Seven Crimean Tatars were detained in Moscow while holding a peaceful picket calling for an end to ethnic and religious persecution in Russian-annexed Crimea. Around 20 activists—most in their 50s and 60s, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement—gathered in Red Square with placards reading: “Our children are not terrorists”; “The fight against terrorism in Crimea is a fight against dissidents” and “Stop persecution on ethnic and religious lines in Crimea.” The picket was held in advance of an appeal hearing for four Crimean Tatars facing “terrorism” charges for their membership in the civil organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The detained protesters were charged with holding an unauthorized demonstration. One of those arrested is the father of one of the “terrorism” defendants. (Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine)
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to reinstate the Russian delegation despite criticism over human rights abuses. Russia’s voting rights had been stripped in 2014 in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. The vote was taken after Russia threatened to leave the Council altogether, opening a budgetary dilemma. The move comes as Russia is escalating its crackdown on dissent and even religious practice by the Crimea’s Tatar people. Days before the vote, a Russian court sentenced five Crimean Tatars to a total of 68 years in prison simply for being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist revival organization that was (and remains) legal in Ukraine, and has carried out no attacks in Crimea either before or since Russian annexation. (Photo: Krymr-RFE/RL)
Yevhen Karakashev, a 41-year-old left-wing activist from Yevpatoria in Russian-annexed Crimea, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian court, with the charges based solely on years-old private messages on the social-media network VKontakte. Russia’s FSB security agency claimed that the posts fell under Article 205.2 of the Russian criminal code, which imposes penalties for “public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism.” Russia’s independent Memorial Human Rights Center stated that there is a strong likelihood “the criminal proceedings against Yevhen Karakashev were initiated in the context of his opposition civic and political activities as a frequent participant in protests in Crimea.” They view this as part of a mounting attack on left-wing activists and anti-fascists in Russia since January 2018. (Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine)
Russia has announced plans for a “rehabilitation center” in the annexed Crimean Peninsula to “re-educate” Muslims considered to be under the influence of “extremist ideology.” The move comes less than a week after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) carried out raids targeting Crimean Tatars thought to be linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist party that is legal in Ukraine. Detained in the raids were 23 civic activists and journalists, all now facing what monitoring group Human Rights in Ukraine calls “fundamentally flawed charges.” The plan is moving ahead despite that fact that Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner pledged last month to review the legality of a 2003 court order labeling Hizb ut-Tahrir a terrorist organization. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in 13 countries around the world, but operates legally in the United States and United Kingdom.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the homes of several Crimean Tatars, officially as part of an investigation of activities linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned as a “terrorist” organization in Russia although operating lawfully in Ukraine. FSB agents carried out at least 25 searches and detained at least 20 people. In Simferopol’s Kamyanka district, officers of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs cordoned off the neighborhood and ordered residents who assembled during the operation to disperse. According to reports, residents were not allowed to enter their homes and their lawyers were not permitted to be present during searches. Amnesty International Ukraine director Oksana Pokalchuk said: “The crackdown on the Crimean Tatar community, whose members are regarded as disloyal to the de facto Russian authorities, has continued unabated for five years.”
In Episode 26 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes contradictions and complexities in two world crises depicted in polarized terms by left, right and center alike. The indigenous Tatar people of Crimea, their autonomy and rights abrogated by the illegal Russian occupation, have been drawn into an alliance with Ukraine's ultra-nationalist Right Sector based on their mutual opposition to Putin's annexation of the peninsula. Ukrainian anarchists are meanwhile facing repression for their opposition to Right Sector. Putin, who is cracking down on Russian anarchists who oppose his own ultra-nationalist imperial agenda, has just sent a detachment of Cossack mercenaries to Venezuela to serve as a Praetorian Guard for the embattled Nicolás Maduro. In addition to being opposed by the right-wing pretender Juan Guaidó, Maduro faces a challenge from an independent left that rejects his undemocratic rule as well as US imperial designs on Venezuela. Indigenous peoples such as the Pemón of the Orinoco Basin are also mounting resistance to extractive designs on their territory—regardless of who holds power in Caracas. Can anarchists and the independent left in Ukraine, Russia and Venezuela unite with indigenous peoples such as the Tatars and Pemón to defend freedom and autonomy, and repudiate reactionaries and imperialists on all sides? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)
A 24-year-old Crimean Tatar was sentenced by a court in Russian-annexed Crimea to 10-and-a-half years' imprisonment for supposed involvement in a volunteer force patrolling the border of Crimea and mainland Ukraine to help enforce a blockade. Video evidence introduced in the trial only showed the suspect from behind. Nonetheless, Fevzi Sahandzhy was convicted of being a member of the Asker Battalion—also known as the Noman Çelebicihan Battalion, in honor of the martyred president of the short-lived independent Crimean Republic of 1918. The Battalion began participating in the blockade of Crimea in 2015 to press demands for the release of political prisoners and restoration of freedom of speech and assembly on the peninsula. (Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine)
In Episode 17 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses growing repression against the Tatar people of the Crimea, and the abrogation of their autonomous government by the Russian authorities since Moscow's illegal annexation of the peninsula. This is a clear parallel to violation of the territorial rights of the Lakota people in the United States through construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the legal persecution of indigenous leaders who stood against it. The parallel is even clearer in the cases of the Evenks and Telengit, indigenous peoples of Siberia, resisting Russian construction of pipelines through their traditional lands. Yet the US State Department's Radio Free Europe aggressively covers the Tatar struggle, while Kremlin propaganda organ Russia Today (RT) aggressively covered the Dakota Access protests. Indigenous struggles are exploited in the propaganda game played by the rival superpowers. It is imperative that indigenous peoples and their allies overcome the divide-and-rule game and build solidarity across borders and influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Four years after Russia's annexation of Crimea, repression is mounting against the peninsula's Tatar people—whose autonomous powers, officially recognized under Ukrainian rule, have been unilaterally revoked. The group Human Rights in Ukraine is demanding that Russian authorities provide details on the death at the hands of Russian agents of Vedzhie Kashka, an 83-year-old veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement. Last November, a team of Russian National Guard troops and FSB secret police carried out raids in which five Tatar leaders were detained while their homes were searched. Kashka was among those targeted, and died during the operation. An initial report said Kashka had died of natural causes, but an investigation carried out after her family had contracted a lawyer revealed that she had suffered several broken ribs. Kashka was a survivor of Stalin's 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan. She had been agitating for greater political rights for the Tatar people since they were allowed to return to Crimea in 1954. (Photo: Crimean News Agency)
Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov was convicted by Russian-appointed judges on spurious "separatism" charges, and sentenced to two years. Human Rights Watch called his sentencing "ruthless retaliation" for his opposition to Moscow's annexation of Crimea and suspension of the Tatars' autonomous government.
The first hearing in Russia's case against Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov opened in Simferopol, in what Ukrainian rights advocates decry as a "Soviet-style" show trial.