Honouring Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko banned in Russian-occupied Crimea


  9 March 2015 - before Leonid Kuzmin (reading) and others were detained

Strictly speaking, the de facto authorities under Russian occupation have only refused to allow the traditional gathering in Simferopol on March 9.  The distinction is semantic and would not prevent Crimeans being detained if they did appear at the monument to the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.  Gatherings to lay flowers and read the poet’s works required courage under the Soviet regime and could result in arrests.  For Crimea under Russian occupation those times have returned.   

Alyona Popova from the Ukrainian Cultural Centre explained to Radio Svoboda that the de facto authorities had cited the state of emergency imposed on Nov 22, 2015 (over energy shortages) as excuse.  The pretext is curious both because a peaceful gathering to lay flowers and recite Shevchenko’s poems seems unlinked to any special measures in force, and because planned events have not been banned or cancelled.   The gathering at the monument was deemed ‘unplanned’, although until Russia’s annexation of Crimea, there had always been memorial events on March 9, the anniversary of the poet’s birth. 

Klavdiya Ivanivna

The de facto authorities had refused permission to gather at the monument in 2015, but had ‘allowed’ a gathering in Gagarin Park.  It is well-worth watching the entire video here, given the heavy-handed reaction to a totally peaceful event

The elderly lady at 1.19 is Klavdiya Ivanivna who says that she has come to at least hear the Ukrainian language which she loves.  She becomes very distressed as she speaks:

“I so miss Ukraine, I so love it.  I want to die in Ukraine.  I don’t want these occupiers, I hate them!”.

People held at least two Ukrainian flags, one with the words “Crimea is Ukraine”.   Many of the young people present also had balloons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. 

There was heavy police presence and at the end the organizer – Leonid Kuzmin, and two participants - Veldar Shukurdzhiyev and Oleksandr Kravchenko were detained.  They were eventually all charged with ‘infringing the established procedure for organizing or holding a gathering, rally, etc.” and sentenced to 40 hours compulsory labour.  Kuzmin, the head of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, was also dismissed from his teaching job in a Simferopol school. 

During the court hearings, the police officers asserted that the men had been carrying ‘prohibited symbols’.  Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov pointed out to the court that there was no law that prohibited the use of the Ukrainian flag. This was ignored and judge Natalya Urzhumova found the men guilty as charged.  (more details here)

Two weeks later, Crimean Tatar national movement activist Kurtseit Abdullayev was sentenced to 20 hours compulsory labour for having held the Ukrainian flag with the words “Crimea is Ukraine” during the same gathering on March 9. 

There have been a number of other prosecutions since then, as well as visitations from the ‘anti-extremism’ unit.  Most often the de facto authorities invent some pretext for administrative proceedings.  In August 2015, a young man was jailed for 15 days for supposed breach of the peace early in the morning on Ukraine’s Independence Day when he and another young man and woman tried to photograph themselves with a Ukrainian flag on Mount Mitridat in the centre of Kerch.  It was claimed that they had used bad language.

See also Prosecuted in Russian-occupied Crimea for photos with a Ukrainian flag

In August, 2015, as Ukraine’s Independence Day (August 24) approached, the Russian occupation prosecutor warned that ““some radical Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian activists are planning to provoke the Crimean law enforcement bodies to use force by placing Ukrainian symbols in inhabited areas of Crimea and chanting pro-Ukrainian slogans”. 

Force was not applied, but two people, including Leonid Kuzmin, were detained for laying flowers at the monument to Taras Shevchenko.

Which is dead radical under Russian occupation.  

Halya Coynash

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