Number of Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners rises well above 60
The Kremlin’s Ukrainian political prisoners were waited for in vain at countless airports throughout the world on November 26. Activists held vigil at airports in Kyiv, Odesa, Prague, Warsaw, Vienna, Toronto, San Francisco and other cities with signs to show that they were waiting for Oleksandr Kolchenko and other political prisoners held in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. The action was planned to mark Sasha Kolchenko’s 28th birthday, his fourth in Russian captivity since he, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and two other opponents of Russia’s annexation of their native Crimea were arrested.
There were some variations on the ‘Waiting in Vain’ theme for the action with one man in Prague, for example, holding a sign reading: ‘Transfer to the Hague”, with the name underneath Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are multiple grounds for wishing to see Putin held to answer before the International Criminal Court at the Hague. They include, though are not confined to Russia’s flagrant rights abuses in occupied Crimea and the ever-mounting number of Ukrainians it is holding prisoner on politically motivated charges.
There are now well over 60 known prisoners, held on spurious charges, and the number has risen alarmingly over recent months.
It is unfortunately likely that the list below, even if complete now (which is by no means certain), is unlikely to remain so for long.
Information about each case can be found by pressing on the hyperlinks (once opened, see also previous articles on the right-hand side). Russia is actively blocking efforts to monitor human rights abuse in Crimea, is increasingly targeting civic activists and has now turned to concocted criminal charges, clearly aimed at discrediting respected Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis [representative assembly]. It is also imprisoning Ukrainians thousands of kilometres from their homes, in breach of the European Convention. The prisoners all need our support, both in the form of letters to them, and in acting as advocates to politicians, the media, calling for greater pressure, via sanctions and other levers, on Russia to secure their release.
The prisoners whose homecoming is awaited
Mykola Shyptur – the first and most forgotten political prisoner held in Crimea
Volodymyr Balukh Jailed for a Ukrainian flag, in a case so grossly falsified, that the initial sentence was revoked, yet Balukh remained in custody, and a new ‘conviction’ is clearly planned.
25 men, most Crimean Tatar, are accused of ‘involvement’ in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist organization which is legal in Ukraine. They face huge sentences in what has been called a conveyor belt of repression. A number of them are human rights or civic activists, including from the initiative Crimea Solidarity.
April 18, 2016 Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov
New religious persecution on charges of involvement in Tablighi Jamaat Talyat Abdurakhmanov; Renat Suleymanov; Arsen Kubedinov; Seiran Mustafaev
August 2016 First ‘Crimean saboteur plot’
November 2016 Second ‘Crimean saboteur plot’
Leonid Parkhomenko, a long-retired Black Sea Fleet captain, arrested on Nov 24, 2016.
August 2017 New ‘Crimean saboteur’ charges Hennady Lymeshko
23 November 2017 The arrest was attempted of 83-year-old veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement Vedzhie Kashka. Instead the FSB caused her death
Four men were arrested and remanded in custody on insultingly implausible charges which lseem aimed at trying to discredit the Crimean Tatar Mejlis: Bekir Degermendzhy; Kazim Ametov; Asan Chapukh and Ruslan Trubach
Other prisoners held in Russia
Roman Sushchenko, journalist and Ukrinform correspondent in Paris
Recently abducted and / or imprisoned in Russia
Mykola Semena (suspended two-year sentence, but subject to a two-year ban on any public statements, meaning he could also be imprisoned)
Two Ukrainian border guards were also abducted on October 3, and are now in Russian custody.
It is very likely that Maxim Filatov, who was sentenced to six years in July 2016, should also be considered a political prisoner.