The state-sponsored abductions that Russia brought to Crimea. Where is Ervin Ibragimov?
Exactly three years ago, on 24 May 2016, Crimean Tatar activist, Ervin Ibragimov was abducted by men in road patrol uniforms and disappeared without trace. Ibragimov, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, is the most prominent, but by no means the only victim of enforced disappearances since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The de facto authorities’ total failure to investigate even the most brazen abductions can only strengthen suspicion that they know exactly who was behind them.
Ervin Ibragimov was only 30 when abducted on 24 May 2016. He had been a member of the Bakhchysarai City Council until Russia’s invasion in 2014, and, as well as his work for the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, was also active in defending the mounting number of victims of repression under Russian occupation. He had been due to attend a court hearing on the morning of 25 May over charges against Crimean Tatars for taking part in a remembrance event for the victims of the 1944 Deportation.
He had phoned his father in the late evening on 24 May but failed to return to his home in Bakhchysarai. His car was found the next morning fairly near his home with the key in the ignition and door open. CCTV recordings were obtained from a shop nearby which showed Ibragimov being stopped by men who appear to be in road patrol uniform. There is a second where the young man tries to flee, but was seized and forced into the men’s van.
The young man had been followed before his disappearance, and men in police uniform had stopped outside his home. This and the behaviour of the FSB who initially refused to accept the Ibragimov’s report that he was missing, heightened the suspicion that the enforcement bodies were behind the abduction.
A formal investigation was only initiated after hundreds of Crimean Tatars ignored likely prosecution for holding an ‘unauthorized meeting’ (or worse) and gathered outside the police headquarters demanding action. There was never any evidence of real attempts to find him, or his abductors, and the Russian-installed ‘prosecutor’ Natalya Poklonskaya came up with cruel lies about the reason for his disappearance.
In early 2018, lawyer Emil Kurbedinov lodged a formal complaint against the so-called investigator who had not even bothered to answer his formal requests for information. During the court hearing on March 26, it became clear that any investigation had been terminated in September 2017.
Speaking after the hearing, Kurbedinov stressed that there is the same refusal to even provide answers regarding a number of other abductions or enforced disappearances.
Another reason for suspecting the occupation enforcement authorities of involvement in Ibragimov’s abduction is the link with an earlier attempt to seize another rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku. That earlier ‘operation’, on 20 April 2015 went wrong for the abductors because a crowd gathered and demanded to know what was going on. Since nothing could be done in secret, that attempt suddenly turned into an FSB ‘search’. After Kuku continued demanding an investigation into the events of that day, including the beating he received from the FSB, he was arrested and is now in detention on entirely fabricated charges laid many months after the aborted abduction.
Please widely circulate the #LookForErvin video in Russian and in English. As the video makes clear, there have been many abductions or disappearances since Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Not one was ever investigated properly, even when there was video footage clearly showing the abductors or eye witnesses. The victims included:
Reshat Ametov The 39-year-old Crimean Tatar and father of three, was abducted by pro-Russian paramilitaries in March 2014 from his lone picket in protest at Russian occupation outside the Crimean parliament. His badly mutilated body was found almost two weeks later. Despite video footage of the abduction, no arrests have been made and his brother was told in January 2015 that the investigation had been terminated.
Timur Shaimardanov was 33 when he disappeared on May 26 2014. A civic activist, he had been actively involved in peaceful protest against Russia’s annexation of Crimea and had been taking food and cigarettes to trapped Ukrainian soldiers.
33-year-old Seiran Zinedinov disappeared a week after Shairmardanov, on May 30. Contact with him was lost shortly after he left Shaimardanov’s relatives whom he had visited to discuss efforts to find him.
Human rights groups believe that both men were abducted by paramilitaries, as had been many other activists, like Andriy Shchekun, who were tortured but finally released. Shchekun says that his abductors and torturers were from a group run by Igor Girkin, the Russian military intelligence man and Crimean Igor Bezler, both heavily involved in both the annexation of Crimea and military action in Donbas.
Vasyl Chernysh, an Automaidan activist from Sevastopol was last seen on March 15, 2014, the day before the so-called ‘Crimean referendum’.
Two young Maidan activists from Rivne in Western Ukraine set off for Crimea at the beginning of March 2014, to help the pro-Ukraine movement and have not been seen since.
Islam Dzhepparov was just 19 when he was abducted in Crimea on Sept 27, 2014, together with his 23-year-old cousin Dzhevdet Islamov. Despite the fact that they were seen being forced into a dark blue Volkswagen Transporter and taken away in the direction of Feodosiya, with the police even having the minivan’s registration number, they have not been seen since.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission reported last year that as of June 2018, they are aware of 42 enforced disappearances under Russian occupation of Crimea.