A portrait of Putin with "Crimea" written on the upper lip
Many believe that the situation in Russian-occupied Crimea is “not so terrible” because there is no war going on there, Abmezhit Suleymanov says. But in many ways, the situation in Crimea is even worse: in the Donbas, “you know who your enemy is;” in Crimea, there are enemies “all around you” and residents live in a state of terror.
Suleymanov, who is a representative of the Mejlis committee for the defense of the rights of Crimean Tatars, made these comments to Glavred.info in an article today which also features other reports from people in the occupied peninsula who ask that no one forget what is taking place there.
Some high-profile cases of this terror have attracted international attention, but activists in Crimea and in Kyiv say that there are far more lower-level ones that pass unnoticed and that even they are not able to register and thus provide documentation to national and international bodies.
It appears, they say, that “Russia needs Ukrainian ‘spies,’ ‘snipers,’ and ‘terrorists’” and has a variety of charges officials may use or actions some of them or ordinary pro-Moscow people may employ to repress anyone who is not enthusiastically on the side of the new order following the Anschluss.
Oleksandra Matviychuk, president of the Kyiv-based Center for Civil Liberties and coordinator of Euromaidan SOS, says that “such ‘a menu’ is used by the occupation authorities for suppressing the initiatives of representatives of civil society” and that “their victims are people of the most varied professions, ages, and activities. But they are all united by the fact that they are publicly active and not under the control of the occupation authorities.”
Tamila Tasheva, coordinator of the Crimea SOS organization, says that “the international community is devoting more attention to what is taking place in [the Donbas than in Crimea]. And this is logical, but in Crimea we see a kind of undeclared war when every day there are violations of human rights. And there are hundreds of them.”
Rights activists in Kyiv say that in the last three months alone, there have been 94 interrogations in Crimea, 22 searches, 78 detentions and arrests, 13 trials, as well as cases of torture and beatings. And that enumeration, they say, is far from complete given that many of these crimes are not reported.
What is especially worrisome is that the occupation officials increasingly coordinate their work with the criminal grouping known as “the Crimean Self-Defense Force,” whose members employ extra-legal means to repress the population, including beatings, denunciations and other actions characteristic of a terror regime.
She continues that there are some things that can be done: Crimeans need to arrange in advance with lawyers so that when something is done, they will be in a better position to get the word out and defend themselves. And both Ukrainian and international organizations need to get involved in this horrific situation.
“We know,” another activist says, “that the Russian side does not allow a UN mission on human rights onto the territory of the peninsula.” But that doesn’t mean that individual countries can’t send their own missions or at least try to and thus spread the word about what is happening and thereby encourage Crimeans to defend their rights.
Suleymanov adds that “the repressive regime is doing everything it can to take under control the representative organ of the Crimean Tatars, the Mejlis and Kurultay,” including attacks, arrests, and the creation of alternative bodies that the occupiers seek to present as genuine.
“Today it is very difficult to live in Crimea,” he says, but “to live in occupation and to feel that no one supports you is doubly difficult. People must understand that there is no law or organization which now works in Crimea to defend the rights of these people” – and they are numerous.
Moscow claims and many outsiders believe that many in Crimea support the occupation, but this is not the case, Suleymanov says. “In Crimea live and struggle those who believe to this day that Crimea is Ukraine and must be.” What matters now is that they not be left to face the occupiers “one on one.”