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Germany’s Nord Stream 2 collaboration comes as Russia holds a record number of Ukrainian political prisoners

23.08.2021
Halya Coynash

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel in Moscow 19.08.2021 Photo Sputnik, Reuters, Children waiting in the home of glimsing their political prisoner fathers Photo Crimean Solidarity

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not succeed in getting Nord Stream 2 launched by Ukraine’s Independence Day on 24 August, but he certainly reaped maximum propaganda benefits during Angela Merkel’s last visit to Moscow as German Chancellor.  Judging by the photos, it was warm smiles all the way and, indeed, why not?  Nord Stream 2 is about to be launched, despite the legitimate security concerns expressed by Ukraine and many of its neighbours.  Merkel made the standard assurances, about commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, etc., but she made them from Moscow with Germany about to jeopardize Ukraine’s role as a transit country for Russian natural gas, one of the main factors in deterring further Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Western countries’ rejection of Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and of its aggression in Donbas is welcome, but not enough, especially when actions send an entirely different message.  In January 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] fully reinstated the Russian Federation, despite all the reasons which originally prompted sanctions against Russia remaining in force. Worse, Russia’s credentials were confirmed after the PACE rapporteur had clearly stated that Russia had used 2020 to “make a solution for the Crimea issue in line with international law virtually impossible”.  The West makes ‘the right noises’ about Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but does not even properly prosecute those companies like Siemens and Grundlos that violate existing international sanctions.  Germany and the USA are giving similar assurances with respect to Nord Stream 2.  Why should Vladimir Putin believe that Russia’s abandonment of any transit via Ukraine would meet with anything but statements of deep concern? 

The ‘constitutional amendments’ which the PACE rapporteur referred to are not the only legislative methods that Russia is using to establish its distorted narrative on Crimea and lies about the invasion and annexation in 2014.  Russia is carrying out intensive militarization and indoctrination of the population in occupied Crimea and in the Russian Federation, with children particularly targeted.  Through both demographic changes, and actions directed against ethnic Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar identity (language, religion, cultural heritage, the Russian occupiers are making devastating changes to Crimea. 

At a recent press conference, Refat Chubarov the Head of the Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people, stated that Ukraine cannot afford to delay the question of Crimea’s de-occupation and insisted that the issues of Crimea and of the non-government-controlled parts of Donbas must be considered at the same time. Chubarov was reacting to suggestions from certain German politicians (such as Christian Lindner , head of the Free Democratic Party of Germany, that the issue of Crimea should be put on hold.

Our officials and the country’s leaders should say that we cannot wait since Crimea is not simply territory.  Crimea is not merely the people who live there.  Crimea is the homeland of the indigenous people of Crimea and if we leave this now … Russia will do everything to destroy this indigenous people”.

Russia is refusing to comply with a UN International Court of Justice order (and calls from all democratic countries) to revoke its shocking ban on the Mejlis and has banned, and is persecuting in absentia, individual members, including Chubarov and world-renowned Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev.  A very large number of Crimean Tatar or ethnic Ukrainian activists have been driven out of Crimea or face years of imprisonment.  

There are no grounds for treating the threats as empty as around 100 Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners know to their cost.  In a number of cases, the victims had faced harassment, administrative prosecution and fairly direct warnings of what to expect if they did not leave Crimea. 

In Freedom House’s report Freedom in the World 2021, occupied Crimea was ranked with Somalia and Saudi Arabia at 7/100, while occupied ‘Eastern Donbas’ was only one point above North Korea, at 4/100.  This was lower than Russia’s ‘Not Free’ 20/100 score and in a different realm altogether from Ukraine’s ‘Partly Free’ 60/100.

The number of political prisoners would probably be higher were it not for the fact that so many Ukrainian citizens have understood the danger and moved to mainland Ukraine.  The situation is particularly tragic for Crimean Tatars whose parents or grandparents were born in exile, following Stalin’s criminal Deportation of the Crimean Tatar people in 1944.  Crimean Tatars were treated particularly brutally then and it was only really under Ukraine’s independence that most were able to return. 

Ukraine ‘turns 30’ on 24 August 2021.  The celebrations are poignant, coming as they do with Russia still waging its undeclared war against Ukraine, and a huge number of political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia, as well as at least 290 hostages and prisoners of war in non-government-controlled Donbas.

There are certain Russian ‘favourite’ types of persecution:

Religious persecution and / or persecution of Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists.  Fake ‘terrorism’ charges are applied, with men accused of unproven involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a peaceful transnational Muslim organization which is legal in Ukraine and which is not known to have committed any acts of terrorism anywhere in the world.  Crimean Tatars or other Ukrainian Muslims, once arrested, face imprisonment for up to 20 years, without being accused of a recognizable crime.

Religious persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Three Ukrainians have already received 6 or 6.5 year sentences, and many others are on trial now, or under house arrest.

‘Ukrainian saboteur’ charges without any acts of sabotage having been committed, and with evidence that the men were subjected to torture.  The first person listed, freelance journalist Vladislav Yesypenko, is on trial now – the 10th civic / freelance journalist arrested in occupied Crimea and imprisoned.

Mystery ‘spying’ charges

Punitive psychiatry

Revenge for involvement in the Euromaidan protests in mainland Ukraine

Others

Membership, in mainland Ukraine, of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes.  At present, a number of Crimean Tatars are imprisoned for up to 10 years for involvement in the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which, despite its name, is not an armed formation and is not illegal in Ukraine.

The list below is of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners held in occupied Crimea or Russia.  Where possible, the links include addresses for writing to them.  Please try to write to at least one – the letters are a lifeline for them, and a clear message to Moscow that its actions are being watched.  

‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions 

Sevastopol Crimean Tatars

Ruslan Zeytullaev

(Ferat SaifullaevRustem Vaitov and Nuri Primov were released in early 2020, having served their sentences to the end.  )

10 May 2018           Enver Seytosmanov

The 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:

“Crimea is our land. We did not give it to Russia, nor did we sell it”

Muslim Aliev  

See: Stalin took Crimean Tatar Dilyara Alieva’s homeland and parents; Putin’s Russia has taken her son

Inver Bekirov

Vadim Siruk

Arsen Dzhepparov

Refat Alimov

Bakhchysarai Four  - four men arrested on 12 May 2016

Enver Mamutov

Rustem Abiltarov

Zevri Abseitov

Remzi Memetov

Simferopol Five   - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions

Teymur Abdullayev

Uzeir Abdullayev

See:  “Mama, have they come to kill us?” Russia’s new-old terror and deportation of Crimean Tatars

Emil Dzhemadenov

Aider Saledinov

Rustem Ismailov

Bakhchysarai ‘Crimean Solidarity’ arrests    

Suleiman (Marlen) Asanov  - a civic journalist sentenced to 19 years

Ernes Ametov  

Memet Belyalov 

Timur Ibragimov     a civic journalist

Seiran Saliyev   a civic journalist

Server Zekiryaev  

Server Mustafayev

Edem Smailov

14 February 2019 

Rustem Emiruseinov  a civic activist

Arsen Abkhairov

Eskender Abdulganiev 

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 Suleimanov 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, tortured during his ‘arrest’

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 Suleimanov,  Crimean Solidarity activist.

Ruslan Suleimanov  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”   

Three men, including a father and son, from Bilohirsk (Rus. Belogorsk)

Aider Dzhapparov

Enver Omerov

Riza Omerov

Alushta Group

Lenur Khalilov

Ruslan Mesutov

Ruslan Nagayev

Eldar Kantimirov, a civic activist

11 March 2020   Another ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and their relatives

Seitumer Seitumerov

Osman Seitumerov  (the sons of renowned Crimean Tatar historian Shurki Seitumerov)

Rustem Seitmemetov  (the Seytumerovs’ uncle)

Amet Suleimanov – a Crimean Solidarity activist and journalist (streaming information about arrests and political trials onto the Internet). 

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

Vadim Bektemirov a civic activist

Ismet Ibragimov

Seiran Khairedinov

Zekirya Muratov

Alexander Sizikov 

Alim Sufianov  a civic activist

Emil Ziyadinov  a Crimean Solidarity activist

17 February 2021  New offensive against civic activists with the armed searches evidently only for so-called ‘prohibited literature’ 

Azamat Eyupov  

Oleh Fedorov

Ernest Ibragimov 

Lenur Seidametov 

Yashar Shikhametov 

Timur Yalkabov

17 August 2021  Arrests of five Crimean Tatars, all of whom were involved in civic activism in solidarity with political prisoners.  One of the men, Rustem Muratov had literally just returned from Rostov and acts of solidarity with the four political prisoners from Alushta who received horrific sentences.

Zavur Abdullayev

Dzhebbar Bekirov

Rayif Fevziyev

Rustem Murasov

Rustem Tayirov 

Religious Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serhiy Filatov   (address here)

Artem Gerasimov  (address here)

Viktor Stashevsky

Ihor Schmidt

Yevhen Zhukov

Volodymyr Maladyka

Volodymyr Sakada

Artem Shabliy

Taras Kuzio

Darya Kuzio

Petro Zhiltsov

‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof 

Vladislav Yesypenko

See also: Russia seeks to imprison tenth Crimean journalist for 18 years

Oleh Prykhodko  

Andriy Zakhtei

Oleksiy Bessarabov

Volodymyr Dudka

Dmytro Shtyblikov

Hennady Lymeshko  

Kostyantin Davydenko 

Denis Kashuk

Mystery ‘spying’

Ivan Yatskin  sentenced to 11 years, almost certainly for his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea

Valentin Vyhivsky  Imprisoned since September 2014

Viktor Shur  imprisoned since December 2014

Leonid Parkhomenko  

Vladimir Morgunov

66-year-old Halyna Dovhopola, sentenced to 12 years probably for her pro-Ukrainian position

Oleksandr Marchenko 

Kostyantin Shyrinh

Vasyl Vasylenko  

Stanislav Stetsenko

Yevhen Petrushin

Punitive psychiatry

Yunus Masharipov a human rights activist

Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Mykola Shyptur  imprisoned since March 2014

Andriy Kolomiyets   

Imprisoned for membership, in mainland Ukraine, of perfectly legal organizations which Russia demonizes.  Most are accused of membership in the Noman Çelebicihan (or Asker) Battalion which is not an armed formation

Maxim Filatov

Fevzi Sahandzhy

Edem Kadyrov

Dilyaver Gafarov

Aidyn Mamutov

Nariman Mezhmedinov

Medzhit Ablyamitov

Other Ukrainian political prisoners

Nina (Latifa) Malakhova

Oleksandr Dolzhenkov

Ilver Ametov, Head of the Sudak Regional Mejlis (sentenced to restriction of liberty)

Rustem Abilev

Serhiy Buhaichuk

Yevhen Karakashev

Ihor KIyashko

Maxim Sokurenko 

Also Sokhiba Burkhanova

See: Russia refuses to allow the refugee it killed in occupied Crimea to be buried

The above does not include several Crimean Tatars who have received long sentences in absentia, nor those who were released in the last exchange in September 2019 or because they had served the sentence.

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