Ukrainians in Crimea: Six sanctions for refusing a Russian passport

Tatar Crimeans attend a pro-Ukraine rally in Simferopol, March 14, 2014

Tatar Crimeans attend a pro-Ukraine rally in Simferopol, March 14, 2014
 

2017/02/13 • Crimea, Russia, Ukraine

Article by: Iryna Sedova, Legal Information Centre for Human Rights in cooperation with the Institute for Peace and War Reporting

BACKGROUND

The citizenship question with Russia’s annexation of Crimea (March 18, 2014)

According to Article 4 of the Russian law from 23 March 2014 “On the Acceptance of the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation and the Creation of New Federal Subjects – the Republic of Crimea and the City of Federal Significance Sevastopol,” citizens of Ukraine and stateless persons who were permanently residing in Crimea as of March 18, 2014 are recognized as citizens of Russia, unless they declare within one month (by April 18, 2014) their desire to maintain another citizenship or to remain stateless.

Within only a month, Crimeans were forced to make a difficult choice: to take Russian citizenship, granting them their existing rights in Crimea, and a Russian passport, or to refuse a Russian passport and identify as nationally Ukrainian. According to several reports, the process for retaining Ukrainian citizenship was very vague and intentionally bureaucratic. To increase the pressure placed on citizens to take a Russian passport, the Russian Federation approved a law which would mean that all citizens of Crimea who opted to retain their Ukrainian citizenship had their right to remain indefinitely on the territory revoked.

This new legislation brought in by the Russian Duma discriminated against those who did not conform to the Russian identity imposed upon them. In fact, the entire transition process from Ukrainian to Russian citizenship was highly coercive in nature. The bureaucratic opacity of the whole process meant that many who did not want to assimilate were left with no other option. 

What is life like for Ukrainian Crimeans who have refused to take Russian citizenship, who have not yet received a Russian passport and stateless persons?

Ukrainian legislation stipulates that all documents issued in Crimea by representatives of the Russian Federation shall be deemed invalid.

Crimeans who have officially renounced Russian citizenship, and those who simply do not ask for a Russian “Crimean” passport have encountered obstacles in daily life. Some are pro-Ukrainian activists, others are ordinary residents of Crimea who do not express their position publicly.

Sanction No.1: Persecution for a pro-Ukrainian position

Mykhailo, an activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Crimea, has not received any new Crimean documents.

He, as well as other Crimeans who officially renounced Russian citizenship, were immediately put on a “special” list of the Russian occupationary security services in Crimea. If pro-Ukrainian sentiments are expressed openly, persecution becomes systematic, namely arrests at the border, detention, and intimidation.

“For example, we travelled to Armyansk and took some pictures there in vyshyvankas (embroidered shirts). We were detained without explanation, taken to the police station and interrogated.

You know what they said? “Well guys, you might be found somewhere without your head, so you’d better leave us your fingerprints so that we can identify you!”

01558ca-krim-ukraintsi

Mykhailo adds that he has often been summoned to appear before the prosecutor, where officials explain that he must be careful not break the law on extremism or the rules on holding meetings in the Russian Federation. This usually happens just before major Ukrainian holidays.

“The border guards make us wait for hours. Actually, the interview goes quite fast, but no one understands why we have to wait so long. It’s stressful to stand there, guarded by an armed border guard.”

Persecution continues against activists who didn’t renounce their citizenship within the time limit (one month), or haven’t yet received a Russian passport. Human rights activists believe that many ordinary citizens are arrested because of their pro-Ukrainian position. They addressed an open letter to the Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv, calling on them to protect Volodymyr Balukh, who has been in a Crimean prison since December 8, 2016.

 “Volodymyr is accused of hiding ammunition in his mother’s home. But, the search itself was conducted with gross violations. Volodymyr was led away immediately and could not follow the search. Prior to that, the Ukrainian flag that he had hung before his home was illegally ripped off three times.” says activist Olha Skrypnyk.

Antonina has also suffered for her beliefs. Not long ago, she was interviewed by a journalist and the article was published in a Ukrainian newspaper. We have changed Antonina’s name for security reasons. She also asked us not to publish the name of the city where she lives with her family.

“Our neighbours read the story and began shouting at us. They yelled at my child (he’s 9 years old-Ed.). Of course, it was all about Ukraine, Crimea, and finally they shouted violently: “Get the hell out of here, you khokhly!” (derogatory Russian term for Ukrainians-Ed.)

