Crimean Residents To Face Russian-Style Repression

Posted by Tom Malinowski
April 25, 2014
A View of the City of Bakhchysarai, Crimea

One unfortunate effect – and perhaps intent – of the Russian government’s threats against eastern Ukraine has been to divert the world’s attention from the part of Ukraine it has already seized. 

On April 15, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on Crimea documenting what the Russian government has tried to hide by denying international monitors access to Crimea:  the imprisonment, torture, and killings of Crimean citizens who opposed Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula prior to the March referendum. 

The world is already familiar with some of the more horrific reports that have emerged in recent weeks, such as the discovery on March 18 of the body of Crimean Tatar activist Reshat Ametov two weeks after he had been abducted, bearing clear evidence of abuse.  On March 25, Human Rights Watch reported that two Euromaidan activists in Crimea had been kidnapped and brutally tortured by Russian and local forces in secret facilities for 11 days.

A Tatar woman cries during the funeral of Reshat Ametov, a Tatar pro-Ukrainian activist and father of three, who disappeared after attending a rally on March 3 in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 18, 2014. 

After spinning a fictitious tale of protecting members of the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine, the Russian government and its proxies are subjecting members of ethnic minorities in Crimea to the very abuses they pretend to oppose.  On March 31, pro-Russian thugs beat a 14-year-old Tatar boy for speaking Tatar in public.  On March 18, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Temirgaliyev announced that Tatars must give up their land to be used for other purposes.  On March 15 and 16, pro-Russia thugs kidnapped Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests, interrogated them, and had local “authorities” charge some of them with “extremism.”  Following anonymous death threats, the Chief Reform Rabbi of Crimea has fled.  All told, international organizations report that around 5,000 people, including minority Christians, Jews, and at least 3,000 Tatars, have fled Crimea and sought refuge elsewhere in Ukraine. 

If the Russian government begins to impose through its occupation and purported annexation of Crimea the repressive laws it is increasingly implementing in Russia, Crimean residents may experience surprising restrictions on the rights they once freely exercised.  Among these are:

  • A Loss of Autonomy.  Even as President Putin demands decentralization in Ukraine, he is abolishing it in Russia.  A new bill in the Duma could cancel direct mayoral elections in Russia, stripping citizens of their ability to elect their local leaders.
  • Censorship and Propaganda.  As has already been done within Russia, Russian authorities have tried to limit Crimean residents’ access to TV channels that are not Kremlin-controlled.  From Russia’s internet space, Crimean residents could find themselves unable to access certain independent news sites.
  • Criminalization of Dissent.  The Russian government could attempt to subject Crimean residents who wish to express dissent to its arsenal of laws unduly restricting freedom of expression, including Russian-style prosecutions of journalists and activists for “extremism” and “hooliganism” simply for expressing independent views. 
  • "Foreign Agent" Hysteria. Following the xenophobic trend encouraged by authorities in Russia, lists of local “traitors” and “foreign agents” have already begun to appear in Crimea.  Crimean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like Russian ones, may find themselves subjected to a range of new burdensome regulations, including the notorious Russian “Foreign Agents” NGO law.  Many Crimean human rights defenders have already fled Crimea, and many of those who stayed are considering a principled stance to avoid taking on the false and stigmatizing label of “foreign agent.”
  • Limits on Freedom of Assembly. Recent Russian laws instituting harsh fines (over $9000) for participating in peaceful unsanctioned protest, if imposed in Crimea, may have a chilling effect on public demonstrations.  We’ve already seen evidence in Sevastopol – on April 15, the city banned an LGBT pride parade, citing Russia’s ban on LGBT “propaganda.”

Russia will continue to pay a high price if it continues to occupy Crimea.  Sanctions imposed because of its actions in Crimea will remain so long as those actions continue.  And we will increase these costs if Russia does not follow through on the commitments it made in Geneva on April 17 to de-escalate the crisis it has manufactured in eastern Ukraine.  We will also continue to empower Ukraine to withstand Russian pressure and move towards a prosperous and democratic future.  In recent days, the United States has signed a loan guarantee agreement with Ukraine to unlock $1 billion in financing, which will help the Ukrainian Government to provide critical services and protect vulnerable citizens as the government implements necessary economic reforms.  We are providing additional assistance to support those reforms, as well as free and fair elections, anti-corruption initiatives, recovery of stolen assets, and helping Ukraine withstand politically-motivated trade actions by Russia. 

