• Topics / Freedom of conscience and religion
• Topics / Deported peoples
Ongoing harassment of ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars & others in Crimea
Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko - FSB REPRESSION
In its latest report, published on July 28, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights notes that none of its recommendations has been implemented in the Crimea at present under Russian occupation. All issues remain current, in particular “harassment and discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, representatives of religious minorities, minority groups in general, and activists who opposed the 16 March ‘referendum’ in Crimea”.
It says that as of July 15, 13,381 people had moved from the Crimea and notes that a Crimean NGO, now based in Lviv, believes that there could be a new wave of internally displaced persons [IDP] during August and September. “This would include business people who were having serious difficulties with continuing to operate their businesses in Crimea; lecturers and teachers because they fear they will be sacked at the beginning of the new academic year for holding Ukrainian nationality or because they are Crimean Tatar; and families with sons of military age who do not want to be called for service into the Russian Federation army”.
The following gives links to the latest information about some of the issues raised, and excerpts from the report which can be downloaded here.
The detention of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and three other activists, arrested in Crimea and transferred to the Russian Federation on terrorism charges
Russian Farce The Russian authorities have claimed that Sentsov has ‘automatically’ received the Russian citizenship which he has stated clearly that he rejects.
A madrasa (Islamic religious school) in the village of Kolchugino was searched on 24 June by men in camouflage uniforms who said they were officers of the “centre for combating extremism” of the Russian FSB.
Representatives of religious minorities are under pressure to leave Crimea.
A pastor of the Protestant Church from Simferopol and his family decided to leave Crimea after he was told by FSB officers that he could ‘disappear’ like the three pro-Ukrainian activists who went missing in May 2014. According to the pastor, it became dangerous even to wear clerical cloths since the “Russian Cossacks” and representatives of other ‘pro-Russian’ groups were very aggressive. The Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (from the Kyiv Patriarchate) in Crimea reported about increasing pressure on believers and the church property being under threat.
The situation is no less critical, the report says, for people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly drug addict patients and prisoners who do not have access to the substitution maintenance therapy that they previously received. This is prohibited by Russian legislation. Since 10 June, 20 patients have reportedly died due to the lack of necessary medication and some have allegedly returned to the usage of illegal drugs.
Movement to and from Crimea
Barring on July 5 of the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Refat Chubarov, from entering Crimea. A similar measure had been taken against the former head of the Mejlis, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, in May 2014. In both cases, the decision was justified by alleged ‘extremist’ statements having been made.
More details here: Russia resurrects Soviet ways in treatment of the Crimean Tatars
Restrictions on peaceful assembly.
The authorities in Simferopol rejected three proposals submitted by the representatives of the Crimean Tatar community concerning the location to celebrate the Crimean Tatar Flag Day, a festive event celebrated since 2009. The authorities insisted that the event be held far from the city centre and in areas mainly populated by Crimean Tatars. The official celebration, with about 500 people, eventually took place on 26 June in the district of compact settlement of the Crimean Tatars instead of the central area of the capital of Crimea. The police controlled the perimeter of the gathering and people were searched. No significant incidents were reported. More information here: http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1403792701
Several Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar media outlets are under threat of closing. The editor’s office of “Krymskaya Svetlitsa”, the only Ukrainian language newspaper in Crimea, received an order from the Crimean authorities to leave the premises which they have been renting for years.
The distribution network refuses to distribute the newspaper in its newsstands and it has not been included in the subscription catalogue.
Labour laws against those rejecting Russian citizenship
New laws have been rapidly introduced, without any prior consultation or notice that may have significant implications for those affected. For example, for employment purposes, Ukrainian nationals resident in Crimea who rejected Russian citizenship are now considered foreigners, and may be employed only if their employer has a permit to employ foreigners. A quota system providing the number of foreigners who may be employed in Crimea is provided by the Russian Federation. Employers had very little notice of the need to apply for a permit by 15 July, and those without could be fined 800,000 RUB (more than 22,000 USD).
Ukrainian territory and airspace
On 7 July 2014, the International Civil Aviation Organization officially confirmed that the airspace over Crimea belongs to Ukraine and the organization denied that it had transferred the management of the airspace to the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice said it was seeking 1 million UAH per day (about 91,000 USD) compensation from the Russian Federation for illegally providing air navigation services over Crimea and its territorial waters (the 19-kilometer zone). Otherwise Ukraine will file a claim for the expulsion of the Russian Federation from the Convention on International Civil Aviation.