Some vandals also damaged our property. They poured tar all over our front gates, and spray-painted “Death to the banderites” all over the place. We called the police, filed a claim, but they refused to institute criminal proceedings.

Please don’t publish my name. It’s more or less back to normal now. I can go out and nobody bothers me; my husband goes to work every day. Our daughter is very sick so it’s very hard for us to leave.”

c3ba616-irynatiumentsev-depositphotos

Sanction No.2: Restricted access to healthcare

Activist Mykhailo says that persecution for ideas and beliefs is just the tip of the iceberg. It gets even more difficult when “refusenyks” need to see a doctor or a specialist.

“Last year, I got really sick… fever and cough, so I went to Hospital No.7. I didn’t have a referral from a doctor as I don’t have insurance, and I don’t have insurance because I don’t have a passport.

I had to turn to a doctor that I knew personally. He diagnosed pneumonia, and I was treated at home by my doctor friend. If you’re seriously ill, you have to go to a private clinic. They’ve sprung up like mushrooms!”

According to current regulations, medical services should be available to everyone residing in Crimea, but only if they show a mandatory health insurance policy. Those who do not have such documents cannot get an appointment at a state hospital.

Mandatory Russian health insurance in Crimea

Mandatory Russian health insurance in Crimea

Olena also renounced her citizenship, but she hasn’t received her Russian passport or her residency papers. She has a small child that she wanted to register in kindergarten and the local clinic.

“It was so funny when I went to register in the clinic. I was pregnant. They must have brought in about a dozen people to the reception desk, but they couldn’t figure out what to write in their medical records. I had neither residency documents nor a Russian passport.

It took me ages to explain my status to them – I have a residency permit in Crimea stamped in a Ukrainian passport. They didn’t want to believe me…even though I tried telling them that there were thousands of people like me in the same situation in Crimea.”

The head of the Crimea Human Rights Group, Olha Skrypnyk maintains that such practices are discriminatory.

“It’s virtually impossible for Crimean residents who refuse to take Russian citizenship or a Russian residency permit to get medical insurance. These people can’t get free medical care, and aren’t covered for some pay medical services.”

Access to health insurance and medical care is one way to coerce Crimean residents to ask for a Russian passport.

Refusing to provide medical services or specialized medical care is a threat to people’s health and even their lives. Such discriminatory practices are unacceptable!”

Sanction No.3: Dismissal from work

After March 2014, Crimean “authorities” consider all Ukrainians as foreigners even if they have been registered in Crimea for a long time.

“To get a job, Ukrainian, and foreigners, must have a labour patent. The situation is hopeless without one.” says Mykhailo.

Candidate of biological sciences from Yalta Guri Korniliev was fired on August 8, 2016. He believes that his dismissal is due to his rejection of Russian citizenship as his superiors repeatedly asked him to withdraw his statement renouncing Russian citizenship:

 “Yarosh (tutor for young scientists-Ed.) told me that as I had voluntarily refused to take a Russian passport I was clearly demonstrating an “anti-Russian position” and “that I had no moral right to work at a Russian company”, and should go and work in Ukraine.”

He had the same conversation with other dismissed employees who had also refused to take a Russian passport.

Guri Korniliev declared that two other employees of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden had been fired for taking a pro-Ukrainian stance.

“The director of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden informed us that he allegedly has to justify in writing to his superiors why his company employs foreign citizens!”

Employers who hire Ukrainians are actually fined – for example, if an employer has not notified the Migration Service of an employment contract with a foreigner, or if the company hires a Ukrainian citizen without a special work permit or labour patent.

Russian Labour Book

Russian Labour Book

Sanction No.4: Impossibility to re-register vehicles

Antonina complains that as she does not have a Russian passport she cannot re-register her car or get Russian license plates.

“The two letters – AK – are temporarily withdrawn and new Crimean numbers are issued – RF region 82. That’s not good for me as I can’t travel to the Ukrainian mainland as often as I wish.”

She said that during one trip she was stopped at the border checkpoint where Russian customs officers gave her a “kind of voluntary option… some sort of deportation.”

“You could say that they forced me to change the registration in my passport. I had to register with a friend in Mykolayiv (mainland Ukraine-Ed.). My son and I go there quite often. The Russian border guards allow my son to travel with his migration card despite the fact that his father has a residency permit.

So, now I come into Crimea on my migration card as a foreigner and can stay 90 days and my car is allowed in only on a temporary basis.”

Sanction No.5: Refusal to provide banking services

If a Crimean turns up at a bank with a Ukrainian passport and no official Crimean residency permit, no one will talk to him.