As we look to what has happened in Crimea, and seek to diffuse tensions in eastern Ukraine, we are reminded what is at stake.  This is not a dispute between different parts of Ukraine.  It is a contest, as President Obama has said, between two competing ideals: “the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose,” and an “older, more traditional view of power” which holds that “order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”  The desire to live in freedom, under a state that serves its citizens, not the other way around, is universal.  Ukrainians don’t want to lose their freedom.  Their fellow citizens in Crimea, and neighbors in Russia, deserve to reclaim it.

About the Author: Tom Malinowki serves as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Comments

Comments

warrior 1.
|
Wyoming, USA
April 25, 2014
My blood boils when I read the atrocities by Russia against the helpless! God forgive him...he's insane!
Jon S.
|
Alabama, USA
April 25, 2014
This is absurd propaganda. Why should I care about the tartars? Are you aware that this Muslim minority worked with the Nazis for the destruction of Russia which Crimea has been a part of since the 1700s? They are notorious caliphate obsessed troublemakers. The overwhelming majority of Crimeans want to be part of Russia. They see a winner and cultural compatibility with Russia. As for 'freedoms', check out America where pointing out Islam's holy book's endless rants to enslave or kill the infidels, its history of utter destruction of other conquered civilizations, and the current jihad; why, 'you'll be called a 'racist.' LOL What race is Islam?
Dmitry K.
|
Russia
April 27, 2014
Dear americans! I have many friends in Crimea. Your State Department lies to you! The size of russian financial help is about 3,illion dol. The earnings of state services? army? police have become 3 times more than those in Ukraine. The vast majority of population supports Russia and supports all South-East of Ukraine. The peninsula was in a terrible criminal situation but now it's becoming better. As for LGBT parade the absolute majoriy of russian people is against it. We won't allow LGBT to appear on our streets and this is our choice. About fines for participating in illegal demonstrations - it is about $600.I don't thik everything in Russia is all right but american authorities are telling you lies. If you have any questions about living in Russia - my twitter is kochetkovdm. I'll tell you the truth!
Steve B.
|
Ukraine
April 26, 2014
Well written and on point every step of the way concerning both reporting the sensitive recent developments and the conclusions which history allows us to draw from those observations. Thanks, Tom.
Irma P.
|
United States
April 26, 2014
Mr. Malinowski, the blog writers for the State Department seem to be competing with one another to see who can come up with the most astounding expressions of hypocrisy. After funding the violent overthrow of an elected government in Ukraine, you put in its place a bunch of neo-Nazis who are the avowed followers of Stepan Bandera -- including MP Igor Miroshnichenko, a member of the "parliamentary committee on freedom of expression and information,” who had himself filmed beating a TV journalist. Your moral authority to complain about the Russians is zero, zilch, nada.
Matyas H.
|
Czech Republic
April 28, 2014
Dear John, it is no secret that minorities are discriminated against in Russia, be them racial, religious or sexual minorities. Many small nations fought against Stalin and the USSR during WW2 (which Stalin later turned into colaborated with the Reich) for the reason that they had a simillar experience of long oppression by Russia. And do you really believe that all of the Tatars fought will Hitler? It the same logic of collective punishment that fueled the Holocaust as Stalin's deportations of Tatars, Chechens, Tushets and other peoples into Siberia. In my opinion both sides on the Eastern front in WW2 were so bad, that you cannot blame people for being on either side if their main motivation was opposition to the other side.
Joseph L.
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Switzerland
April 28, 2014
Instead of ranting against Mr Malinovski and other State Department blog writers, and regurgitating preposterous Moscow-concocted allegations and propaganda that neo-Nazis have taken over in Ukraine and that Banderists are terrorizing and killing Russian speakers, you should read the report published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned in this blog. As for thugs, from what everyone can see from reports broadcast on many international TV channels they are sponsored by Moscow and rule in Crimea (as indicated in the UN report) and in eastern Ukraine. This can be observed in Slovyansk, for instance, where OSCE observers taken hostage were paraded in front of the international press and in other places where journalists or those opposing Russian intervention are being arrested, beaten up, kidnapped, or even tortured and killed, like Horlivka elected councillor Volodymyr Rybak... You accuse the State Department blog writers of hypocrisy, maybe you should move to Slovyansk or another place liberated by little green men to live in a hypocrisy-free land.
