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.

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Jailed Crimean Tatar human rights activist says that FSB prove that Russia has changed little since Stalin era

Halya Coynash
In a recent appeal, Emir-Usein Kuku notes that Russia’s FSB are not in the slightest bothered by the absurdity of the charges they have brought against him and five other Crimean Muslims. "They falsify supposed ‘evidence of guilt’ in the darkest tradition of the NKVD, demonstrating that in modern Russia little has changed since Stalin’s times"

How could six Crimeans plan to violently seize power in Crimea and Russia without weapons, financial resources or support from Russia’s military?  The question put by one of the six men, Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku is largely rhetorical since the suggestion is clearly absurd.  It is, nonetheless, one of the charges which Russia has used to hold six men, recognized by the Memorial Human Rights Centre as political prisoners, in custody for over two years.  Absurdity, as Kuku himself notes, is not a problem for Russia’s FSB [security service] which can rely on compliant ‘judges’ to pass the sentences they demand.

The men’s ‘trial’ is currently underway in the same Rostov court that passed huge sentences in the ‘trials’ on fictitious ‘terrorism’ charges of Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko; Ruslan Zeytullaev and other Ukrainians.  This is the second ‘trial’ on charges linked with Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful pan-Islamist movement which is legal in Ukraine, and is not known to have committed an act of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Russia declared it ‘terrorist’ in 2003, keeping the ruling secret until it was too late for Hizb ut-Tahrir or human rights organizations to challenge it, and never provided a good reason for its decision. 

Such charges are regularly used by the FSB to conduct mass prosecutions, with men receiving sentences of up to life imprisonment merely on the unproven charge that they ‘organized’ or were ‘involved’ in a Hizb ut-Tahrir group (under Article 205.5 § 1 and 205.5 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code, respectively).  Not a single ‘crime’ is required, nor any real proof of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, since the FSB regularly pulls out ‘secret witnesses’, whom lawyers and human rights groups believe to be either FSB officers or people who have some reason for agreeing to collaborate with the FSB.

47-year-old Muslim Aliev has been designated the role of ‘organizer’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘cell’, with the charge under Article 205.5 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code carrying up to a life sentence.  Refat Alimov; Envir Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk are charged with ‘involvement’ and face a sentence up to 20 years. 

As if these charges were not bad enough, in January 2017 the FSB added Article 278 (‘attempting violent seizure of power’) with this adding at least eight years to the sentences.  There were no rational grounds for this, but, as lawyer Emil Kurbedinov noted, the added charge has long been part of the arsenal used against alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir within the Russian Federation.

In a recent appeal, passed to the media by Kuku’s lawyer, the human rights activist wrote:  “I am imprisoned and am being tried on fabricated charges of terrorism and planning to violently seize power in Crimea and the Russian Federation.

The charges are by definition absurd.  How could six men without huge financial resources and without the support of the highest levels of the Russian Armed Services could seize power in a mighty nuclear state with a million-strong army, including satellite forces?!

However Russia’s FSB are not in the slightest bothered by that and continue trying to present us as terrorists.  They falsify supposed ‘evidence of guilt’ in the darkest tradition of the NKVD, demonstrating that in modern Russia little has changed since Stalin’s times.

The courts also support the system’s direction towards repression, ignoring overt falsification of the material of criminal prosecutions and handing down guilty verdicts en masse.”

Kuku notes that the presumption of innocence exists only on paper, and that if the FSB is in charge of a prosecution, there is virtually no chance of an acquittal.  People in Crimea and not only there shy away, as though from the plague, at the very word FSB.  The role of defence lawyers is also merely formal, with the courts and the investigators paying no heed to their arguments.   Prosecution for supposed terrorism has become a means for the security service to discriminate against anyone in the Russian Federation, he says. 

It has, furthermore, become a mandatory feature that they look for ‘terrorists’ among Crimean Tatars. 

Kuku writes that while imprisoned, he has spoken with many Muslims of different nationalities living in the Russian Federation and facing ‘terrorism’ charges.  Most of them have had electric shocks applied to torture out of them the testimony the ‘investigators’ demanded. Even when they later retract their testimony and state clearly that it was obtained through torture, this is ignored by the courts which hand down monstrously long prison sentences.

