RUSSIA MONITOR

Date: 26 June 2017

Persecution in Crimea

Over the course of just two days in June, we’ve got information from the Russian-occupied peninsula that attests to the fact that the number of repressions towards critics and opponents of the annexation of Crime haven’t decreased. Moscow continues to sentence and jail Ukrainian and Tatar activists. Each time, articles of the criminal code are used that refer to separatism and calls for the violation of the territorial integrity of Russia.


© MAXIM SHIPENKOV PAP/EPA

On June 21, Ukrainian activist Natalia Kharchenko left Simferopol and went to Kiev. She claims that she was in danger from the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB). Kharchenko is married to the former director of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea. In January, the FSB searched their apartment and confiscated computers. After that, Kharchenko’s husband lost his job and the FSB initiated an investigation against her, accusing her of making declarations that may have violated the territorial integrity of Russia. Kharchenko has already been interviewed by the FSB several times. Her husband escaped from Crimea a few weeks earlier.

On June 21, the court reopened legal proceedings against a leading activist of the Tatar community who criticized the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The Russians brought an accusation of separatism against Ilmi Umerov, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis, the self-governing body of Crimean Tatars, banned by Moscow. Umerov was presented with charges in May 2016. In August, he was forced to stay in a psychiatric clinic for a month. The lawyer defending Umerov has indicated that the judge dealing with this case is a Ukrainian citizen who is under a criminal investigation by the authorities in Kiev.

On June 21, the court postponed the date of the next meeting in the trial of Mykola Semena until July 7. The judicial proceedings against the Ukrainian, accused of separatism because of his objection to the annexation of Crimea, began just in March this year. However, it was postponed several times. Semena faces a punishment of up to five years in prison because of one article that he published online in 2015.

On June 22, the court in Crimea extended the temporary arrest of Akhtem Chiygoz, a Tatar activist who is also on trial for his objection to the annexation of the peninsula. His arrest was extended to the beginning of October. Chiygoz was accused of organizing riots. His trial started in October 2016. However, he was detained in January 2015 – in relation to a protest near the parliament of Crimea in February 2014, which led to clashes with supporters of Russia.

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