Sue e.
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New Hampshire, USA
April 28, 2014
I have a friend in Crimea that I speak with often. I was really worried about him when this thing started but he explained to me that he was happy the Russians were there. The last 10+ yrs have been horrible for the average person there. Little work, low wages and a standard of living that was spiraling downward. He considers himself a Russian. Always has. He was trapped in Ukraine by a weird twist of fate.While he, like most, were willing to give fledgling Ukraine a shot it soon became apparent that it was just going to keep getting worse. When Russia officially declared Crimea part of Russia he emailed me and said, "I am finally home!". For that I wish him all the good in the world. He and most of his neighbors are glad to be back. Over the years he has proven to be a good and honest person. He's very intelligent, he's a lot of fun. Most of the ordinary Russians I've met have been. Be very careful in what you do. Putin isn't going to go without dinner but my friend Sergei just might. He has too many times already. So far I've seen over and over again that these sort of sanctions hurt the wrong people.
Sue e.
|
New Hampshire, USA
April 28, 2014
I have a friend in Yalta telling me exactly the same thing. I have no other choice than to believe what he says and wish him well. I congratulate him on returning home. Congratulations on coming home again to your Crimean friends too.
Moyses P.
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United States
April 28, 2014
Please what's your e mail and information I would like to get in touch with you. Thanks
Bohdan L.
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Pennsylvania, USA
April 29, 2014
Dear Jon S. You said: 1. "This is absurd propaganda. Why should I care about the tartars? A. You should care, because they are humans and lived in Crimea way before imperialistic Russia invaded. 2. "Are you aware that this Muslim minority worked with the Nazis for the destruction of Russia". A. It is only Russian allegation, the fact is, Russia worked with Nazis, Molotov-Ribbentrop pact 1939 comes to mind. And bloody russians are still holding other nations teritories gained under this pact. 3. Crimea has been a part of Russia since the 1700s?". A. Tatars were there many centires before imperialistic Russians. They are consider indigenous people to Crimea not Russians invadors. 4. "The overwhelming majority of Crimeans want to be part of Russia." A. If referendum was held with out guns, one would wonder how many "Russians" would want to be part of Russia? What does Russia produces that is "Added Value to the World". Oil, gas, weapons and gulaks. No computers, no cell phones no tv's, no technology that humanity could use. Only destruction. What country Russia invaded or not and made better off? None, zero! 5. "Islam's holy book's endless rants to enslave or kill the infidels, its history of utter destruction of other conquered civilizations, and the current jihad;" A. It sounds like Russian imperialistic mentality. Now we have two to worry. Jon S. you need a history lesson really bed.
Mykhayl D.
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Pennsylvania, USA
April 29, 2014
Tell us about the Muscovite Holodomor genocide by hunger in 1932-33 that opened up Eastern Ukraine for Russian immigration.
Eugene S.
|
Russia
May 2, 2014
Mr.Joseph L., I suspect that your sympaties for the neo-nazies in the Ukraine go well to the 2nd World War, when the people of Switzerland worked happily day and night to supply Hitler and his henchmen with weapons to slauter millions of Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews and other 'untermenschen'. If you really want to know what is going on in Crimea and in the Eastern Ukraine you'd better go there and see for youself how the neo-nazies are again slautering Russian-speaking civilians only because they want to keep their freedoms, language and traditions. I do not know whether you would be happy or distressed seeing bombed out cities and villages, I only hope that something humane is still left in you. as well as a little bit of intellect to see the difference between the truth and the avalanch of the Russian-busting propaganda unleashed by the Westerm media: nothing personal, it's only business - good Russian is dead Russian.

.

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