Yuriy Formus, a resident of Yalta, asked the Black Sea Bank for Reconstruction and Development to pay a state court fee. The bank refused to serve him when he showed his Ukrainian passport. He was officially told that the bank only services people with Russian or foreign documents.

Howeve, Elena points out that even Crimeans who are issued a residency permit have problems with the banks.

“Persons with a residency permit can’t get a bank card in Crimea… I mean I can open a bank account at a local bank, but I can’t get a card. That really complicates matters as my salary is automatically credited to my account.

If you want to get residency by setting up a private business enterprise you’ll have to provide tons of documents, and you’ll also have problems opening a bank account.”

Pile of Credit Cards --- Image by © Alan Schein Photography/Corbis

Sanction No.6: Living without a residency permit

Elena tells us about another major obstacle. In Russia (and now in Crimea), if a person does not own a house or an apartment, he must sign a social rent contract, that is, conclude an agreement on low-rent housing with the municipal administration.

Elena’s parents don’t own a home and live in a communal apartment. When Elena got her residency permit, she was automatically registered in her apartment. But, when her parents wanted to join her, they were refused.

“The authorities refer to the fact that Ukrainian citizens are registered in this apartment, namely my child and I. I’ve been living there for 20 years, but that didn’t help our case at all!”

Elena decided to leave her apartment, and when she tried to register in a different flat, she was told that only owners were allowed to register residency.

So, now Elena and her child are living “in limbo”. In fact, she must search for the owners of the apartment who will then register her and her child.

Russian legislation does not offer any solutions to such surreal situations. When Crimean Ukrainians run up against such legal “holes”, local authorities simply turn a blind eye.

“They just pretend that we don’t exist…” says Elena.

Crimean residents cannot see a way out of this grotesque situation. Very few agreed to express their views openly.

Rally in the Crimean town of Bakhchisaray, March 5, 2014

Rally in the Crimean town of Bakhchisaray, March 5, 2014

In conclusion, I’d like to finish this article with an anonymous statement made by a Ukrainian woman living in Crimea:

The only solution to these problems is de-occupation. Otherwise, we’ll either be relocated somewhere or forced to leave our homes. My Mom is for Putin, and so are my in-laws… I can only rely on my good friends… and Ukraine, my country that we believe in and live for.”


Related:

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Edited by: A. N.
Source: Ukrayinska Pravda

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  • Xeroi Ato

    Ohh noes. Pensions, public worker wages, that are 3 times higher than Ukraine’s. Military servicemen in Sevastopol literally earning 6-7x their Ukrainian counter parts, with actual ships, submarines to be on. What shall they ever do. Save us Groismann.

    • Tony

      Back in reality, Crimean pensioners are complaining and russian prime minister is just telling them that there is no money and they should suck it up:

      Actually Crimea’s economy literally collapsed and russia pumping money is only running Crimea’s inflation high while draining russias limited finances(enjoy your recession).
      On top of that, Crimea suffers: Power outages, inflation, lack of farming water, collapse of tourism industry, collapse of exports due to sanctions. russia a corrupt, repressive banana republic (70% of russian exports are raw resources) and unfortunately Crimeans are learning that the hard way now.

      • Xeroi Ato

        I hate to break it you, but whatever numbers you can pull out about Russia, Ukraine is a number of times worse. It’s just a fact. Though comparing any numbers to Ukraine is pointless now that it’s tanked as the poorest country in Europe, behind Albania and Moldova.

        There is a reason why out of the 22.000 stationed Ukranian army forces, about 20.000 switched sides, and joined the Russian side.

        • Quartermaster

          Ukraine has been growing with its international trade expanding. Russia, like its “leader” is declining and its economy sinking like a rock.
          Most Ukrainian armed forces left the peninsula after Putin’s invasion.

          • Xeroi Ato

            You’re in a parallel reality. 2.000 left, around 18.000-20.000 joined the Russian army.

            The first thing that happened to the 2.000 “loyal” soldiers was that they were sent as cannon fodder to the ATO in Donbas. Instead of getting a 6x wage raise, and a free apartment as a soldier with a family in the Russian military.

          • Quartermaster

            You’re living in a drug induced dream. Your “facts” are nothing but drivel and lies.

          • Alex George

            Yes, you are in a parallel reality. You clearly do not know the first thing about Crimea and are just making up whatever comes into your head.

            What’s your problem – sore because yet another Russian offensive has failed in Donbas? Russian boys are just too soft – deal with it.

