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.

More Crimean Tatars to be prosecuted over meeting with Mustafa Dzhemiliev


The Investigative Committee in Russian-occupied Crimea is planning to prosecute three more Crimean Tatars on dubious charges connected with the peaceful protest on May 3 2014 against Russia’s ban on 71-year-old veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev entering his homeland.  

According to the Investigative Committee’s website, the investigation was carried out by the department for investigating particularly important cases, with the three men accused of offences under Article 318 § 2 (applying violence dangerous for health against an official while the latter was carrying out his or her duties). 

The investigators assert that on May 3, 2014, the accused men used force against and injured Berkut special force officers on the road near the Armyansk border crossing (Turetsky Val).  Their cases have been passed to the prosecutor’s office for indictments to be confirmed.

This comes a week after 24-year-old Musa Abkerimov received a four-year suspended sentence on identical charges.  The prosecutor’s office claimed that he had “admitted guilt and repented”. 

There were no reports at the time of police officers being injured, with the first mention of such criminal proceedings coming some six months later and cited as the reason for armed searches of Crimean Tatar homes and mosques, arrests and detentions.  Despite the lack of any justification for the charges, there was surprise at the relatively ‘lenient’ sentence passed on Abkerimov when a real term of up to 10 years imprisonment had been possible.  It seems possible that the three other men have not ‘cooperated’ with the investigators and could face longer sentences.

As reported, on May 3 2014, the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly cancelled the traditional Spring festival after Russian officials refused to let Mustafa Dzhemiliev board the plane from Moscow to Simferopol and forced him to return to Kyiv.   A scrappy piece of paper informing of Russia’s ban had been handed to him two weeks earlier and then denied by the Kremlin and the leaders it installed in Crimea. 

The Mejlis called on Crimean Tatars to come to the Armyansk crossing to meet Mustafa Dzhemiliev and escort him into Crimea. 

They were confronted by Russian OMON riot police and Crimean ‘police’, including, apparently, ‘Berkut’ special units.

It was decided that Dzhemiliev would return to Kyiv in order to avert bloodshed.  The only actual ‘offences’ reported at the time were that roads were blocked. Dzhemiliev recently said that the Crimean prosecutor had also accused people of illegally crossing the border, and pointed out that according to both Ukrainian and international law the said border is an administrative border between parts of Ukraine.

The following day Poklonskaya sent two reports to the Russian Investigative Committee and FSB “for the organization of criminal prosecution in connection with unlawful public protests” by Crimean Tatars in Armyansk.   She also issued Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatars with a warning that the Mejlis could be dissolved, claiming that the protest was “action of an extremist nature”. 

A Crimean Human Rights Field Mission spokesperson reported that around 200 people had been fined between 10 and 40 thousand roubles on administrative charges (an ‘unauthorized rally’ and ‘not obeying the police’). 

The arrests began six months later, in October over supposed violence against police officers – none of which had been reported at the time.  All men were initially remanded in custody for two months.  The men arrested included Crimean Tatar activist Tair Smedlyaev who was stopped while driving with his two sons, one of whom was only three and a half, and taken into custody.  The judge was reported to have based the detention order on the prosecution’s claim that 60 people had asserted that Smedlyaev was an ‘extremist’. 

It remains to be seen who the other three defendants will be in these highly questionable cases, which human rights groups consider to represent the Crimean version of the Moscow ‘Bolotnaya Square’ prosecutions aimed at crushing protest against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Halya Coynash

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