war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Even Russian human rights body finds Crimean referendum falsified

Halya Coynash
The confirmation from Putin’s own Human Rights Council that Russia used falsified figures to justify the annexation comes on the eve of other supposed “referendums” planned for two east Ukrainian regions

Far-right Catalonian politician Enrique Ravello was among other representatives of far-right and neo-Nazi parties invited to observe the so-called "referendum"

Vladimir Putin’s own Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights has confirmed that the turnout for the so-called “referendum” on the Crimea’s status was much lower than reported, and the results also far less overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia.  The same results have been reported from other sources, however this report can hardly be dismissed as seditious US propaganda. The confirmation that Russia used falsified figures to justify the annexation comes on the eve of other supposed “referendums” planned for two east Ukrainian oblasts.

The similarities between the armed men who seized government buildings in Crimea (top) and in Slovyansk (bottom) and other east Ukrainian cities have been widely noted.  

The report finds that while the overwhelming majority of residents of Sevastopol voted for joining Russian (turnout of 50-80%), the turnout for all of Crimea was from 30-50% and only 50-60% of those voted for joining Russia.  

The authors also noted that Crimean residents voted less for joining Russia, than for what they called an end to corrupt lawlessness and thieving rule of people brought in from Donetsk (where Viktor Yanukovych and most of his people were from).  It was only in Sevastopol, they say, that people genuinely voted for joining Russia.  They add that the fear of “illegal armed formations” was higher in Sevastopol than in other regions of Crimea. 

The comment is of interest given that the so-called referendum was held with the Crimea swarming with Russian soldiers in uniform without insignia and so-called “Crimean self-defence” vigilantes.  Presumably what was referred to were the armed formations which Russian television channels claim have been let loose by EuroMaidan and the new authorities in Kyiv.  It is perhaps significant that the turnout was not higher given that the puppet government installed at gunpoint on Feb 27 made a point of closing Ukrainian media and installing precisely those channels which relentlessly push the idea that Kyiv is “fascist” and a threat to all Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians.

The official figures claim that the turnout for the Crimea was 83.1% with 96.77% in favour of the Crimea becoming a part of Russia.

This discrepancy mars still further the already questionable reputation of those members of far-right and neo-Stalinist parties whom Russia invited to “observe” the event.  None found anything untoward about the running of the vote or the alleged result.

Since the report highlights some serious rights violations, including to the Crimea’s indigenous Crimean Tatar population, it makes the failure of the EU and USA to adopt any serious sanctions against Russia particularly disturbing.

Crimean residents were not given adequate information about the consequences of refusing to accept Russian citizenship.  A lot of public sector workers were threatened with dismissal if they did not become Russian nationals.

Many Crimean Tatars were also left with no choice but to accept Russian citizenship since they have land plots on agricultural land which according to Russian legislation can only be owned by Russian nationals.

Of the people the authors of the report spoke with, virtually none of those wishing  to retain Ukrainian citizenship had received any information from the Russian Migration Service about their legal position as “foreign nationals”, including the need to leave after 90 days; permission to be in the country for only 90 days out of each 180, etc.

Given Moscow’s constant propaganda regarding “protection” of the rights of linguistic minorities, it is of significance that the one Ukrainian-language lyceum in Simferopol is being made Russian-speaking, while the only Ukrainian-Tatar language and literature studies university faculty is closing.. 

The Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate is effectively also being dissolved with land lease for places of worship now not being renewed.

The authors write that “the authorities of the Crimea are turning Islam from a religion into a protest ideology”.  While the movement Hizb-ut-Takhrir has been called an extremist organization and banned in Russia, it has never been banned in Ukraine, and its literature was freely distributed in mosques.   The religious community “Davet” even won a court case in Ukraine with the court agreeing that its activities did not incite inter-faith enmity.  Under Russian occupation the community is now coming under serious pressure from the law enforcement bodies.

The report was prepared by Council member Yevgeny Bobrov; together with prominent human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina and lawyer Olga Tsetlina, following a visit to Simferopol and Sevastopol from April 15-18. 

The recommendations are all to the Russian authorities on eliminating this or that problem, with no suggestion that the annexation itself is inadmissible. Since the rights of the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainian speakers and a large number of believers are already now seriously infringed, that omission is regrettable. 

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