Russian authorities arrest them arbitrarily for participating in peaceful rallies outside Russia, defending rights of others or writing journalistic articles. They persecute Crimean Tatars based on ethnic origin and equate their practicing of Islam to terrorist activity. Using brutal violence, they force the political prisoners to admit their guilt for killing the people who died elsewhere or never existed at all.
But what makes Russia so eager to take Ukrainian hostages, torture them, humiliate their dignity, and imprison them for years and decades?
Read more: The Sentsov-Kolchenko case: what you need to know
In Russia and occupied Crimea, you may end up behind bars simply because you have a Ukrainian ID. No matter which views you hold: left, right, or even pro-Russian. But you’re at double risk if you have supported the Euromaidan revolution or you are Muslim—like the indigenous population of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars, who opposed Russian invasion. Now 19 Crimean Tatars are accused of terrorism, and the reason is that they are faithful Muslim believers.
Read more: 7 myths driving Russia’s assault against the Crimean Tatars
What does Russia get of imprisoning these people?
- First, Putin’s government persuades Russians that they at danger and need to be protected by a strong power from “spies,” “saboteurs,” and “terrorists”.
- Second, it reinforces the Russian state media’s story of Ukraine as “Enemy #1” and switches Russia’s status from aggressor to victim in the time of the ongoing war.
- Third, it makes residents of occupied Crimea fear their own country, Ukraine.
- Also, the Russian security services create the illusion of their effective work but in fact oppress any dissent.
The imprisoned Ukrainians are the hostages of Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. Because of this, Russian authorities fabricate cases against them. It’s not hard: here are a few tools they apply.
Under torture, the semi-literate laborer from Donbas Serhiy Lytvynov “confessed” to murdering 48 civilians in Donbas, which was broadcast on state TV. Afterward, Russia canceled these charges as false but invented new ones and send him to serve 8,5-year sentence in the Far East.
Read more: Five unknown Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia
Falsification of the evidence
Ukrainians Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpiuk were accused of fighting in Chechnya in the mid-90s—at a moment and in the location where there was no warfare going on yet. They were imputed murdering thirty soldiers who were documented to have died elsewhere. Klykh and Karpiuk were brutally tortured: beaten, suffocated, electrocuted through genitals, kept without sleep and food for several days—and “confessed” to all the absurd they were incriminated.
- Read more: Lawyer: Karpiuk was tortured the most. They needed a case against a real banderite
- Six things you need to know about the show “trial” of Stanislav Klykh
Extension of the Russian jurisdiction where it never was
Russia accuses Ukrainians of taking part in the developments beyond its jurisdiction both in space and time:
- Andriy Kolomiyets was sentenced to 10 years and Oleksandr Kostenko—to 3 years 11 months in jail for participating in the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv,
- the Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz faces up to 15-year imprisonment for organizing a rally against the occupation of Crimea on 26 February 2014, before Russia formally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula.
Read more: Remember the Crimean Tatars jailed for resisting Russian occupation
Imprisoning journalists is convenient for Russia too
The Ukrainian correspondent Roman Sushchenko lived in Paris and wrote about Russia’s influence on France and Europe. He was arrested on a private visit to Moscow and accused of “spying” on fictitious charges.
- Read more: Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko celebrates birthday in Putin’s prison
- Meet Mykola Semena, the Crimean journalist prosecuted for disagreeing with Putin’s landgrab
As more than forty Ukrainian political prisoners remain in Russian custody, dozens of kids are left without parental care.
We should stop this. In 2016, global pressure on Moscow enabled the release of some Ukrainians: Nadiya Savchenko, Gennadiy Afanasyev, and Yuriy Soloshenko. We can release more.
Read more: Afanasyev and Soloshenko: How the FSB breaks prisoners
How can you help?
- Tell your friends about the Kremlin’s hostages and #LetMyPeopleGo campaign,
- Organize a demonstration in front of a Russian embassy,
- Contact your politicians & media,
- Ask Russian officials about Ukrainian prisoners at any chance,
- Write letters of support to political prisoners.
Demand Russia let Ukrainians go home!
The video was produced by Euromaidan Press in the framework of #LetMyPeopleGo campaign advocating for the release of the Ukrainians illegally held in Russia and occupied Crimea. It was first demonstrated at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris during the international colloquium Cinémas d’insurrection (February 2017).
You can watch the video in English, French, and Ukrainian. If you want to be a volunteer and help with its translation into other languages, please contact us at [email protected].
Tags: #LetMyPeopleGo, Act!, Chiygoz, Crimea, Crimean Tatars, FSB (Russia's Federal Security Service), Help Ukraine, International, Karpyuk, Klykh, Kolomiyets, Kostenko, Lytvynov, Oleh Sentsov, Political prisoners, Russia, Sushchenko, Torture, Ukraine