MPs challenged to fight Russian repression by adopting a Ukrainian political prisoner
Activists from the civic movement #LiberateCrimea are calling on Ukrainian MPs to take individual Kremlin hostages under their care, with the initiative strongly supported by former political prisoners like Oleg Sentsov and Edem Bekirov. Although #LiberateCrimea are specifically addressing Ukraine’s legislators, Russia is holding over 100 Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian political prisoners, and everyone of us can play a role in ensuring that the world knows about such repression and that each victim knows that he or she is not forgotten.
The #LiberateCrimea campaign was launched in an online presentation on 11 December. The participants put forward specific proposals for MPs, who are asked to:
- Publicly (at a press conference; on Facebook; Twitter or similar) announce that they are taking one of the Kremlin hostages under their care by 20 December 2020;
- At least once a month make public statements about their political prisoner;
- Approach the Office of the President; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant state bodies demanding that they be more proactive in seeking the release of the Kremlin’s hostages;
- Provide legal; political; information; material and other forms of assistance to their specific political prisoners and their families;
- Encourage colleagues from other countries’ parliaments to become ‘godparents’ of their own political prisoners;
- Approach the Trilateral Contact Group asking them to include their political prisoner in the list of prisoners for exchange;
- Carry out legislative activities aimed at defending the rights of political prisoners;
- Hold other activities aimed at helping the prisoners.
A press conference will be held on 21 December to inform the public about all MPs who have joined the campaign.
“Our task”, Sentsov explained, “is to make the names of the political prisoners known, since that protects them in the prison colony and helps get them released”. It is vital, he continued that people know the names of Crimean Tatar human rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku; of the brothers Teymur and Uzeir Abdullayev; of Volodymyr Dudka and Valentin Vyhivsky. If MPs become the political prisoners’ ‘godparents’, that will make it possible to speak about them at all levels.
Edem Bekirov stressed that such an initiative is vital for all Kremlin hostages, and he calls on deputies from regional councils to also take part. Bekirov is so far the only Crimean Tatar whom Russia has thus far released in an exchange. He was one of three Ukrainian hostages with severe health issues who were freed (as was Sentsov) on 7 September 2019. There have been no releases since then, and Russia has taken prisoner at least as many Ukrainians as were freed that day, including some, like Dzhemil Gafarov, with equally grave health issues.
The appeal to Ukrainian MPs was also supported by Oliver Loode, the Estonian civic activist whose involvement in #LiberateCrimea and condemnation of Russia’s persecution of the Crimean Tatar people, was viewed by Moscow as such a ‘threat’ that he was banned from the Russian Federation for a record 55 years. He stressed that Ukrainian MPs could play a key role and serve as a moral example to European Parliamentarians and legislators from other countries.
Many of the promises made by Ukraine’s leaders with respect to the Kremlin’s hostages have proven empty. Instead of passing the needed legislation to enable the spending of money allocated for helping political prisoners and their families, the government recently allocated some of it to create a rather suspicious state enterprise, called ‘Reintegration and Renewal’ (details here). It is therefore imperative that as many MPs as possible become directly, and personally, involved in defending the Kremlin’s hostage.
There are well over a hundred Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners in occupied Crimea and Russia, as well as at least 230 hostages and POWs held prisoner in occupied Donbas. While important that Ukrainian legislators take heed of this call, others, some acts of support and solidarity need only the Internet. It is vital that we all use Twitter or social media to circulate information about political prisoners and make calls to government representatives in our own country, the EU, etc.
Please write to at least one of the hostages below and help to ensure that people in other countries know about them. The Russian FSB and other ‘investigators’ spend a lot of time trying to convince political prisoners that Ukraine has abandoned them, that nobody knows what they are going through, nor cares. Even if it’s hard to write in Russian, your very letters will demonstrate that this is not the case.
Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia (press the name for more information)
‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions - fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists
Yalta Six - the first gratuitously violent ‘operation’ on 11 February 2016, and then arrests of two very young men on 18 April 2016.
Emir-Usein Kuku, the first human rights activist, against whom Russia used ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges, after other persecution failed to silence him. See:
Bakhchysarai Four - four men arrested on 12 May 2016
Simferopol Five - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions
22 March 2018 Nariman Memedeminov (a civic journalist)
10 May 2018 Enver Seytosmanov
14 February 2019 ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’ - three men, including a civic activist and a 22-year-old
27 March 2019 ‘Operation’ against Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists in which 23 men were seized and almost immediately taken to Russia. Two other men – Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov were arrested later.
Izet Abdulayev, actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Tofik Abdulgaziev, Crimean Solidarity activist
Vladlen Abdulkadyrov. activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners
Medzhit Abdurakhmanov Crimean Solidarity activist
Bilyal Adilov religious figure who also actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Rayim Aivazov Crimean Solidarity activist
Enver Ametov actively attended politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Osman Arifmemetov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist
Farkhod Bazarov Crimean Solidarity activist
Akim Bekirov civic activist involved in organizing parcels of food, etc. for political prisoners
Remzi Bekirov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Dzhemil Gafarov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. Gafarov has a serious kidney disorder and even according to Russian law should not be in detention.
Servet Gaziev, 15.04.1960, actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Riza Izetov human rights activist and Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Alim Karimov Crimean Solidarity activist
Seiran Murtaza actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings. He has two children.
Yashar Muyedinov Crimean Solidarity activist
Erfan Osmanov actively attended all politically motivated ‘court’ hearings
Seitveli Seitabdiev Crimean Solidarity activist
Rustem Seitkhalilov Crimean Solidarity activist
Rustem Sheikhaliev Crimean Solidarity civic journalist
Eskender Suleymanov, Crimean Solidarity activist.
Ruslan Suleymanov Crimean Solidarity civic journalist and activist
Shaban Umerov Crimean Solidarity activist
Asan Yanikov civic activist involved in organizing food parcels for political prisoners.
10 June 2019 FSB “We’ll get around to shooting you all”
‘Belogorsk group’ - including a father and son
11 March 2020 Another wave of armed searches and arrests in Bakhchysarai, targeting civic activists or their relatives
Osman Seytumerov (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seytumerov)
Rustem Seytmemetov (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)
Amet Suleymanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet). He had recently restricted such civic activism, but only because of very serious heart problems. This is one of only two cases where death in detention was presumably deemed so likely that Suleymanov was placed under house arrest.
7 July 2020 New FSB low, with arrest of a blind man with limited mobility and many others. At least four of the men Vadim Bektemirov; Alexander Sizikov; Alim Sufianov and Emil Ziyadinov all took part in measures to help political prisoners and ensure circulation of information about such repression
Alexander Sizikov(placed under house arrest due to his severe disability, but Russia is still trying to claim that he “led a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell”)
Other religious persecution
Talyat Abdurakhmanov(suspended sentence)
Arsen Kubedinov(suspended sentence)
Seiran Mustafaev (suspended sentence)
‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof
Valentin Vyhivsky Imprisoned since September 2014
Vasyl Vasylenko - a 53-year-old former footballer whose arrest on spying charges was announced recently, nine months after his arrest
Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea
Mykola Shyptur imprisoned since March 2014
Accused of membership in Ukraine of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes and has banned for political reasons.
Alleged membership of the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion
Other Ukrainian political prisoners