            There are virtually no former ukrainian military in Crimea. Deal with that too.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            And Dwarfstan’s influence in the Ukraine is diminishing as Ukrainian-Dwarfstanian trade shrinks. Ukrainian companies are turning away from Dwarfstan and finding other markets, thanks to the dwarf’s boycotting of Ukrainian goods. China, India, Turkey and Egypt are the Ukraine’s largest trading partners now; trade with EU countries is increasing. China is also the largest investor in the Ukraine. In a few years time, Dwarfstan will be irrelevant to the Ukraine.
            A prime example is Antonov, which obtained many parts and components from companies in Dwarfstan. Thanks to Dwarfstan’s boycotts, Antonov is now in the process of phasing out ALL Dwarfstanian suppliers, which will be completed by the end of this year. The parts will be supplied by the US, Canada, EU countries, Japan, South Korea and China. End result: no more orders from Antonov for Dwarfstanian companies, meaning less work, less income and higher unemployment for Dwarfstanian workers. Nice going, dwarf.

        • Alex George

          I hate to break it to you, but you are spouting utter drivel. Virtually all of the Ukrainian military who were disarmed in crimea were repatriated home. They were always outnumbered by Russians in Crimea, even before Russia’s theft.

          Russia holds Crimea at gunpoint, by 20,000 Russian soldiers.

          Ukraine is doing much better than Russia, and Ukraine is on the rise, while Russia is declining to third world status.

    • Tony

      russia steals Ukraines navy at Crimea and cant even use it without screwing up, russia is a joke hahaha:

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Historically, Russia’s navy has only had success against third-rate naval powers such as Turkey. When meeting a REAL navy, they got torn to shreds in short order. Tsu-Shima, anybody?
        And Sevastopol is only the site of Russian defeats- Crimean war 1853-56, von Manstein’s victory 1942. In the former, the Russian fleet scuttled itself in Sevastopol harbour without waging battle against the Royal Navy. In WW2, the Black Sea Fleet hid in Poti and Sukhumi harbours, not daring to venture out until the Germans withdrew from theCrimea in mid-1944.
        One wonders on what basis Sevastopol received the designation “Hero City”.

    • Alex George

      Except they aren’t higher, are they?!

      Pensions not paid, prices through the roof, little work, the Russian nightmare has come to Crimea.

  • Tony

    The time for taking back Crimea will come and that is when these guys will be needed, until then they should keep their heads down and consolidate/grow their communities.

    • Xeroi Ato

      Let’s hear your brilliant idea on how to “take Crimea back”, when over 20k+ thousand Ukranian servicemen ran from the peninsula back in 2014 without firing a single shot.

      • Quartermaster

        You/re an idiot. They didn’t “run.” They were ordered not to resist and turn the peninsula into a war zone.

        • Xeroi Ato

          They ran. The end. Not one single “patriot” existed to fight “teh aggressor”.

          • Alex George

            LOL You really are desperate now. Even the Kremlin doesn’t suggest that anybody “ran” so where do you get your silly ideas from?

            Crimea fell without a shot being fired because Russophile officers of the Ukrainian army ordered their troops into barracks and disarmed them. That is the only way the weak Russian army could take Crimea.

            When they tried the same thing in eastern Ukraine a short time later, the Ukrainians were forewarned and the Russians lost. So sad, too bad.

          • Quartermaster

            They followed orders. To a Russian troll the truth is a bit dodgy.

      • Alex George

        The “brilliant ideas” are obvious – Russia does not have the resources to hold Crimea. Every time it attacks, it’s soldiers are shot to pieces. Russian boys are too soft.

        Give it about a year and Crimea will be Ukrainian again, and Russia will have bankrupted itself for zero gain.

    • MichaelA

      Good idea
      Russians are just trying to beat up and torture anyone who disagrees with them
      Russians especially hate Crimean tatars just like they did under Stalin

    • Alex George

      I agree.

      Crimea has to be rebuilt after it is taken back from the Russian morons, who are making a complete mess of it. They have no idea how to administer a conquered territory.

      Anyway, once Crimea is back under competent Ukrainian administration, all of these people will be required to rebuild it into the place it was meant to be – beautiful, free and prosperous.

  • Xeroi Ato

    Fun fact, Crimea’s population increased by over 200.000 in the last 2 years. Crimea’s budget is around 10x larger than the Odessa oblast, which has a roughly similiar population, which is all you should know.

    • Quartermaster

      Yep. Putin has put a lot of his minions into Crimea and the place has become a financial black hole.

