Whereabouts of four Crimean civic activists still unknown
Vasyl Cherysh Timur Shaimardanov Seiran Zinedinov
Four civic activists known for their opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea have not been seen since they disappeared back in May. Friends and colleagues are convinced that they were seized by the Russian security services but have been unable to get any information from the relevant authorities.
Vasyl Chernysh, an Automaidan activist, has not been seen since the day before the so-called Crimean referendum on March 16. Members of Kyiv Automaidan say that Chernysh played an active role in Kyiv but left for the Crimea after administrative buildings began to be seized by Russian soldiers [from Feb 27]. Several days before he disappeared he had helped to secure the release of Automaidan activists Alexandra Ryazantseva and Yekateryna Budkov who’d been abducted by members of the so-called ‘self-defence’ militia.
Until 2013 Chernysh worked in the Sevastopol SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] but was dismissed after he refused to take part in corrupt dealings. He tried to get reinstated via the courts, but presumably unsuccessfully.
Relatives have reported him missing in mainland Ukraine where he was registered, but the police don’t want to say, saying that they aren’t able to look for him in the Crimea.
No more information than we reported back in May about Leonid Korzh seems to be available. He is known to have taken part in the protest against Russian annexation of the Crimea, and his phone has been switched off since May 22.
Korzh’s disappearance was announced by another members of the movement against the annexation, Timur Shaimardanov. He disappeared on May 25. Over the next few days his telephone turned on from time to time (rather than being outside reach), however nobody answered. Somebody also went on his social network VKontakte page on May 26.
Shaimardanov’s mother has approached the Ukrainian police and SBU, but only received any news last week. The police have initiated a criminal investigation into his disappearance.
Shaimardanov was one of the most active participants in protests against the annexation of the Crimea. Together with other activists he collected food and other things for soldiers in Ukrainian military units in Simferopol, and also took part in many rallies.
As reported, 33-year-old Simferopol resident Seiran Zinedinov disappeared a week later, on May 30. Contact with him was lost shortly after he left Shaimardanov’s relatives after a meeting lasting around 20 minutes to discuss efforts to find him.
His father says that he was obviously seized after that meeting and notes that about that time a maroon Lanos went down the street at high speed. He believes that the abductors had forced his son into the car. His relatives were able to establish where Seiran’s phone was switched on - near Yevpatoria, but when they went there the guards wouldn’t let them in.
Crimean civic activists are convinced that all four men were abducted by the Russian security service and Crimean ‘self-defence’ militia.
Andriy Shchekun who was himself held hostage for some time believes that they could have been abducted to stop them continuing an underground struggle against the occupation of the Crimea. He has information that they had held several meetings and called their organization Ukrainian National Home. They were planning civic actions and Shchekun believes it possible that there were people within the organization who informed the authorities.
Ruslan Zuyev, a protestant pastor says that he left the Crimea immediately after Zinedinov disappeared, fearing that he might face the same fate.
“I had a lot of contact with Timur and Seiran just before they disappeared. After this two FSB [Russian security service] officers arrived at my office. They behave in a challenging fashion and asked a lot of questions. They asked for example why I wrote on my facebook page about the disappearance of my friends”.
The Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights is following the disappearance and believes that the so-called self-defence militia, at that time a paramilitary formation with no set status, were involved. Olha Skrypnyk from the Mission also points out that the investigators in the Crimea are doing nothing to find the men, this being in breach of Russian and international law.
New information from the report on the Radio Svoboda Crimea Site