On February 27th 2014, the Russian Federation (RF) began a military operation to occupy Crimea, which is a part of Ukraine. Within a few weeks the RF had established military control over the peninsula and concluded an agreement with the puppet government about the ‘entry’ of Crimea into the Russian Federation. Afterwards Russia began to establish control over other spheres of public life and the civilian population. On 1st April 2014, legislative and other normative legal acts of the Russian Federation, as well as a new system of state administration, were introduced. Until January 1st 2015 there was a transition period for the ‘integration’ of new entities (the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol) into the financial, economic, credit and legal systems of the RF. This process included the appointment of new civil servants and judges, the nationalization of state, municipal and private property, the introduction of a system of re-registration of economic entities and non-profit organizations and the media, and the application of Russian legislation into other areas of social life.
As well as the state administration, the civil population has also became an object of the political ‘integration’. For the Russian Federation Crimea is a region which has ‘returned’ to the RF and there is an increasing demand for the civil population to show loyalty to the occupying authorities. Disagreement or any form of protest, whether public statements, public events or other forms of dissent, are not allowed by the occupation authorities and so groups expressing disagreement are systematically persecuted.
Since 2014, the Russian Federation has actively pursued a policy of population transfer with the aim of displacing the disloyal population from the territory of the peninsula through deportations, entry prohibitions and the creation of conditions that make it impossible to live in Crimea. Such groups include Crimean Tatars, Crimean Muslims and people with pro-Ukrainian political positions. These groups are subjected to systemic pressure, including serious human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, torture and politically motivated criminal and administrative cases. During the period of annexation at least 30,000 Crimeans have left for the mainland of Ukraine and have been registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, civil society organizations report that the number of IDPs from Crimea may range from 50,000 to 200,000. Along with this, the Russian Federation has increased the number of Russian military and state officials moving in and supports migration from the territory of the RF to Crimea. According to different data, between 100,000 and 300,000 citizens of the Russian Federation have moved to the territory of the Crimea since the period of annexation.
The first step towards forced loyalty and complete control over the civil population was the automatic application of Russian citizenship. In accordance with Article 5 of the treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the admission of new subjects to the RF, all persons who resided in the territory of Crimea at the time of ‘accession’ automatically became citizens of the Russian Federation if they did not renounce the citizenship in accordance with the established procedure. The procedure of renouncing the Russian citizenship was so complex that it was nearly impossible; moreover, there was pressure and threats from paramilitary armed groups and occupying authorities. Within the indicated period, 3,500 people announced their renunciation of this Russian citizenship. At the same time, Ukrainian citizens who lived in Crimea without registration found themselves as categorised as illegal migrants. For these and other reasons, some people did not apply for a Russian passport or for the preservation of Ukrainian citizenship. The number of such persons remains unknown, but according to different sources it could be from 100,000 to 300,000 people.
The Crimeans who renounced Russian citizenship or did not receive a Russian passport became foreign citizens and had to go through a complicated process of obtaining a residence permit. If they cannot obtain a residence permit, they have the right to stay legally for no more than 180 days a year in Crimea. They are also limited in a number of socio-economic rights. Discrimination based on citizenship has become the policy of the de facto authorities and is systematically practised in health care, employment, education and other areas. The de facto authorities began to apply migration legislation in relation to these people, meaning that they could be deported if they violate the legislation. This means that since 2014, a person who has lived permanently in Crimea, and may have property and a family there, can now be deported from Crimea. Entry bans for the Russian Federation and Crimea for Ukrainian politicians, journalists and civil activists have become more widespread and popular. A number of known entry bans and expulsions relate to the violation of migration legislation or the inability to obtain new residence permits even for those who used to have one before 2014.
According to human rights organizations including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission to Ukraine, at least 20-25 such cases have been recorded, but it is assumed that there are many more. However, more detailed information is not available due to the lack of access for independent journalists and human rights defenders to the territory of Crimea. The most famous and flagrant cases are described below:
- Sinaver Kadyrov, a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, the co-founder and coordinator of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People, was deported from Crimea in 2015. In January 2015, during his return to Crimea from the mainland of Ukraine, he and two his colleagues were arrested. The de facto court found Sinaver Kadyrov guilty of violating migration legislation and he was punished by a fine and deportation from the peninsula. Sinaver Kadyrov had lived in Crimea before the annexation, but refused to accept the Russian citizenship. He was also accused of making public appeals to carry out actions aimed at violating the state integrity of the Russian Federation (Part 2 280.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). During the same period, deputy chairman of the Mejlis Crimean Tatar people Akhtem Chiygoz was arrested, and there were mass searches and detentions in Crimean Tatar settlements.
- On November 7th 2016 Crimean Tatar activist Nedim Khalilov, who lived in Crimea, was found guilty of violating the migration legislation of the Russian Federation and deported. Nedim Khalilov lived in Crimea, but he refused Russian and Ukrainian citizenship, insisting on the statehood of the Crimean Tatars. In protest of deportation in November 21st 2016, he went on a hunger strike that lasted more than 40 days. In December 29th 2016 Khalilov was transferred to a special institution for deportees in the settlement of Gulkevichi in the Rostov Region of the RF.
