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22.06.2018 | Halya Coynash

Ukrainians deported from occupied Crimea for rejecting Russian citizenship

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Four years after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, over two thousand Ukrainians have been prosecuted for not having Russian documents, with 366 people actually deported.  Many of them had lived in Crimea all their lives, and 40 were people who also had family ties with Crimea or where in a civil marriage.  This is overt discrimination of Ukrainians who have not taken on the citizenship of an occupying power.

Russia is in grave breach of international law in forcing Ukrainians to either take on Russian citizenship, or to obtain ‘temporary or permanent residence and work permits’.   For Ukrainians with children, it has long been next to impossible to not have Russian citizenship, because of the problems otherwise with employment, medical insurance, registering children in schools, etc. 

There are many, however, who refuse to obtain any documents seeing this as giving false legitimacy to Russia’s occupation. Others had lived in Crimea for a very long time, but were officially registered as resident in a different part of Ukraine.  The lack of Crimean registration at the time of Russia’s annexation can prove an insurmountable obstacle for Ukrainians who might otherwise seek Russian citizenship.

All these people are without Russian documents and therefore vulnerable in occupied Crimea.

The Crimean Human Rights Group has found that as of the beginning of June 2018,  2,086 rulings had been passed by Russian-controlled courts against Ukrainians over supposed infringement of the rules for remaining in the Russian Federation.  The Group analysed one thousand rulings, with the above-mentioned 366 deportations ordered.

The grounds given can be truly shocking, with people who have lived in Crimea all their life deemed to have ‘exceeded the time allowed for remaining in the Russian Federation.  

In the case of Oleksandr Kasyanov, he had been living in Sevastopol for 10 years with his partner and their underage children, and yet was fined and deported.  There were other rulings where the person was fined, but not deported.

The human rights monitors note that even those Ukrainian citizens who do have a ‘temporary or permanent residence permit’ still face persecution.  They have to report regularly to the supervising bodies and are penalized if they do not.  

There have been absurd cases.  As reported, Ukrainian Oleksandr Kovalchuk was deported in November 2017, with his cocker spaniel Teddy accused of ‘sabotage’ as well.

He explained that on November 17, FSB officers had arrived at his home in Yalta.  They used falsified data about people entering and leaving Crimea to claim that Kovalchuk had infringed Russian migration law and that he had only arrived in Crimea in 2016 and that he was ‘in hiding’.  In fact, Kovalchuk says, he had come to Yalta in 2011 on advice from doctors, due to a chronic illness, and had not left Crimea since then. 

He was taken to court, where his lawyer was told he would be arrested, placed in a special holding facility for ‘migrants’ and forcibly deported.  This would seem to have been to get him to agree to ‘admit to infringing Russian migration legislation’, pay a fine of 2 thousand roubles and leave himself within 15 days.  Kovalchuk says he was told verbally that he would be banned from Crimea under Russian occupation and Russia for five years.

The FSB originally wanted to accuse him – and Teddy – of terrorism.  It seems that they had gone around to his neighbours, showing them a photo of the dog and explaining that he had been spotted at the scene of an allegedly planned act of sabotage to electricity pylons in Yalta.  

Oleksandr Sedov from CHRG calls this ban on a Ukrainian citizen living on Ukrainian territory part of Russia’s deliberate policy of changing the population in occupied Crimea. 

Russia is also applying strictly selective Russification in its persecution of Ukrainians who have never concealed their opposition to Russian occupation.  While it has banned  Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemliev and Refat Chubarov from their homeland, treating them as ‘foreign nationals’, it is falsely claiming that Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, whom it is illegally imprisoning, automatically’ become Russian citizens. 

See also:  Ukrainian citizens are now a group at risk in Russian-occupied Crimea

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