05.05.2015 | Halya Coynash

Well-known Crimean blogger summoned for interrogation


Ukrainian blogger and civic activist Liza Bohutska has been summoned by the FSB for questioning at the ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’ in Russian-occupied Crimea.  It is clear that the FSB know that she is living in Kyiv since she has received other letters assuring her that there are no criminal cases pending against her nor any restrictions on her entering Crimea. 

Bohutska has every reason to know the value of such assurances and has no intention of returning to Crimea.

“Maybe the senior investigator wants to personally hand me a decision about the lack of any FSB cases against me?  In short, I thought about it and decided that it’s much safer to receive letters by post, than hand to hand.  Otherwise my hands may end up clapped in handcuffs. …  Particularly since for them I’m a foreigner.”

Bohutska writes hard-hitting articles and has never concealed her opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

She has not been to her home in Simferopol since September last year, when the FSB carried out a search of her home and interrogated her for 6 hours in the same ‘Centre for countering extremism’.

The officers had initially claimed to be looking for weapons, drugs and prohibited literature, but Bohutska herself later said that the interrogation was about her participation in the events on May 3, 2014.  That was when the Mejlis, or Crimean Tatar representative assembly cancelled the Spring Festival Hyderlez and called on people to come to the Armyansk border crossing to meet Mustafa Dzhemiliev, veteran Crimean Tatar leader, whom Russia had just exiled from his homeland. 

The reaction then and fabricated criminal cases later began the overt abuse by the occupation regime of Russia’s excessively broad laws on countering ‘extremism’.  Bohutska in fact believed that her interrogation was connected with the regime’s planned ‘elections’ and attempts to silence opposition. 

Bohutska left Crimea the next day, explaining that she “would write articles better at liberty, than not write them in prison”. 

Recent events give every reason to think that she was right.  In April Tatyana Guchakova, former deputy chief editor of Black Sea News, was taken away for questioning after a 10-hour search of her home.  Another journalist who had earlier worked for the Centre for Investigative Journalism [CIJ], Anna Shaidurova had earlier been interrogated by the FSB for around 3 hours.  She now has ‘witness’ status in ominous criminal proceedings brought against journalist Anna Andriyevska over an article published by the Centre.  See: Crimean journalist interrogated in ominous ‘call to separatism’ prosecution  In March, the CIJ journalist Natalya Kokorina was also subjected to a search and long interrogation. 

In all these cases, the journalists were released.  Both Andriyevska and CIJ are now based in Kyiv and need therefore not fear arrest in Russian-occupied Crimea.

That is not the case with ATR photographer Eskender Nebiyev who has been remanded in custody for two months a pre-annexation demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, that he was covering in his professional capacity.  This is the latest arrest in a ‘case’, breaching both Russian and international law, where the occupation regime is clearly targeting Crimean Tatars.  More details about this extremely worrying and entirely lawless case here.

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