Russia detains Crimean Tatars for honouring the victims of the Deportation
Russian police and FSB marked the 73rd anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar People with detentions and harassment of people, many elderly, gathered in prayer. Five drivers of cars bearing Crimean Tatar flags were detained in Bakhchysarai and protocols drawn up. A court hearing into this supposed ‘administrative offence’ has been scheduled for later on Thursday.
In Simferopol, eight young people were released in the early afternoon after being detained for walking with the Crimean Tatar flag. Journalist Anton Naumlyuk reports that the men released were all made to provide ‘explanations’. The police tried to take fingerprints, but all refused to give them. Another two minors were held further in the police station, and at least three other people had been detained, also for the Crimean Tatar Flag in another part of the city.
Most distressing is, of course, the treatment of older people who may well have directly experienced the Deportation or at least grown up in exile.
In Feodosia, Suleiman Kadyrov was detained while trying to lay flowers, but later released. It is not clear whether Kadyrov was specifically targeted as he is facing a 5-year prison sentence and was recently added to Russia’s ‘List of Terrorists and Extremists’ for openly calling Crimea part of Ukraine on a social network. This means that the 54-year-old member of the Feodosia Mejlis and retired policeman is unable to receive his pension which is his sole income and needed to look after a family of four, including his 10-year-old daughter and elderly mother.
Born in exile, Kadyrov was only able to return to Crimea after Ukraine gained Independence in 1991. He served in the police force, but left in March 2014, unwilling to work for Russia. As he explained: “I gave my oath of allegiance to Ukraine and I remain true to it. I have not betrayed my oath”.
In Simferopol Server Kerametov was detained and only released after several hours or a single-person picket on Lenin Square. Even Russia’s repressive legislation does not ban a picket held by one individual, and the elderly man was clearly alone when the police turned up.
In at least Simferopol and Feodosia, Crimean Tatars were stopped by police when either taking part in Dua (collective prayers) for the victims of the Deportation or approaching memorial stones to honour the victims. In Bakhchysarai, police blocked a memorial stone where people were planning to lay flowers.
On a day of remembrance and sorrow for all Crimean Tatars, a Russian-controlled ‘court’ held another formal ‘hearing’ to reject appeals against the effectively indefinite detention of four Crimean Tatars: Rustem Abiltarov; Zevri Abseitov; Enver Mamutov and Remzi Memetov. The four men have been in custody since 12 May 2016 on fabricated charges of involvement in a peaceful organization which is legal in Ukraine and most countries (details here).
The Russian occupation authorities did, however, choose to cancel the hearing scheduled in the ‘trial’ of Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz. He has been imprisoned since January 2015 on legally nonsensical charges pertaining to a demonstration on Ukrainian soil over which Russia has no jurisdiction. Many Crimean Tatars had come to the court in Simferopol to show their support. Naumlyuk reports that the hearing was adjourned, and two buses with police stationed outside the court buildings.
This is unfortunately likely to be updated with new repressive measures against Crimean Tatar honouring the victims of a terrible crime, recognized in Ukraine as an act of genocide.