Crimean Tatar Reshat Ametov, first savagely tortured victim of Russia’s war against Ukraine
If the bombing of Ukrainian cities by Russian invading forces is unprecedented, not so Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It began eight years ago, with Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and it is continuing there also in the horrific violations of human rights and repression, especially targeting Crimean Tatars.
It is no accident that Russia’s first victim was a Crimean Tatar, 39-year-old father of three small daughters, Reshat Ametov. His life was savagely cut short eight years ago, and the following can provide no new information. It is well, nonetheless, to remember him, and all of the other victims of Russian occupation – those who were abducted and disappeared without trace and Russia’s 120 Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners.
It is clear that, even if Russia were to end its armed invasion of mainland Ukraine, Crimea and acceptance of Russian annexation would form part of Russia’s ransom. This is one of the reasons why, however powerful the enemy, Ukraine cannot fall.
The words spoken by Lerane Khaibullaeva about her friend Reshat Ametov back in 2016 seem almost unbearably poignant today. In an interview, she was asked why Ametov, who was not a well-known activist, had been targeted. She answered that Reshat had had a very clear civic position. He had, after all, come out in protest for the sake of his children. He had always wanted them to live in a free, democratic country”
We know that Ametov was appalled by Russia’s invasion and tried to persuade neighbours and friends to join him in picketing the Crimean parliament. The others were too afraid, and told him that he should also refrain. Instead, without telling his wife the truth about where he was going, Ametov set out on the morning of 3 March 2014 for a lone protest. He had been standing there, holding a Ukrainian flag, for around an hour and a half, mostly in silent protest, when he was abducted by armed paramilitaries.
His mutilated body was found two weeks later, on March 15. His head had been bound with tape, and handcuffs were lying nearby. The torturers had used something like a knife, and he died finally from brain damage after they gouged out his eyes.
Reshat Ametov’s last post on Facebook had been a question: “Russian friend, if they order you to, will you shoot at me?”
His abductors, who were almost certainly also his murderers, can be clearly seen on video footage, as can the car he was driven away in, yet the de facto authorities under Russian control have claimed that they can’t identify the culprits and at one stage even terminated the ‘case’, with the excuse being that “the suspected killer” was fighting in Donbas.
In August 2019, the Ukrainian Prosecutor for Crimea, named three men believed to have been behind the abduction. The investigators accuse two Ukrainian nationals – 33-year-old Oleksandr Rudenko and Oleksandr Bahlyuk (44) – of having carried out the abduction and murder, under the direction of 53-year-old retired Russian military man, Yevgeny Skripnik.
Reshat Ametov was formally declared a Hero of Ukraine in March 2018, informally much earlier.