Former Kremlin hostages put release of all Ukrainian political prisoners on the agenda
Seventeen Ukrainians who were persecuted, with most tortured and imprisoned, in Russia; occupied Crimea or Donbas have launched a platform aimed at ensuring that the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages is firmly on the agenda, both in Ukraine and abroad. The initiators, who include filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and the Deputy Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz, know all too well that oblivion helps only Russia. It is Moscow who must be pressured to release the 115 political prisoners it is now holding in occupied Crimea or Russia, and who will determine whether the 250 (at least) Ukrainian POWs and civilian hostages held in the Russian-controlled Donbas ‘republics’ are freed. While the pandemic has certainly made it harder anywhere in the world to campaign for the Kremlin’s Ukrainian hostages, it is also worryingly true that a lot of international campaigning ended in 2019, with the release of Sentsov and several other prominent figures. This is despite Russia having immediately embarked on new arrests and without any serious dent in the number of victims of repression.
During a public presentation of this ‘Platform to Free Political Prisoners’ on 4 March, the organizers issued a statement explaining that their initiative has no political affiliation. The Platform’s aim is to defend the rights and to ensure the release of all those imprisoned on political grounds outside Ukraine, on occupied territory and, also, within Ukraine itself. “Our aim is to achieve justice as soon as possible for each of them.
The founders of the Platform are seventeen former political prisoners who in the past were imprisoned by the Russian regime for their struggle against Russian aggression: Stanislav Aseyev; Volodymyr Balukh; Edem Bekirov; Akhtem Chiygoz; Pavlo Hryb; Mykola Karpyuk; Oleksandr Kolchenko; Ihor Kozlovskyy; Ihor Movenko; Yevhen Panov; Ismail Ramazanov; Mykola Semena; Oleg Sentsov; Roman Sushchenko; Oleksandr Shumkov; Ilmi Umerov and Volodymyr Zhemchugov. *
The Platform will struggle for the freedom of all Ukrainian citizens imprisoned as the result of Russian aggression: political prisoners; hostages and prisoners of war.
We also condemn the unlawful, politically motivated persecution of pro-Ukrainian activists, patriots in Ukraine.
The Platform acts solely on the basis of the norms of international law, Ukrainian legislation; the UN Statute; international conventions; judgements from international courts and resolutions from other international legal bodies.
We welcome cooperation with Ukrainian and international communities working for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners. We would like the issue of their release to be the focus of constant public attention and to become a matter of priority, both for the Ukrainian authorities and for our friends and partners abroad.
The Platform adopts decisions on the basis of discussion among all participants, with the coordinator Ihor Hryb (father or former political prisoner, Pavlo Hryb).
In our activities, we will work to counter Russia’s aggression, struggle for the return of temporarily occupied territory and work for the freedom and independence of our country.
GLORY TO UKRAINE!”
The statement does not specify who is meant by prisoners held in Ukraine, however Sentsov and several other former political prisoners have expressed strong doubts about the trial of well-known war veteran and musician Andriy Antonenko (Riffmaster); paediatric surgeon and military volunteer Yulia Kuzmenko and military nurse Yana Duhar. (details here). A number of the former prisoners have also been involved in protest over the worrying sentence recently passed against civic activist, Serhiy Sternenko (details here).
Details about each of the initiators and their persecution can be found on this site. They are not highlighted here, since the priority for them and us is the release of those political prisoners and hostages who remain in custody now. The list below is of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian victims of persecution held in Russia and occupied Crimea. Details of some of the hostages and POWs held in occupied Donbas can be found below.
Please remember that many acts of solidarity and support need only the Internet, and messages via Twitter or social media can help to highlight the plight of political prisoners, many of whom are serving up to 20-year sentences without any crime.
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)
The list includes several Crimean men and one woman seized in the months after Russia’s last release of Ukrainian political prisoners. Oleh Prykhodko’s arrest and ‘trial’ were essentially a remake of the persecution of one of the Platform initiators, Volodymyr Balukh.
It also became clear on 1 March that Russia’s reinstatement of the punitive psychiatry for which it was notorious in Soviet times could lead to the indefinite incarceration of Crimean Tatar rights activist, Yunus Masharipov.
‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions
Fake ‘terrorism’ charges, used increasingly against civic activists and journalists and as part of Russia’s attempts to demonize Crimean Tatars. Not one of the men was or is accused of a recognizable crime, yet several men have been sentenced to 18 or 19 years.
Sevastopol Crimean Tatars
10 May 2018 Enver Seytosmanov
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
Seiran Saliyev sentenced to 16 years on same political changes as those against his great-grandfather in Soviet times
14 February 2019 ‘Krasnogvardeysk group’
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 ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and 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”)
17 February 2021 New offensive against civic activists with the armed searches evidently only for so-called ‘prohibited literature’
Other religious persecution
‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof
Valentin Vyhivsky Imprisoned since September 2014
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, including the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which, despite its name, is not an armed formation
Other Ukrainian political prisoners
Hostages and POWs in occupied Donbas