On the 201st birthday of the Ukrainian national poet that Taras Shevchenko on 10 March 2015, a rally in Russian-held Simferopol, Crimea, was held where activists read his poems, chanted “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!” and unfurled one Crimean Tatar flag, and two Ukrainian flags, one with the words: “Crimea is Ukraine,” as KHPG reported referring to Radio Liberty’s Crimean Service (photos by Radio Liberty).
Three participants of the rally had been detained and are now facing fines or сorrective labor, following a court hearing that took place on 12 March 2015. They had been formally accused of violating the established order of holding a rally; however, the real reasons for their persecution is the display of Ukrainian national colors. One of the activists, Oleksandr Kravchenko, was detained by the police and taken to the police station on the basis of a Ukrainian-colored ribbon on his clothes, which the law-enforcers considered to be a prohibited symbol, as reported by QHA. Journalists were not admitted to the court hearing, despite it being open. He, together with Leonid Kuzmin and Vildar Sukurdzhiyev, are being charged with using Ukrainian symbols during a rally.
Since when is using Ukrainian symbols in Russia illegal?
It’s not. The Russian Duma banned symbols of Nazi collaboration on 21 October 2015, as Ria.ru reported. The Ukrainian flag is a state symbol that is used internationally. As the Crimean Tatar activist Zair Kurultayev commented to Radio Liberty, there is no legal basis for the arrest of the activists: “It’s another attempt to intimidate the people, so that they don’t assemble, don’t talk about Ukraine and Ukrainian leaders. Moscow is afraid of Maidan: what if a wave of protests starts from Crimea?’
Nevertheless, Russia has waged a campaign on Ukrainian symbols. As Radio Liberty reported, Crimean sportsmen were instructed to remove all traces of Ukrainian symbols from their clothes. The organizer of the march commemorating the assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, which was held in Moscow on March 1, was arrested for the Ukrainian colors used by the activists. Actually, being arrested for displaying Ukrainian symbols is getting quite common in Russia: the outlet Grani.ru tells of arrests of people hanging a Ukrainian flag on Ukraine’s independence from a bridge in Saint Petersburg. The star on a Moscow highrise that the Ukrainian roofer Mustang Wanted painted blue-yellow almost caused the arrest of four muscovites.