war crimes in Ukraine

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Experts confirm Russian enforcement officers killed 83-year-old Crimean Tatar veteran Vedzhie Kashka

Halya Coynash

Independent experts have concluded that 83-year-old Vedzhie Kashka, a world-renowned veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, died as the result of excessive violence by Russian enforcement officers who arrested her.   Efforts by an ambulance team to save the elderly lady’s life were then hampered by another officer who insisted on first carrying out ‘investigative activities’.  Vedzhie Kashka died in the ambulance.  Despite the lack of grounds for her arrest, and the excessive force used against a frail woman in ill health, the occupation authorities have consistently refused to launch a criminal investigation. 

Russia’s attempt to arrest the 83-year-old was part of an FSB ‘operation’ on 23 November 2017, seven months after the UN’s International Court of Justice ordered Russia to withdraw its politically-motivated ban on the Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people.  Instead of complying with this ruling, Russia has since tried to discredit the Mejlis, including through the arrests on 23 November 2017 of Vedzhie Kashka, and four other veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement.  Although none of them was a member of the Mejlis, Russian and Russian-controlled media systematically presented them as members of the Mejlis, alleging that weapons and drugs had been found during searches (details here).

Vedzhie Kashka’s children turned to well-known lawyer Nikolai Polozov to investigate their mother’s death.  It took almost a year for him to be finally given access to information about the events leading up to her death, and at that time was even forced to sign a commitment not to disclose any details.  He has constantly needed to go through the courts to get access to any information. 

Although it was clear even from the forensic evidence that Polozov was finally given access to that excessive force had been applied against Vedzhie Kashka, no attempts had ever been made to bring those responsible to answer, and Polozov’s efforts to get a criminal investigation initiated have all been rejected. 

On 13 December, 2019, he reported that he has lodged an appeal against the refusal last year by a Simferopol office of the Russian Investigative Committee to launch criminal proceedings over Vedzhie Kashka’s death.  Investigator Nadezhda Balashova had then issued a decision not to initiate proceedings under the article (of Russia’s criminal code) concerning manslaughter through carelessness or through the inflicting of grave bodily injuries causing death.

She also refused to initiate criminal proceedings for exceeding and abusing their powers against two Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) officers, Sergei Grekov and Roman Svyetikov and against three officers from Russia’s so-called ‘centre for countering extremism’ – Serikbai Kashpanov; Nikolai Belashov and Ruslan Shambazov.  Polozov earlier revealed that the Rosgvardia men (Grekov and Svyetikov) are former Ukrainian Berkut officers who betrayed their oath of allegiance to Ukraine.  At least 50 men from a Crimean Berkut unit, used against peaceful protesters during the Euromaidan protests, switched sides after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and some have been implicated in Russia’s revenge prosecutions of former Maidan activists.

On behalf of the Kashka family, Polozov asked independent forensic experts from Russia and Spain to examine the material of the Investigative Committee’s check, with this containing the forensic assessment; the explanation of people involved in the case and the protocols of investigative activities.

They concluded that there was a direct cause and effect relationship between the actions of the enforcement officers who carried out the arrest and Vedzhie Kashka being taken ill and her death.  The forensic experts gave a detailed account of which specific actions proved fatal, and it is on the basis of this that Polozov has lodged his appeal.

The lawyer has also learned that ‘police investigator’ Iryna Sidiropulo, who took part in the ‘operation’ against Vedzhie Kashka and four other Crimean Tatar veterans insisted on carrying out so-called investigative measures, namely trying to remove some money from Vedzhie Kashka, even though the latter was evidently in a critical state.  By so doing, she prevented the ambulance crew from carrying out life-saving measures and getting her to emergency care. Sidiropulo’s insistence on such measures that could easily have been deferred also were doubtless also a factor in the elderly veteran’s death.

Ibram Kashka is determined that those who caused his mother’s death should be brought to answer, and Polozov promises that all necessary legal measures to achieve this, regardless of the obstruction encountered will be taken. “We will achieve justice for Vedzhie Kashka, her family and all those for whom she is a symbol of the peaceful struggle for the right of Crimean Tatars to freely live in their homeland.

See: Vedzhie Kashka: “Is it really such a crime to be Crimean Tatar?”

The FSB’s carried out their violent ‘special operation’ on 23 November 2017  claiming that Vedzhie Kashka; Kazim Ametov; Asan Chapukh; Bekir Dehermendzhy and Ruslan Trubach had been trying to ‘extort’ money from a Turkish national, Yusuf Aitan. During a farcical trial, the prosecution was never able to explain why it had believed the testimony of Aitan when the latter was quite unable to explain why, if the seven thousand dollars in question had been his, he had signed a peace of paper confirming that he was borrowing this money from Vedzhie Kashka.  His claim that he had been threatened into doing so was simply absurd given the ages and state of health of all of the five respected members of the community whom the FSB decided to arrest.

More details here:  Court in Crimea confirms Russia had no reason to arrest – and kill - 83-year-old Crimean Tatar veteran Vedzhie Kashka


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