Crimean Ukrainian Activist Detained on Border, Threatened with Ban
Veldar Shukurdzhiyev, a member of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, has again faced harassment, this time from Russian border guards and FSB officers as he tried to return to Crimea from mainland Ukraine. He was detained at around 22.00 on Nov 24, and only released close to morning.
According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, the border guards initially took his car away for inspection, then at about 23.00 he was informed that he was being detained. No reason was given, but his mobile phone, passport and car papers were taken away. FSB officers copied out the phone numbers from his mobile.
Two FSB officers told him that they had passed on his details and that they were waiting for instructions. The border guards told him that he might be banned from entering Crimea until 2030. It is not clear whether they genuinely planned to ban him, but there was every reason for concern. Since invading and annexing Crimea, Russia has imposed five-year bans on Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Refat Chubarov and others.
Shukurdzhiyev informed around 5 a.m. that he had been allowed to continue on to Crimea.
Veldar Shukurdzhiyev has faced constant detentions, interrogations and prosecution on administrative charges since Russia occupied Crimea.
On Aug 12, he and another Ukrainian, Iryna Kopylova, were seized, together with a lawyer from Moscow and a Ukrainian flag in an operation involving five police cars and officers from Russia’s ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’
Shukurdzhiyev and Kopylova were simply trying to take photographs of themselves holding the Ukrainian flag near a monument to Vladimir Lenin, but were issued with administrative offence protocols, with the claim being that the Ukrainians had been holding an ‘unauthorized public event’.
On March 9 this year, Shukurdzhiyev, Leonid Kuzmin and Oleksandr Kravchenko took part in a totally peaceful gathering marking the 201st anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. The event can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0_9MjntQdk At least two Ukrainian flags, one with the words: “Crimea is Ukraine” were held, as well as a Crimean Tatar flag. Many of the young people present also held balloons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
All three men were detained, interrogated over likely ‘extremism’ and sentenced to 40 hours of community service, with Kuzmin also threatened with dismissal from his teaching job. (See: Crimean Court Finds Ukrainian Flag a “Prohibited Symbol”)
Crimea is still without electricity and there are, unfortunately, good grounds for fearing that Russia and its occupation regime in Crimea will resort to repressive measures against all those who make no secret of their opposition to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.Halya Coynash