war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Ominous denials a month after Crimean Tatar father abducted by Russian FSB

Halya Coynash
It is over 5 weeks since the Russian FSB openly seized the 28-year-old, who had recently become a father, and nothing is known of his whereabouts, or why he was targeted

Ismail Shemshedinov Family photo

Ismail Shemshedinov Family photo

28-year-old Ismail Shemshedinov has not been seen since 26 January when armed and masked FSB officers burst into his family’s home in Russian-occupied Crimea.  All attempts by Ismail’s family and lawyer to find out where he is, and why he was seized, have run up against a brick wall.

Elzara Abibulyaeva has told Crimean Solidarity about her son’s abduction on 26 January and her attempts since to find out his whereabouts.  Terms like abduction or enforced disappearance are warranted as the Russian enforcement bodies in occupied Crimea have refused to admit to holding him, and the FSB officers who took him away claimed that he would be home within three days.

Ismail Shemshidinov is 28 and from Kirovske. He is a nurse by profession, but has recently worked from home, as a masseur.  He is married and the couple have a 3-month-old baby. . 

Elzara says that the family had all gathered, together with her elderly parents, on 26 January when her younger daughter called out that there were masked men in the courtyard.  She initially thought of men in surgical masks, but these proved to be wearing balaclavas and to be heavily armed.  After violently banging on the door, terrifying everybody, though especially the children, around 20 men, brandishing machine guns and batons, burst into the house and demanded to know where Shemshedinov was.  The young man came out and they immediately forced him outside, although this was January, and he was dressed in only a T-shirt and sports trousers. 

The FSB officers did read out some kind of warrant, but quickly, without handing over a copy and without any explanation, although it was quite clear that nobody had understood why they were there.  They demanded that the family turn over “weapons and drugs” before beginning to turn the place upside down.  This ‘search’ lasted three and a half hours, with the officers rummaging in anything, even children’s clothes and nappies.  The official ‘witnesses’ (whom they illegally brought with them) signed documents confirming that nothing had been found.  Judging by the numerous ‘searches’ of Crimean Tatar homes since Russia’s invasion, it is unlikely that the FSB expected to find anything, and certainly not “weapons and drugs”.  They took Shemshedinov’s tablet and telephone away, as well as his wife’s phone.  Before leaving, they interrogated, in very rough and rude fashion, all the members of the family, without leaving copies of the interrogation protocols, or of the search warrant.    

Elzara went out to the vehicle where the men had taken her son, and found him forced into a lying position on the seats.  She managed to get some money to him, which they put in his pocket.  They assured her that he would be able to get in contact in three days.

That was over five weeks ago, and the family have heard nothing from Ismail, or even received information where he is being held.  His mother is, understandably,, extremely worried and has difficulty speaking without tears.  The family and lawyer have approached all Russian enforcement bodies, and even phoned the Red Cross, but to no avail.   They have tried all the SIZO, or remand prisons, in Crimea, and have been told that Shemshedinov is not held there.

Russia has been carrying out such effective abductions since it seized control of Crimea, with the periods in which the FSB hold a person prisoner without admitting to their detention especially dangerous.  The person is entirely under FSB control, and is typically subjected to torture, mock executions, threats of long terms of imprisonment, reprisals against his / her family, etc. to force out ‘confessions’ or false testimony against others.  We know of such methods both from those political prisoners who were later released, or who retracted ‘confessions’ obtained through torture.  There have also been several occasions where young Crimean Tatars found the courage to speak out publicly about their ordeal after brief periods held by the FSB. 

This, however, is the second time since November that a young Crimean Tatar has simply disappeared after being taken prisoner by enforcement officers.  As reported, 22-year-old Fakhod Soliev vanished on 3 November, together with a colleague, 33-year-old Server Aliev.  Despite CCTV footage which appears to show Soliev being seized by two men, one in khaki gear, the enforcement bodies continued to deny any knowledge of the men’s whereabouts.  Crimean Solidarity reports that the occupation police refused to initiate criminal proceedings over the men’s disappearance, claiming that the FSB have “the right” to hold them for 15 days.  Even were this the case, the FSB failed to explain their whereabouts after that period.  The police apparently acknowledged that they know where the men are being held, but refused to tell their families.  In this same, chillingly lawless fashion, the FSB and other occupation enforcement bodies are now continuing to deny any knowledge of Ismail Shemshedinov, although he was last seen in their custody.

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