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20-year-old Crimean Tatar vanishes after arriving at Russian-controlled checkpoint

17.08.2022
Halya Coynash

Appaz Kurtamet

It is almost a month since 20-year-old Appaz Kurtamet vanished after telling his parents that he had reached the Russian-controlled Chonhar administrative border into occupied Crimea.  There is every reason to believe that he has been taken prisoner by Russia’s FSB [security service], and for concern since this bears all the hallmarks of an abduction.

The only information available at present has come from Refat Chubarov, Chair of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.  He reports that Appaz set off on 23 July from his home in Novooleksiivka (Kherson oblast) to visit relatives in occupied Crimea.  He rang his parents at the Chonhar administrative border where the Russian FSB are illegally controlling who enters Crimea.  It was there that all contact was lost with the young man. 

On the following day, his mother received a call from a total stranger who claimed to be ringing at her son’s request and who told her that Appaz had been detained while going through the checkpoint.

It seems near certain that the FSB did seize the young man, however ‘detention’ entails certain procedural rules, including access to a lawyer, and this has clearly not happened. 

Chubarov explains that Kulamet’s mother has repeatedly tried to find out where her son is being held.  She has received little information, with most of it contradictory. According to some unofficial channels, Appaz is being held at the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison], however the SIZO administration claim that he is not there. The FSB are also denying any knowledge of the young man’s whereabouts.

There is clearly information that cannot presently be made public, with this confirming that Appaz is being held prisoner by Russia’s FSB.  The fact that they are illegally concealing this, and holding him incommunicado, is of immense concern.  Such behaviour makes it very likely that the FSB are applying torture to either force Appaz into ‘confessing’ to whatever is demanded of him, or to pressure him into giving false testimony against others.  The methods used are known to include electric currents attached to particularly sensitive parts of the body (including genitals), savage beatings and mock executions.  The FSB have become accustomed to near total impunity for such lawlessness, with the situation only exacerbated since Russia’s total invasion of Ukraine and occupation of parts of Kherson oblast.

Since Russia’s total invasion, at least ten other Kherson oblast residents, almost all of them Crimean Tatars, have been effectively abducted and then charged in occupied Crimea with supposed involvement in the entirely legal Noman Çelebicihan Battalion in mainland Ukraine.  Despite the name, this is an unarmed civic organization which certainly seeks an end to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, but via a full blockade.  Russia has recently used its increasingly politicized Supreme Court to declared the Battalion ‘terrorist’, with this clearly part of a plan to intensify persecution of Crimean Tatars.

See: Retired Ukrainian naval commander abducted, tortured and taken to Russian-occupied Crimea ‘for trial’

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