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15.06.2017 | Halya Coynash

German Scooter band breaches Crimea sanctions, incites fans to break the law

Scooter (from ad), invading Russian soldiers
   

Not only has Germany’s Scooter band decided to flout international sanctions and ignore Russia’s grave human rights abuses in occupied Crimea, but it is also misleading fans on its own website.  Scooter has agreed to appear at a festival in Balaclava (Crimea) at a time when a Crimean Tatar leader and a Crimean journalist are both on trial facing 5-year sentences merely for saying that Russia is occupying their Ukrainian homeland, and Russia has imprisoned at least 27 Ukrainians on politically motivated charges. 

Scooter are a German dance group founded in Hamburg, with the three current members H.P. Baxxter, Phil Speiser and Michael Simon.  Baxxter is also on the jury of the talent competition ‘Germany in search of a super-idol’. 

Why they agreed to take part in #ZB Fest 2017 (Zolotaya Balka Festival) from August 4-5 this year is unclear, but their fans should be in no doubt what this move means.  Scooter will be appearing with Russian performers in Balaclava, Crimea which Russia invaded and illegally occupied in early 2014.   Russia’s actions have been recognized as an international military conflict by the International Criminal Court at the Hague and its ongoing occupation of Crimea is acknowledged by all European and international bodies, including the UN General Assembly to be in grave breach of international law.

Scooper’s members would be well-advised to weigh up any financial gain and publicity from Russia’s state-controlled propaganda machine against the serious damage this does their reputation. 

The group’s website gives a list of their upcoming performances with links for their fans to buy tickets.  The link in the case of #ZB Fest 2017 leads to the Russian site without providing any warning that fans who travel to Crimea on Russian visas, from Russia, are in breach of Ukrainian law and could be banned from the country in future. 

Any claim that such warnings should be issued by those selling the tickets is arrant hypocrisy.  Russia’s occupation of Crimea has led to a sharp reduction in the already limited freedom of expression in the Russian Federation, and any acknowledgement that Crimea is occupied territory could get you into serious trouble and / or imprisoned. 

Both the Russian NGO Public Control and its head, Mikhail Anshakov learned to their cost what providing tourists with correct information about the risks of visiting occupying Crimea could lead to. 

Within a day of publishing the leaflet, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office was threatening prosecution and the website had been blocked.  Since then the head of the NGO Mikhail Anshakov has faced absurd criminal charges

Since Germany does not censor uncomfortable information, it is worth noting what the NGO was warning.  Anshakov reported back in 2015 that they had already had several dozen people turn to them after being refused Schengen visas.  Although EU authorities did not spell out the reasons for turning people down, Anshakov was convinced it was because of their recent visit to Crimea.  Germans are in the Schengen Zone, however the principle is the same – such breaches of international law are noticed.  The NGO’s information is still current and worth reading.

Russia has imposed an atmosphere of intimidation and terror in occupied Crimea, with Crimean Tatars especially targeted.  This was acknowledged by the UN International Court of Justice recently with the Court not only accepting Ukraine’s suit against Russia over discrimination of Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, but also imposing provisional measures because of the urgency of the situation.  These Russia has ignored. 

There is no freedom of speech in Crimea and it is no accident that Russia is now prosecuting one of the few remaining independent journalists merely for opposing annexation.  It has taken to jailing activists who come out in peaceful solidarity with victims of repression and / or try to report armed searches and arrests on social media. 

Western attention, and international monitors are desperately needed to provide a voice for those facing persecution, not a German dance band providing Russia with propaganda.

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