15 members of the Ukrainian Parliament have appealed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, demanding that Ukraine’s MFA should address the Russian Federation, insisting on releasing the imprisoned Tatar political activist Rafis Kashapov, imprisoned for expressing his position on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The authors of this appeal express support to Rafis Kashapov, who was imprisoned for his posts on social networks in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and to all activists of the Tatar national liberation movement sustaining political persecutions in their homeland. The people of Tatarstan had made their official declaration of the state sovereignty of their Republic in a 1992 referendum. Nevertheless, up to now Russia is keeping oppressions of the political and national rights of the Volga Tatars. After having restricted the Republic’s sovereignty, after having eliminated all Tatar political parties and independent media, now the Russian Federation is escalating new wave of terror against the leaders of Tatar national liberation movement.
Political persecutions of Rafis Kashapov, Fauzia Bairamova, Aidar Halim and other Tatar national activists – these are indications of the Volga Tatars’ dramatic situation. The whole nation is being deprived not just of their right to self-determination but also of their right to the freedom of opinion and expression,” stated Ihor Lutsenko, the initiator of the deputy’s appeal.
A number of international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have recognized Kashapov as a prisoner of conscience.
Rafis Kashnapov, director of the Tatar Public Center in Naberezhnye Chelny in the Republic of Tatarstan, which is part of the Russian Federation, was sentenced on 16 September 2015 to three years of prison for criticizing the Kremlin’s policies and Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year. The Chally city court found him guilty of calling for separatism and inciting ethnic hatred. As proof, the prosecutors presented a long list of texts which the human rights activist published in on his VKontakte page, the Russian version of facebook. Among them were texts mentioning: “Crimea and Ukraine will be free from occupiers!”, “Yesterday was Hitler and Gdansk, today – Putin and Donetsk!”, “Let’s protect Ukraine and the whole Turkish world!”, “Russia brings tears and death!”.
Mr. Kashnapov was detained by the Russian FSB on 28 December 2014, shortly after his return from Türkiye, where he organised a series of anti-Putin demonstrations with the participation of representatives of the Turkic People Diaspora, and went on hunger strike on 14 January 2015. He is one of the leaders of the autonomous movement in the Russian Tatarstan and is engaged in activities promoting the unity of the Tatar diaspora, and solidarity with Turkic and other people, subjected to oppression in the former USSR.
Read more about the autonomous movement in Tatarstan: From federation to empire: how Putin paved the way to Crimea land grab
His support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity is connected with the solidarity for the Turkic indigenous population of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars. After Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the Crimean Tatars have been subjected to repressions, kidnappings, murders, and imprisonment.