Almost six years have passed since Russia started its aggression against Ukraine, occupied Crimea and initiated hybrid warfare via its proxies in eastern Ukraine. The consolidation of the civilized world in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and resilience of the Ukrainian people stopped this invasion though failed to prevent millions of people from living in occupation.
Everybody, residing in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol was forced to get Russian passports which are not recognized by Ukraine and international community as well as enforced citizenship of the aggressor is not recognized. In Crimea, it is impossible to live without the Russian passports: people who do not have Russian passports are deprived of social services and medical aid.
Position of Ukraine is clear and consistent – residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol remain citizens of Ukraine, and are not considered as citizens of Russia.
The next step of Russia became persecution of disloyal groups of population including Crimean Tatars, who ignored the so-called “referendum” and their leaders did not recognized the Russian jurisdiction over Crimea and ethnic Ukrainians, expressing their position and opposing the Russian occupation as well. The instruments for persecution are harassment, imprisonment on political grounds, kidnappings and murders. At least 20 individuals were murdered, 50 individuals were kidnapped, out of them 15 are missing and have not been found yet and 80 individuals were imprisoned on political grounds, at least 350 individuals were detained and got searches in their houses.
Russia cynically imposes it ideology, specifically on a young generation. The current school educational curricula in Crimea include military trainings and use of small arms. Children and youth are brought up in a spirit of patriotism and glorification of the occupying state and occupation. Such an ideology put pressure on children and negatively influences their consciousness. In this way the occupying authorities bring up recruits from the occupying territories for Russian military forces. According to the occupying authorities at least 8,5 thousands children in Crimea involved into military movement “Junarmy”. Half of them were involved in 2019.
Since spring 2015 Russia launched recruitment campaigns in Crimea for its own military. As a result at least 20 thousands Crimeans were conscripted to the Russian military service. Most of the conscripts are sent to military service in the regions of the Russian Federation. Russia exercises criminal prosecution with punishment of two years of imprisonment for evading military service. Since the beginning of occupation, at least 78 criminal proceedings in Crimea have been initiated against those who have evaded military service.
During the occupation, the Russian Federation directly and indirectly displaces the local Crimean population, replacing it by its own citizens.
Since the beginning of occupation of Crimea about a thousand of Ukrainian citizens were forcibly deported. About 3,5 thousands of imprisoned persons were transferred to serve their sentences in the prisons in the Russian Federation. A number of persons, registered as IDPs from Crimea is about 42 thousands, and more than 150 000 residents of Crimea received Ukrainian passports for travel abroad.
The replacement of the local disloyal population with the Russian population is ongoing in Crimea. From 2014 to 2019 on different estimated from 140 000 to 300 000 thousands of the Russian citizens changed their place of registration from the regions of Russia into so-called “Republic of Crimea” of “federal city of Sevastopol”. And the occupying administration plans to increase the number of migrants to more than 450 thousands persons until 2030.
Following a widespread arrests of Crimean Tartars in 2016, a civic movement “Crimean Solidarity” emerged to unite relatives of imprisoned, lawyers and activists. The initiative now consolidates hundreds who provide assistance to the families of political prisoners, conduct rallies for support of arrested in the courts, provides social and legal aid and report the credible information for the population, being the main source of independent information. The members of the “Crimean Solidarity” are vigorously persecuted by the Russian law enforcement bodies. In May 2018 Server Mustafayev, the key coordinator of the movement was arrested and charged with participation in the terroristic organization. On 27 March 2019 mass searches took place simultaneously in 25 houses of activists to harass the members of the movement “Crimean Solidarity”. 24 persons were detained after the searched and accused within criminal prosecution.
Thus, the occupying state creates a territory that lacks any rule of law and suppresses any struggle of the local inhabitants for their rights.
A due attention should be drawn to the situation of the Crimean Tatar people in the occupied Crimea. After the beginning of occupation Russia attempted to bribe the key Crimean Tatar leaders and ensure their support of Russia. But being rejected, Russia started to struggle with the Crimean Tatars by eliminating their national institutions, particularly Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, which was formally banned for extremism. Some leaders of Mejlis were criminally prosecuted and harassed and tortured. For instance, Ilmi Umerov, a member of Mejlis was sentenced to two years of imprisonment and Akhtem Chiygoz was imprisoned 3 years during so-called investigation. Other members of Mejlis who continue to live in Crimea are constantly under the threat of criminal persecution or physical harassment.
