No ‘normalization’ while Russia is still holding at least 87 Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners
While 7 September was certainly a day for rejoicing at the return to Ukraine of 35 Ukrainian political prisoners (including 24 PoWs), there was also huge sadness for the families who are still waiting the release of their fathers or sons. The fact that at least 87 Ukrainian political prisoners are still imprisoned in occupied Crimea or Russia, as well as a minimum of 227 hostages in occupied Donbas makes the upbeat noises in western media about a new page in Ukrainian-Russian relations seem at very least premature.
Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly saw the need to organize an exchange of prisoners at this time, with a key reason probably the capture by Ukraine on 27 June of Volodymyr Tsemakh, a Donbas militant commander who can provide critically important information about the downing with a Russian BUK missile of Malaysian airliner MH17. Putin is probably also hoping for an improvement in relations with western countries in return for releasing Oleg Sentsov, Roman Sushchenko and other prominent political prisoners. This will only happen if we fail to ensure that the West knows the names of all Russia’s Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian victims of repression and to draw attention to the mounting scale of persecution, especially of civic activists and journalists in occupied Crimea.
Russia’s conveyor belt ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ cases
Russia is increasingly using totally fabricated ‘terrorism’ charges as a weapon against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists. This form of persecution, based on charges of involvement in the peaceful Hizb ut-Tahrir movement which is legal in Ukraine, began in January 2015 and was ignored by international human rights NGOs for much too long. By now, Russia is openly using such charges to crush the Crimean Solidarity movement and to try to terrorize Crimean Tatars into silence or exile.
Emir-Usein Kuku (a human rights activist)
Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests
Suleyman (Marlen) Asanov
22 March 2018 Nariman Memedeminov (a civic journalist)
10 May 2018 Enver Seytosmanov
14 February 2019 Rustem Emiruseinov; Arsen Abkhairov; Eskender Abdulganiev
27 March 2019 The worst ‘operation’ to date against civic activists and journalists
10 June 2019 FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”
Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea
Mykola Shyptur imprisoned since March 2014
‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof
Valentin Vyhivsky Imprisoned since September 2014
Accused of membership in Ukraine of organizations which Russia demonizes for political reasons
Other Ukrainian political prisoners