There is also widespread use of so-called secret witnesses, who give ‘testimony’ with altered voices from a hidden room.  These “give contradictory and muddled testimony and brazenly lie at the prompting of FSB officers”.

All this means that neither he, nor the other men, have any illusions about the likely verdict in their ‘trial’.

Kuku assumes a smaller number of Ukrainians held in Russia and Crimea than is, unfortunately, the case.  There are currently at least 70 Ukrainians held on politically motivated charges, or for their faith, with a large number of these Crimean Tatars.  Kuku suggests that the snail’s pace progress seen in the release of only five political prisoners over the last four years is because the relevant Ukrainian departments are not working effectively enough.  It is terrifying to think how long it would take to secure everybody’s release at that rate!

After some other reflections on the political and economic situation in Ukraine, Kuku ends by thanking all the men’s compatriots and fellow Muslims in Crimea and beyond, Ukrainian, Russian and international civic and human rights organizations; the media; the Mejlis [representative assembly] of the Crimean Tatar people, the Ukrainian authorities “and just individuals, good people who provide all kinds of help to us and our families”.

Conveyor belt weapon of repression

As mentioned, the trial of Kuku and five other men from the Yalta region is Russia’s second illegal prosecution of Ukrainian Muslims in occupied Crimea on so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir charges.

There was disturbingly little attention paid for a long time after the arrests in early 2015 of four Crimean Tatars from Sevastopol.  Russia’s calculation that the use of the word  ‘terrorism’ and the strict secrecy it imposes appeared to be working, with little or no attention from international human rights NGOs and the international community in general. 

The arrests of Kuku, Aliev, Bekirov and Siruk on 11 February 2016 changed that, both because of the gratuitous violence used in bursting into homes where children were asleep and because this was the latest of several attacks on Kuku which were clearly linked with his human rights activities.  Although Amnesty International has only declared Kuku to be a prisoner of conscience, there would be grounds for giving this status to all six men.  Certainly Memorial HRC considers them all to be political prisoners, as do Ukrainian human rights groups.

These so-called Hizb ut-Tahrir prosecutions are increasingly used as weapons against Crimean Tatars with a pronounced civic position or who have angered the FSB by refusing to act as informers.  Arrests since October 2017 have almost openly targeted activists or civic journalists involved in Crimea Solidarity, the initiative created to help political prisoners and their families.

Please write to Muslim Aliev, Emir-Usein Kuku, Refat Alimov; Inver Bekirov; Arsen Dzhepparov; and Vadim Siruk

The letters tell them they are not forgotten, and show Moscow that the ‘trial’ now underway is being followed. 

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the crib letter below, perhaps adding a picture or photo. 

Example letter


Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ] 


The men have been split up, with Aliev and Kuku in SIZO-4, the other men in SIZO-1 (the differences are small, so please copy carefully).  The address each time, should have the man’s full name, and year of birth.

Muslim Aliev

344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Алиеву, Муслиму Нуриевичу, 1971 г.р. 

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Aliev, Muslim Nurievich, b. 1971 ]

Emir-Usein Kuku

344082 Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, Большая Садовая ул., 31

Куку, Эмиру-Усеину Кемаловичу, 1976 г.р.   

[In English:  344082 Russia, Rostov on the Don, 31 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., SIZO-4

Kuku, Emir-Usein Kemalovich, b. 1976 ]

Refat Alimov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Алимову, Рефату Маметовичу, 1991 г.р.       

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Alimov, Refat Mametovich, b. 1991 ]

Enver Bekirov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Бекирову, Энверу Небиевичу, 1963 г.р

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Bekirov, Enver Nebiyevich, b. 1963 ]

Arsen Dzhepparov

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Джеппарову, Арсену Бармамбетовичу, 1991 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Dzhepparov, Arsen Barmambetovich, b. 1991 ]

Vadim Siruk

344010, Россия, Ростов-на-Дону, ул. Максима Горького, 219 СИЗО-1.

Сируку, Вадиму Андреевичу, 1989 г.р.

[In English:  344010 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Siruk, Vadim Andreevich, b. 1989 ]


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