Crimea Marathon of Solidarity as Response to Mounting Repression
Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians have begun enthusiastically collecting ten rouble coins in the latest response to new methods of repression in Russian-occupied Crimea. The coins are a symbol of solidarity and a means of sharing the financial burden of the fines increasingly imposed for demonstrating support for political prisoners.
The idea was born at the last meeting on July 29 of ‘Crimean Solidarity’, a civic initiative uniting the relatives of men imprisoned on politically motivated charges or for their faith, as well as human rights activists and lawyers.
Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov explains that the point of the marathon is that each person who is concerned about political prisoners and civic activists can become involved in helping them. These fines are clearly aimed at hitting people hard financially and are indeed beyond the capacity of any individual family, however if the burden is shared by the entire people, it is scarcely felt.
As with the Crimean Solidarity movement, what began as a Crimean Tatar initiative has been supported by other Ukrainians, both in Crimea and in mainland Ukraine.
The marathon was initially prompted by the draconian fines imposed on two Crimean Tatars from Bakhchysarai – Emil Belyalov and Osman Belyalov. Each man was fined 150 thousand roubles literally for having stood on the street and observed the armed search taking place of another activist Seydamet Mustafaev in April this year. In this case, as on previous occasions, the Russian-controlled court meekly agreed to consider this ‘participation in an unauthorised meeting’, with each supposedly a repeat ‘offence’.
Although such charges have been used on every anniversary of the Deportation since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and against isolated individuals for their solidarity with men facing arrests in 2016, the number of administrative arrests or fines has risen steeply since late January 2017.
The idea is clearly to intimidate people and force them to sit in their homes while others are facing armed visitations, searches and arrests.
It has not worked, but since many of the activists are now facing their second or third such prosecution, Russian-controlled courts can impose much steeper fines which are difficult for individuals to pay. CrimeaSOS reports that in the last year there have been over 30 such administrative cases and the number of fines for so-called repeat infringements is likely to increase.
A new and extremely steep fine has also just been reported. Crimean Tatar leader Nariman Dzhelyal explains that a Bakhchysarai woman, identified only as Zarema, was fined a massive 300 thousand roubles in July this year. Her ‘offence’ – pro-Ukrainian posts on the Internet, with this prosecuted under Russia’s notorious ‘extremism’ norms. Zarema and her family did not want to go public about it, but members of the Crimean Tatar national movement did provide legal aid and managed to get the minimum sentence under article 282.1. She could have faced a prison sentence for supporting Ukraine in Internet posts.
Even the smaller fines may still be totally impossible for people to pay by themselves. 76-year-old Server Karametov was detained on August 8 outside the High Court in Simferopol where he was holding a solitary picket in defence of imprisoned Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz. ‘Judge’ Marina Vladimirovna Kolotsei first fined him 10 thousand roubles for supposed infringement of the rules for holding a single-person picket. She then sentenced the elderly man who has Parkinson’s Disease and many other serious health problems to ten days imprisonment, for supposedly ‘resisting the police’.
Not only fines
There are currently 69 children whose fathers are either serving politically motivated sentences in Russia or are held in detention for their faith or views in Crimea.
The civic initiative Bizim Balalar [Our Children] provides help to the children of Crimean political prisoners and of those who were abducted or disappeared. Although there has so far been no repression against Bizim Balalar, its founder Lilia Budzurova was targeted just days after publication of the article ‘Now these are our children’ and issued with a formal warning of “the inadmissibility of extremist activities”
The initiative has been able to guarantee each family three thousand roubles per child each other which is some help. It is also trying to ensure that the costs needed to prepare children for the new school year are met.
At present, consultations are underway to finalize a draft bill introduced by Ukrainian MP and veteran Crimean Tatar national leader Mustafa Dzhemilev which would ensure state assistance for all those held on unwarranted grounds in Crimea or Russia.
Even if passed, the law cannot cover all the forms of repression currently being applied, and solidarity is certainly needed.
CrimeaSOS is supporting the Crimea Marathon and is offering a platform for people to make donations which they can pass on. They ask that any payments made state clear that they are "Добровольное пожертвование в рамках кампании по сбору помощи крымском активистам" (“Donation as part of the campaign for assistance to Crimean activists”).
For donations in foreign currency (Euros):
Bank Kyiv Regional Directorate of Public Joint Stock Company Raiffeisen Bank Aval
Address Pirogova str. 7-7b, Kyiv, Ukraine, 01030
Account number 26002494634
Bank ID (if applicable): 23494105
SWIFT code: AVALUAUKCKB
Bank Raiffeizen Zentralbank Oesterreich
bank account number: 55022305
SWIFT code: RZBA AT WW
Bank Commerzbank AG
Address Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Account number: 400 8867087 01
SWIFT code: COBA DE FF
Bank Deutsche Bank AG
Address: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Account number: 9470329 10
SWIFT code DEUT DE FF