      • Xeroi Ato

        More than half of that is Ukranian citizens going to work in the “financial black hole”, because it offers both better work and higher wages than the “European post Maidan Paradise”.

        • туфтуф

          True. But why call urself heroy ato? Her is a naughty word in Russian.

          • Alex George

            Why does it matter? So long as he puts his ignorance about conditions in Crimea on display like this, he is not going to persuade anyone.

        • туфтуф

          Quarter is the biggest her on here. No intelligence whatsoever. Her means d*ckhead.

          • Alex George

            Is this meant to be English? I suggest doing a short course in it if you’ve want to try writing sbusive posts – not much point in abuse if nobody understands what you mean.

        • Alex George

          Yes you should look at Kherson oblast, since you know nothing about it. ;o)

          Higher wages in Crimea is an utter myth. There is very little work there. Most of the farmers are scratching a living selling overpriced goods from Moscow because Russia is entirely incapable of providing regular supplies of water or electricity,

          Russia’s lack of competence in administration has been put on stark display in Crimea. Hence why it has to use oppression to keep the people quiet.

        • Quartermaster

          You’re in the wrong place to troll. You’re idiocy and lies are already known here.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          And just where are those “employment opportunities” coming from? Tourism is down the drain three years in succession, agriculture shrinking fast because of a serious shortage of water which the dwarf can’t solve, power cuts because even with umpteen generators brought in at huge expense the supply can’t meet demand- meaning industry can’t work at normal capacity, Crimean banks run by crooks and used for laundering criminal money, pensions not sufficient despite the dwarf’s promises, food prices through the roof etc etc.

          The only agency offering employment opportunities is the FSB, because it needs lots of thugs to terrorise the population.

    • Alex George

      Except there is not a single fact in your post, is there.

      Crimea’s budget is dependent on Russian aid money, most of which is stolen by Russian oligarchs long before it is ever seen in Crimea. Life is much worse there, hence why Russia has to use threats to keep the local population quiet.

  • veth

    Speaking Ukranian in Crimea is already forbidden by the nazzi-occypiers.

    • туфтуф

      Ukros shld learn Russian ffs. The language of the country they live in, lazy buggers.

      • Alex George

        Ha ha, says the lazy old windbag! Why don’t you try working for a living, for a change? ;o)

        And you are so ignorant that you don’t realise that many Ukrainians already do speak Russia fluently – they are the ones who took the lead in stopping Russian imperialism!

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          туф-туф doesn’t work, he doesn’t know how. He sits in a Savushkina cubicle 12 hours per day for 2 litres of rotgut samogon (soon to be reduced to 1 litre). Meanwhile his wife brings in the money by accommodating western men, and is actually enjoying being treated as a lady- something Dwarfstanian “men” are totally incapable of. They can only beat their wives and girlfriends, something the dwarf has recently legalised.

      • MichaelA

        Who are you to call anyone lazy bugger
        That is you

  • туфтуф

    I would love to be summoned by the lovely Crimea prosecutor Poklonskaya and detained indeffinitely by her. But l think she has moved to Moscow, unfortunately. Will try to upload her pic soon. Lol

    • Alex George

      Yes, I heard she ran away. She knows she is facing prosecution and imprisonment in The Hague as an accomplice to torture, hence trying to keep a low profile.

      Like the Yugoslav officials who committed war crimes, she has a choice – prison, or living the rest of her life in poverty hiding,

  • туфтуф
    • Alex George

      OMG that is so funny – the silly woman has run away. No doubt she can now see how she was dumped in it .

      And, just like the Yugoslav war criminals, she will be sold by the Kremlin to the Hague when the time comes. Oh well, better enjoy her freedom now, even though its already on poor food.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        That pic proves that туф-туф, like most Dwarfstanians, is a masochist- he loves being flogged and handcuffed by a strict mistress. No wonder they revere leaders who abuse them e.g. Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.

        A nation of perverts, led by another pervert, Pedo Putolini.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        No, Poklonskaya wll get polonium tea, suffer a “heart attack”, “commit suicide”, be blown up or come to some other sticky end. There’s no chance of the dwarf allowing her to testify at the Hague.

    • MichaelA

      ilse, she-wolf of the ss

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        In this case: Natalia, she-wolf of the FSB.

  • Alex George

    Typical – there is little support among the people of Crimea for being part of Russia. The Kremlin must resort to coercion

  • onlyfactsplease

    Those are brave people, the Ukrainians. I’ve always been impressed by and have much respect for brave people. Sorry Ruskies, you don’t belong to this category.