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• Topics / Human Rights Abuses in Russian-occupied Crimea
Russian tanks and a new crack-down on independent media in occupied Crimea
Photos posted by (left to right) Avdet and Crimean Human Rights Group
The latest escalation in Russia’s information blockade of occupied Crimea last week may, as suggested, be due to zeal by de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya and her team of zealous ‘extremism’-hunters. The move does, however, seem potentially more sinister following Russia’s closure on Sunday morning of all crossing points between mainland Ukraine and occupied Crimea and unsubstantiated reports of a ‘battle’ or attack by Ukrainians on Russian soldiers. Apparent attempts to blame the physical blockade on Ukraine seemed especially implausible given the huge amount of military technology which Russia had transported into Crimea the day before.
Cutting off information
Russia has been systematically stifling all freedom of speech since its invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. All of the Internet publications blocked last week are physically located outside Crimea, with most having been forced from the peninsula. Their reports have remained a vital source of information about what is going on in Crimea under Russian occupation. The main site targeted was Krym.Realii, the vital Crimean service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty [RFERL]. This was temporarily blocked on April 19 this year, the same day that Mykola Semena, a freelance journalist writing for the website was initially taken into custody. Semena is now facing a possible 5-year prison sentence over an article expressing full support for the civic blockade of Crimea. With typical disregard for the lack of any conviction, Russia has added Semena to its huge List of Terrorists and Extremists, and the same charges of ‘extremism’ first hurled at Krym.Realii in April are now being heard again.
The website is still unblocked in Russia, and there has been no formal notification from Russia’s effective censor Roskomnadzor. The state-controlled RIA news agency
There had been reports that various providers were blocking
There was no explanation on Aug 7 for the closure of all checkpoints between mainland Ukraine and Crimea, nor for
This type of unsubstantiated report was then
The reports have been dismissed as provocation by Ukrainian authorities and certainly such an attack would make no logical sense. There have, on the other hand, long been warnings that Russia could try just such a ploy to try to justify a crackdown, especially against Crimean Tatars, the vast majority of whom oppose Russian occupation of their homeland.
Indirect confirmation that the closure of the crossing points was part of a major military exercise was provided by
Refat Chubarov, banished Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly
All of this is combined with attempts to block or prosecute those who still dare to tell the truth about what is happening, while finding foreign politicians or journalists prepared to muffle or even lie about the violations under Russian occupation.