Deportation & discrimination in Occupied Crimea, while EU sanctions remain on paper
Moscow’s claim that it needed to annex Crimea to protect ethnic Russians was never proven. What has been demonstrated, and soon, is that ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and all Crimeans who remain Ukrainian nationals face serious discrimination.
Under Russian occupation Crimeans who have refused to take on Russian citizenship run into all kinds of discrimination including refusals to provide free healthcare and heightened attention from the FSB or Russian security service. The Crimean Human Rights Field Mission reports however that the most serious difficulties are with finding jobs and defending ones labour rights.
The problems were, unfortunately, predicted. Crimeans who formally stated their intention to retain their Ukrainian citizenship have “residency rights for Russia” but are deemed foreigners. The Crimean Field Mission explains that this means that to find a job, they need to receive a work permit which is a long, complicated, expensive and bureaucratic procedure.
The situation is even worse if people did not write a formal statement indicating that they were retaining their Ukrainian citizenship. Many would not have realized that it was required. Some may have wanted to, but found it difficult since a short time frame was given and people needed to turn up in person at a limited number of offices accepting the documents. The Field Mission says that where there was no formal statement, a person cannot stay in his or her old job, or get a new job elsewhere.
There is also pressure from the occupation regime on employers who take on people without Russian passports. At the Bristol Hotel in Yalta, for example, the migration service suddenly, without any warning, slapped on a fine of 4.8 million roubles for 12 Ukrainian members of staff whom the management had not registered as ‘foreigners’. The fines were way out of proportion to the hotel’s income, with each person meaning a fine of 400 to 800 thousand roubles.
The result is obvious: employers are being forced to dismiss Ukrainian nationals and do not employ them.
The occupation regime has already demonstrated that it will ‘deport’ Ukrainian nationals from their homeland. On Jan 23, Sinaver Kadyrov, one of the coordinators of the Crimean Tatar Rights Committee was detained while trying to cross into mainland Ukraine. Hours later the authorities claimed that he had infringed the regulations for ‘foreign nationals’ which do not allow them to remain on Russian territory [including Russian-occupied Crimea] for more than 90 days. He had, in fact, been in mainland Ukraine in November and was therefore well within the (Russian) law.
Thus far the occupation regime has remained selective in such use of ‘deportation’, but it is poignant and disturbing that this new victim was again a Crimean Tatar. Exactly a year ago Russia banned veteran Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev from entering his homeland, then later Refat Chubarov, Head of the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly. In December last year a Russian court upheld the ban on Dzhemiliev, thus accepting the statement by a migration service official that the 71-year-old had been banned for 5 years “to ensure the state’s defence capacity and security, and to safeguard public order.” In other cases, particularly those of political prisoners Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko, held in Moscow detention since May last year, the authorities are actively denying their right to Ukrainian citizenship and protection under both Ukrainian and international law.
While Russia is applying increasingly Soviet measures and deporting Crimean Tatars from their native Crimea, western countries do not appear to be applying even those highly limited sanctions which were imposed. Refat Chubarov reports that on April 21 friends with every reason to know the Mayor of Simferopol Viktor Ageyev, who played a highly active role in supporting Russia’s annexation, saw him and his wife in Germany. In September last year, while the Russian FSB was carrying out armed searches of the Mejlis, Crimean Tatar families mosques and schools, passengers on a German Hansa Touristik GmbH operated luxury liner spent a day sunning themselves in Russian-occupied Yalta. Such cases are, at most, reported, but do not appear to incur any punitive measures.
Moscow’s claim that it needed to annex Crimea to protect ethnic Russians was never proven. What has been demonstrated, and soon, is that ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and all Crimeans who remain Ukrainian nationals face serious discrimination. Those who openly oppose Russian occupation are also subjected to repression or exile from their homeland.