war crimes in Ukraine

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Russian FSB ‘investigator’ involved in Crimean political persecution foiled by CCTV footage

Halya Coynash
Railway track allegedly damaged on 23.02.2023, Iryna Danilovych, Yunus Masharipov
Railway track allegedly damaged on 23.02.2023, Iryna Danilovych, Yunus Masharipov

37-year-old Crimean Tatar Edem Murtazaev was taken away by the FSB in Russian-occupied Crimea after a ‘search’ of his home in Sudak in the evening of 6 March.  It had looked likely that the FSB were fabricating yet another ‘sabotage’ case, especially given that the FSB ‘investigator’ was Aleksandr Lavrov, who has been involved in the politically motivated prosecutions of human rights activists Iryna Danilovych and Yunus Masharipov.  If that was the case, they were thwarted thanks to the family’s CCTV footage, which no videoed ‘confession’ could refute.

Russia’s ministry of emergencies, and pro-Kremlin media reported on 23 February that an explosion had damaged a part of the railway track in the Bakhchysarai raion, near the village of Poshtove and 12 kilometres from the station ‘Simferopol’.  The explosion had led to three trains being stopped, one from Sevastopol to the Russian city of St Petersburg, and two suburban trains.  The FSB appear to have immediately initiated an investigation into ‘sabotage’.

The first worrying aspect to this case was the FSB’s clear targeting of Crimean Tatars.  On 28 February, Crimean Solidarity reported that the FSB and other enforcement officers had turned up very early in the morning at the home of Soiin Dzhemilov.  He was at work, however the FSB prevented Soiin’s wife from contacting him or a lawyer before carrying out a ‘search’. They read out a document claiming that some ‘anonymous source’ had told them that the family’s elder son Abdulla Dzhemilov might have been implicated in the ‘act of sabotage’ on 23 February.  Abdulla Dzhemilov has not been in Crimea for several months.

Anton Naumliuk from Graty has provided a brief account of the events during the evening of 6 March when the FSB came for Edem Murtazyev in Sudak.  The protocol of the search carried out of his home stated that he was suspected of involvement in an act of sabotage under Article 281 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.  The search was on the basis of an urgent warrant, claimed to be due to circumstances not allowing for delay. It began at 21.00 and lasted around an hour, with the only thing removed being Murtazaev’s Iphone. He was, nonetheless, taken away to the FSB building in Simferopol.

Fortunately Murtazaev was represented from the outset by lawyer Islyam Veliliaev, and, most importantly, there are CCTV cameras at the house which Murtazaev and his wife share with his parents.  Helped by Veliliaev, they managed to get the FSB to watch the footage for the day of the alleged act of sabotage and to confirm that Murtazaev had an alibi that could not be broken.  He was released at 2.30 a.m.

As mentioned, the second extremely worrying part of this ‘investigation’ into what may, or may not, have been an act of sabotage is the involvement of Alexander Lavrov, given the part that he played in imprisoning two other Ukrainian citizens.

Yunus Masharipov and punitive psychiatry

A Yalta rights activist, Masharipov was originally seized on 27 September 2017 and accused of preparing explosives.  A videoed ‘confession’ was produced in which Masharipov said that he had been ‘recruited’ by the Kherson branch of the Mejlis [self-governing body] of the Crimean Tatar people and Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU].  He had, supposedly, gathered information about the socio-economic situation and put up posters of a campaigning nature, and also strewn used needles on the beach in Yalta so that tourists would stop coming. The tape has clearly been cut and pasted together, and Masharipov himself appeared to be trying to remember what he had to say.  the impression that he is trying to remember what he should say.

In December 2017, Masharipov issued public statements to both ex-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and to Viktor Palagin, who was then the head of the Russian FSB in occupied Crimea.  He stated then, and has consistently repeated, that he had been tortured into ‘confessing’ to crimes he had never committed.  He asserted that it had been after he told his captors on 27 September that he had reported human rights abuses in occupied Crimea that he had been beaten and tortured with the use of electric shocks.  He said that he had been forced to give several different ‘confessions’ on video.

Despite the fact, as Masharipov’s lawyer Alexei Ladin repeatedly noted, that the ‘case’ was based solely on claims by FSB officers, and a ‘confession’ that Masharipov has retracted, he was sentenced on 13 November 2018 to four years’ imprisonment and a 110 thousand rouble fine.  He was refused the right to appeal this ruling, but lodged a cassation appeal, citing the fact that there had been a clear violation of his right to defence.  The case was sent back to the same ‘Yalta City Court’ for retrial.  On 3 March 2020, this same ‘court’ asserted that Masharipov had committed a crime but that he was mentally unfit, and ordered that he be placed against his will in a psychiatric hospital.  This was upheld by the occupation ‘Crimean high court’ with this effectively leading to imprisonment in a psychiatric institution without any time limit.

Iryna Danilovych, imprisoned for her civic journalism

43-year-old Danilovych is a nurse, human rights defender and civic journalist who regularly wrote for INzhir Media and the Crimean Process human rights initiative.  She was abducted by the FSB from the bus stop as she was trying to return home from work on 29 April 2022, and held incommunicado for over a week, before the FSB came up with the preposterous claim that they had ‘found’ explosives in her glasses case.  The indictment was absurd, with the case involving flagrant violations of Danilovych’s rights and a lack of any evidence.  This, unfortunately, did not stop ‘prosecutor’ Dmitry Lyashchenko from demanding a 7-year sentence, which ‘judge’ Natalia Kulinskaya from the occupation ‘Feodosia municipal court’ obligingly provided on 28 December 2022.  The case is still awaiting appeal.

See also Russia’s fabrication of ‘sabotage’ charges against Nariman Dzhelyal, the internationally renowned First Deputy Chair of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and journalist, together with two cousins, Asan Akhtemov and Aziz Akhtemov.

Russia sentences Crimean Tatar Mejlis leader Nariman Dzhelyal to 17 years in revenge for Crimea Platform

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