The Secretariat of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (hereinafter – NUJU) awarded the Ihor Lubchenko National Prize for the Protection of Freedom of Speech to the freelance journalist of the media agency “Krym.Realii” Vladyslav Yesypenko, convicted in the occupied Crimea.
“Vladislav Yesypenko did a very big job: when all professional journalists were forced out of Crimea, when all independent TV channels were closed there, and Ukrainian journalists were banned from entering Crimea, he dared to come to Crimea and make truthful reports from there. This made it possible, at least to a certain extent, to ensure freedom of speech in the occupied Crimea,” says Mykola Semena, a Crimean journalist and the secretary of the NUJU.
“Radio Liberty” freelance journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko highlighted the social and environmental issues of the occupied peninsula, filmed surveys of residents. On 10 March 2021, FSB officers detained him on charges of allegedly collecting information “in the interests of the special services of Ukraine” and storing an “improvised explosive device” in a car. At a court hearing in occupied Simferopol, where an independent lawyer was admitted, Vladyslav claimed torture by the occupation special services. On 16 February, the so-called “Simferopol District Court” illegally sentenced Yesypenko to 6 years in a general regime colony and a fine of 110,000 rubles. On 18 August the “Appeal court” sentenced the journalist to 5 years in prison, but the defense will file a cassation appeal and ask for Yesypenko’s parole.
During the discussion speakers and the audience touched on the topics of human rights violations during the war, mobilization in the temporarily occupied territories, and issues related to the return and status of prisoners of war.
Maria Tomak noted that the world’s attention is more focused on the Ukrainian territories that were affected by the full-scale invasion and where there are the greatest losses: “Yes, from one point of view, the catastrophe in occupied Crimea is not of such a scale now, however, from another point of view, this disaster continues in the occupied Crimean peninsula temporarily for 9 years.
In the speech, Maria Tomak talked about the work of the National Office of the Crimean Platform and the Mission’s activities in the conditions of the full-scale russian invasion. She added that despite the statement of the society and our partners, who claim that “Crimea is Ukraine”, a rather small percentage sincerely believes that the Ukrainian peninsula can really be de-occupied soon. However, the Mission is actively working not just on a vision of future reintegration, but on clear plans for its implementation — this is a serious challenge, but Ukraine must be ready for it, act in a timely and efficient manner.
Ms. Tomak emphasized that the problems in the occupied Crimea only intensified after 24 February, and all this is accompanied by total lawlessness. The most striking examples are the violent mobilization, when summonses were handed out simply on the streets and in places of compact residence of the Crimean Tatars people, and a new wave of political persecution of the population of the peninsula who are disloyal to the occupiers. In addition, russian security forces are moving not only people who support Ukraine but also activists from the temporarily uncontrolled areas of Kherson region and Zaporizhzhia region to the occupied Crimea. These people are kept in terrible conditions, without any connection with the outside world, tortured. In addition, the russian federation completely denies that these our citizens are in prison, although only in the Simferopol pre-trial detention center, the occupiers allocated an entire block for Ukrainian prisoners and hostages.
Maria Tomak highlighted that it is important for Ukraine to maintain a proactive position on the world stage – this will be a guarantee of holding russian officials accountable for all their war crimes, aggression and crimes against humanity.