingerprints and DNA samples from them.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission men in camouflage gear stopped over 100 people during the Friday siege.  According to witnesses at least two of the people detained were beaten up.

The raid took place in three phases: at 9.00, then around 10.00 and the third from 12 to 1 in the afternoon.  The detentions were carried out by people in civilian clothes accompanied by armed men in masks and khaki clothing without insignia.  The men in plain clothes said that they were from the Russian Interior Ministry’s Department for Countering Extremism.  They did not offer a reason for their behaviour but were polite in ‘asking’ people to get into their bus.  When asked, they claimed that there was information about a bomb having been planted in the prosecutor’s offices and that they were detaining all those arousing suspicion until their identity was established.  Most of those detained were people visiting the market, though some were also vendors.  Of at least 100 people, only around 15 were ‘of Slavonic appearance’. 

According to witnesses, the politeness stopped outside the bus, and two of those detained who had asked to go out to the toilet were handcuffed and beaten.

They were all taken to the ‘centre for countering extremism’ where they were photographed and their fingerprints and saliva samples for DNA were taken.

Those who had passports with them were released after a couple of hours, others had to wait for relatives or friends to bring their passports.

Many of those detained were asked to sign documents saying that they had no complaints against the police.  This is a standard document normally extracted while a person is still effectively under the control of police officers and therefore totally meaningless.

Emil Kurtbedinov told Radio Svoboda’s Crimean service that he was not being allowed in to see his clients, and he was adamant that there had been no grounds for any of the detentions which were based solely on whether they looked Slavonic or not.   He points out that photographing people, and taking fingerprints and DNA for no reason falls under the Russian criminal code, constituting as it does exceeding official powers. 

According to the reports regarding Nov 15, all 60 or so people detained were clearly targeted because of their non-Slavonic appearance.  Some have apparently been charged with infringements of the rules for “stay in the Russian Federation”. 

Judging by the account from one of the people detained on Nov 15, a Syrian who has clearly long lived in the Crimea, he and his family were fully in support of the pseudo ‘referendum’ effectively on Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.  He says that he “didn’t expect such an attitude to him, that it was a shock”.

Such an attitude was fully expected by the Crimea’s indigenous people, the Crimean Tatars, and it was one of the reasons why they were so against annexation.

It is significant that there have also been mass ‘checks’, otherwise known as raids, of cafés in Simferopol with the officers targeting both Turkish and Crimean Tatar cafés.   The officers were yet again from the so-called Department for Counting Extremism, though the assumption is that they were looking for illegal immigrants among visitors to the cafés. 

Whatever the pretext, the behaviour is a gross infringement of people’s rights.  The involvement of officials supposedly concerned with countering ‘extremism’ is particularly ominous given the major offensive over recent months against Crimean Tatars.  A long list of gravely repressive measures have been accompanied by spurious references to Russia’s law against extremism.

  Halya Coynash

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