On 19 April 2017 the International Court of Justice in the case Ukraine vs the Russian Federation obliged Russia to reject the existing limitations and to refrain from further constraining measures against the representative bodies of the Crimean Tatars, including Mejlis. This order of International Court of Justice has been not implemented by the Kremlin yet.
From its side Ukraine creates all the conditions for preserving, restoring and supporting communication with its own citizens, residing in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol.
We realize our own failures in our actions, including laws and regulations adopted right after beginning of occupation of Crimea, in particular regarding poor conditions for crossing the administrative border with the temporarily occupied territory, recognition of our own citizens, living in occupation as “nonresidents” and other discriminatory regulations as the human rights organizations have consistently drawn attention to. The state policy of Ukraine has now undergone significant changes. In particular, the checkpoints at the administrative borderline with Crimea were completely equipped and improved, including the construction of the service zone. The amendments to the current legislation, cancelling discriminatory regulation related to nonresidents status were developed. A new TV channel as a source of credible information for the residents of occupied territories to counter Russian propaganda, and broadcasting to the occupied territories is planned to be launched.
Together with the Ministry of veterans, temporally occupied territories and internally displaced persons we developed legislation, that will finally determine the status of persons, persecuted on political grounds, civilian prisoners and prisoners of war. In the nearest future the draft will be submitted by the President of Ukraine as urgent. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the Resolution at the end of December 2019, resolving a lot of problems of persons, imprisoned due to the armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine.
Under the Ministry of veterans, temporary occupied territories and internally displaced persons the inter-ministerial working group was established for discussing urgent issues related to the temporarily occupied territories, including compensation for damages, caused by the Russian Federation; ecology; elimination of discriminatory regulations in national legislation etc.
On 29 December 2019 a first wave of bilateral release of the persons, detained by illegally non-state armed groups in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions took place, as a result 76 citizens were released. The next bilateral release of prisoners is currently prepared under which two Crimean prisoners will be released.
Since March 2019 the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has been carrying out the investigation of displacement of the civilians from the Russian Federation to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, classifying such actions as war crime. A special department was created at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine to investigate the war crimes and cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court was enhanced.
The Commission on legal reform with the Working Group on reintegration was established at the state level, within its framework the national concept of transitional justice is being finalized. The concept consists of four main blocs: compensation for damages to victims; responsibility for crimes, committed during the armed conflict; right to truth and restoration of historical truth; and reform of security sector. The concept will become the framework for development of a system of legal regulation of issues connected with aggression of the Russian Federation.
In addition, the legislation, determining the status of the Indigenous People in Ukraine including status of Crimean Tatar People and its representative bodies is currently being developed.
We express our sincere gratitude to the United States of America for the consistent support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and assistance in countering armed aggression of the Russian Federation. We firmly believe only in joint efforts it is possible to counteract violations of international law, infringements of the territories of sovereign states, and systemic violations of human rights. On this occasion, we would like to assure you that we fell the consistent support of the United State: during the voting for the resolutions on Crimea at the sessions of UN Security Council, during imposition of and prolongation of the sanctions, and particularly on resolving the problems with gas transportation. The US restrictive measures, imposed on the companies, constructed the “North Stream” became extremely effective instrument in countering Russian economic pressure on Ukraine. This is a very important political step for us that opened additional opportunities in the complicated relations with Russia.
We highly appreciate “Crimean Declaration» by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adopted in July 2019. We hope that all the European countries will follow and adopt their “Crimean Declarations”
We are convinced that the next step should become creation of the international platform for negotiations on return of a temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol under the jurisdiction of Ukraine. We call you to support us in our efforts. We understand that Russia will try to avoid and prevent such negotiations. However, we ought to force Russia to negotiate on Crimea and return the Ukrainian territories.
In conclusion, we would like to express our gratitude for support of projects of civil organizations, that provide help to the victims of human rights violations and monitor the situation in Crimea, which the international monitoring missions can not access. One more challenge for us is to force Russia to allow access for the international monitoring missions to document violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Crimea. We believe that this issue should become the first one at the agenda of international negotiations on return of Crimea under the jurisdiction of Ukraine.
Foto: PEN AMERICA