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.

Crippling fine against Crimean Tatar newspaper accused of ‘discrediting’ Russia’s army

Halya Coynash
Russia will not tolerate any independent media, and Qirim has not been cowered into silence
Bekir Mamutov with his newspaper Qirim Photo posted by Mejlis leadr, Refat Chubarov
Bekir Mamutov with his newspaper Qirim Photo posted by Mejlis leadr, Refat Chubarov

The Russian-controlled ‘Kievsky district court’ in occupied Simferopol has imposed a massive 300 thousand rouble fine on the Crimean Tatar newspaper Qirim over an article explaining why Crimean Tatars should not take part in Russia’s war against Ukraine.  The article was from September 2022 when Russia’s so-called partial mobilization’ appeared to be disproportionately targeting Crimean Tatars. Since Russia’s conscription and mobilization of any Crimeans, as well as its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, are in flagrant violation of international law, the content of the article should not have been contentious.  Russia, however, is actively applying repressive legislation hastily introduced within days of its full-scale invasion with their aim very clearly to silence protest over its aggression.  Both the newspaper and its Chief Editor, Bekir Mamutov, were charged under Article 20.3.3 of Russia’s Code of administrative offences, which supposedly prosecutes people for circulating information “aimed at discrediting the use of the Russian Federation’s armed forces to defend the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens, to support international peace and security as part of the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine”.  In occupied Crimea, this charge has been used against Crimeans for playing or singing Ukrainian patriotic songs, for a Ukrainian flag or the Trident, as well as for any expression of opposition to the war. It has often been combined with other, equally repressive, administrative charges, with people jailed for up to 15 days. 

In reporting the fine on 8 June, Crimean Discourse noted that Qirim’s only source of funding is from subscriptions, and that such a large fine is, therefore, a huge blow.  Crippling the newspaper may well be the plan.  Within a year of its invasion, Russia had crushed almost all independent media in occupied Crimea, and any remaining independent newspaper like Qirim would be likely to come under attack for its truthful reporting.

As reported,  Russian occupation ‘police’ burst into the homes of 65-year-old Bekir Mamutov and of the founder of Qirim, Seiran Ibragimov (59) and carried out searches early on 17 May.  A search was also undertaken of the Qirim editorial office.   Two charges were initiated by V. Koreninksy from Russia’s notorious ‘Centre for countering extremism’ against both Mamutov and Qirim.  Mamutov has yet to be ‘tried’ on the ‘discrediting’ charge, while the exorbitant fine against Qirim will certainly be appealed against. 

The second charge was under Article 13.15 of Russia’s administrative code and refers to something termed ‘abuse of freedom of mass information’.  The prosecution is, quite literally, over Mamutov’s publication in Qirim of an excerpt from a United Nations report on the human rights situation in occupied Crimea.  The excerpt was about Russia’s unwarranted detentions and beating of people on occupied territory, and cited the torture of a Crimean Tatar in Kherson (while under Russian occupation) and the harsh conditions of SIZO No. 2, one of the remand prisons which Russia has opened in Crimea since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.   The claim is that this article “circulated inaccurate information under the guise of facts, which posed the danger of harm to the life and health of citizens, property, the threat of mass infringement of public order and public safety”.

In trying to justify this second charge, the ‘Centre’ claimed that since 2017 up till the present day, the Russian occupation ‘police’ have received no information about the use of torture and ill treatment, and the SIZO No. 2 administration assert that the conditions “fully comply with the requirements of Russian legislation.”

Bekir Mamutov was prosecuted back in April 2021 under this same article over publication of a UN report which mentioned the Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people.  Russia’s ban of this internationally recognized representative of the main indigenous people of Crimea in 2016 received international condemnation yet has remained in force to this day.  The excuse for the prosecution on that occasion was not the (clearly correct) content of the report, but the fact that Mamutov and the newspaper had not added words to the quote by mentioning that Russia has banned the Mejlis as ‘an extremist organization’.  A Russian-controlled ‘magistrate’s court’ found Mamutov guilty as charged and imposed a four-thousand rouble fine. 

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