Crucial law adopted to help Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada a long-needed bill that will provide social and legal aid to the huge number of political prisoners, hostages and prisoners of war, held in captivity in Russia or occupied Crimea and Donbas, and their families. The bill endorsed on 26 January 2022 by 288 MPs, is the most important of three tabled as urgent by President Volodymyr Zelensky on 27 September 2021.
‘On the social and legal protection of persons deprived of their liberty as a result of the armed aggression against Ukraine, as well as members of their families’ will create the legislative mechanisms to ensure that critical assistance gets to the Kremlin’s hostages and / or their families.
Such mechanisms have been urgently required for years now, with one of the problems with previous legislative attempts being the lack of clear criteria as to who was entitled to such aid and who should decide on such entitlement. Article 2 of the bill now passed in its second, and final, reading provides clearer definition. The categories of prisoners include: military personnel taken prisoner by the aggressor state or its bodies while defending Ukraine; civilian hostages and political prisoners.
The bill also envisages the creation of a special Commission for issues linked with establishing whether people have been stripped of their liberty through the armed conflict.
It entitles Kremlin hostages and members of their families of annual payment while they are imprisoned. A one-off amount of aid is also envisaged should the person die or be killed while imprisoned or should they die in the year following their release. There will also be a one-off payment after a person is released.
The bill also provides a guarantee of legal defence and compensation for legal assistance; guarantee of free secondary legal assistance both while imprisoned and following release; medical and psychological assistance and rehabilitation, etc. after release. Very importantly, it covers such areas as housing (providing temporary accommodation); employment rights; the right to education and professional training, etc. following a person’s release, as well as, for example, rebates in organizing internal or external passports, etc.
Of the 116 Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in occupied Crimea or Russia, a significant percentage are fathers who were the main breadwinners of the family. Crimean Tatar civic initiatives have provided the aid they can, but it is clearly time that the Ukrainian state provided systematic assistance for its citizens, imprisoned for their civic activism; political or religious beliefs. An ever increasing number of the Crimean political prisoners are civic journalists from Crimean Solidarity who are facing persecution for their courageous work in reporting on repression under Russian occupation.
It is also extremely important that released hostages and political prisoners will be provided with more systematic ongoing assistance.
There are at least 270 military and civilian hostages on the territory of Russia’s proxy ‘republics’, very many of whom have been held and tortured at secret prisons, like ‘Izolyatsia’ in occupied Donetsk.
Political prisoners in occupied Crimea or Russia
Russia’s ‘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.
As of 2021, these include Nariman Dzelyal, Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader and world-known journalist and civic activist, and freelance journalist Vladislav Yesypenko.
Mystery ‘spying’ charges
Revenge for involvement in the Euromaidan protests in mainland Ukraine
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.
‘Ukrainian Saboteur’ cases without any acts of sabotage or proof
Hizb ut-Tahrir’ conveyor belt prosecutions
Sevastopol Crimean Tatars
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:
Bakhchysarai Four - four men arrested on 12 May 2016
Simferopol Five - five men, including two brothers, both of them lawyers and Ukrainian sports champions
Suleiman (Marlen) Asanov - a civic journalist sentenced to 19 years
Timur Ibragimov a civic journalist
Seiran Saliyev a civic journalist
14 February 2019
Rustem Emiruseinov a civic activist
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)
Eldar Kantimirov, a civic activist
11 March 2020 Another ‘family prosecution’ – civic activists and their relatives
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
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’
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.
Religious Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Serhiy Filatov (address here)
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
66-year-old Halyna Dovhopola, sentenced to 12 years probably for her pro-Ukrainian position
Yunus Masharipov a human rights activist
Punishment for Euromaidan or for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea
Mykola Shyptur imprisoned since March 2014
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
Other Ukrainian political prisoners
Ilver Ametov, Head of the Sudak Regional Mejlis (sentenced to restriction of liberty)
Also Sokhiba Burkhanova
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.