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.

Russia’s FSB remove posters asking about abducted Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov

Halya Coynash
“Those who give the command to abduct people should look their own mother in the eye and ask her what it means to lose a child”. Lilia Budzhurova’s words will doubtless not be heard by those in Moscow who bear responsibility for the lawlessness unleashed since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea

“Those who give the command to abduct people should look their own mother in the eye and ask her what it means to lose a child”.  The words, from Crimean journalist Lilia Budzhurova, will doubtless not be heard by those in Moscow who bear responsibility for the lawlessness unleashed after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, including at least 15 abductions and / or disappearances. 

Even the posters pasted on walls near the Kremlin this week, asking to help find abducted Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov, were pulled down within hours by cleaners taking their orders from the FSB, Russia’s security service. The posters were totally innocuous, but they led to a site which did not pull any punches.  As the accompanying video in Russian and in English explains, the site soon filled out with information making it quite clear that ‘Ervin’ is prominent Crimean Tatar activist and member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars.  He did not ‘disappear’ on May 24, 2016, he was abducted.  His car was stopped close to 11 p.m. near his home and CCTV footage shows the abductors wearing what looks like traffic police uniform.  That alone would have made the FSB want the posters removed, but there is more – about the de facto authorities’ unwillingness to even accept the report of the young man’s abduction and about the fact that Ervin Ibragimov is the latest of many disappearances, with none properly investigated.

Worse, in fact, since Russia and the de facto authorities installed in Russian-occupied Crimea are increasingly seeking to deny the disappearances altogether, claiming that the men have been seen since or that they left (without passports or telling anybody) to fight in Donbas, or even in Syria. 

There are serious grounds for assuming that some of the first disappearances were abductions by the so-called self-defence paramilitaries deployed to help Russia seize control in Crimea, Solitary protester and 39-year-old father of three Reshat Ametov was abducted by men who can be seen clearly on video footage.  Despite his badly mutilated body having been found outside Simferopol soon afterwards, nobody has faced charges for his murder.

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.  Among the many grounds for assuming paramilitary involvement are the fact that other activists survived to tell the tale of the torture they were subjected to after being abducted.  According to Andriy Shchekun, his abductors were from a group run by Igor Girkin, the Russian military intelligence man who played a major role in the invasion of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.

The situation changed in September 2014, with a number of young Crimean Tatar males disappearing.  One young men Edam Asanov disappeared and was then found dead in an abandoned sanatorium. The de facto authorities claimed he had committed suicide, yet his body is reported to have shown signs of torture.

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 disappearances followed an escalation in other repressive measures against Crimean Tatars and their representative body, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People.

They were especially disturbing as Russia has a long and tragic history of using terror and disappearances inside the Russian Federation, especially in the Northern Caucasus. Over the last two weeks a number of young men have been abducted in Dagestan and groups of mothers have been harassed or even detained for holding protests demanding that their sons are returned.

Crimean Tatars have seen their homeland invaded and are facing repression from the occupier.  They quite rightly call on the international community to help in putting pressure on Russia now to help bring their sons back if it is not too late.

Without real action the abductions will continue. 

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