- On January 20th 2017, the ‘de facto court’ of Evpatoria found Konstantin Sizarev, a Crimean resident, lawyer and activist with Ukrainian citizenship, guilty of violating Russian migration legislation. In accordance with para 3 of art. 20.25 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation he got a fine and deportation. After the court announced the verdict, Sizarev was forcibly taken to the Central Institution of temporary detention for foreign citizens and stateless persons to the village Novoukrainskoye in the region of Krasnodar in Russia, for a subsequent deportation to the mainland of Ukraine. Sizarev also refused the Russian citizenship. Before annexation, he worked as a lawyer, lived in Crimea and was engaged in human rights activities.
Crimean Tatars who had returned to Crimea from the places they were deported, usually Uzbekistan, by the Soviet regime in 1944 , being Uzbek citizens are in extremely vulnerable situation. At the end of 2014, there were about 3,000-4,000 individuals in such a situation in Crimea. In 2017, according to the deputy head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, there were still several thousand such individuals on the peninsula. These people used to have the right to receive Ukrainian citizenship in a simplified manner. In April 2017, Russia similarly adopted a law on a simplified procedure for obtaining a residence permit for repatriates. However, in practice it is very difficult to exercise this right, because of the difficulties of obtaining documents confirming political repression.Deportations and repatriations of this group of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan are observed, but currently there is no precise statistical information on such deportations.
More widespread measures than deportations are entry bans to the territory of the Russian Federation. Entry bans are given at the administrative border with Crimea, usually fora period of five years. On March 21st 2014, the de facto State Council of Crimea updated the list of persons whose stay is undesirable on the territory of the peninsula. This list also includes people with a permanent place of residence in Crimea, among them Andrej Senchenko, Lyudmila Denisova and Sergei Kunitsyn.
The leaders of the Crimean Tatar people, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, received a ban preventing them from entering Crimea. On April 22nd 2014, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Ukrainian people’s deputy and leader of the Crimean Tatar people, was handed a ban prohibiting him from entering the territory of RF (and hence Crimea) until 2019. On May 2nd 2014, Mustafa Dzhemilev was refused entry to the territory of the Russian Federation in Moscow. On May 3rd 2014 he tried to enter Crimea at the administrative border through the checkpoint ‘Turkish Val’ in Armyansk and was also refused. On July 5th 2014 the head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov, was barred from entering Crimea. The Crimean de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya took the decision to impose an entry ban of five years on Chubarov. In 2014 another eight members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars got entry bans.
At least 20 cases of entry bans for journalists, lawyers and activists living in Crimea are known. Among them are Oleg Khomenyuk, a well-known journalist, media expert and trainer, who was banned in March 2014; Yaroslav Pilunsky, a Ukrainian director and cameraman was banned in May 2014; Ismet Yuksel, coordinator of the Crimean News Agency, advisor to the head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people and member of the Union of Journalists of Turkic-speaking countries; who was banned in August 2014; and the journalist Anastasia Ringis and the lawyer Evgenia Zakrevskaya, who were banned from entering in 2016.
‘Undesirable’ foreign citizens were subjected to de facto deportations through being refused residence permits. In July and August 2014, Islamic teachers from Turkey had to leave Crimea because of their inability to extend their residence permits. On October 24th 2014 Father Peter Rosokhatsky, one of two priests of the Simferopol Roman Catholic parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was forced to leave Crimea the day before his residence permit ended, as the Russian authorities refused to extend it. Other clerics also had to leave in 2014 for the same reasons. In January 2016, only one priest of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate remained in Crimea. The others left because of their inability to obtain a residence permit.
Beside entry bans, deportations and repatriations, the de facto authorities pressure the civil population through politically motivated administrative and criminal persecutions, interrogations, searches and informal threats against disloyal citizens in order to force them to leave the territory of Crimea. The displacement is characterized by individualized persecution and human rights violations. As a result of this policy political leaders, civil activists and independent journalists were forced to leave the peninsula in large numbers. In 2014 in particular the pressure to force people to leave was very intense, and remained stable in the following years.
In March 2014, the de facto authorities kidnapped activists and journalists and tortured them. The following examples provide evidence of those practices. Andrei Shchekun, former head of the Crimean Center for Business and Cultural Cooperation ‘Ukrainian House’, together with Anatoly Kovalskiy, coordinator of the Crimean Euromaidan, were abducted by representatives of the local ‘self-defense’ forces. After eleven days of torture and imprisonment they were released. Shchekun and Kovalsky left the peninsula with their families. In February and March 2014, there were at least 19 victims of abductions. All of them left the peninsula.
After the occupation in Spring 2014, the following activists, who supported Euromaidan, had to leave Crimea: Sergei Mokrenyuk, Ismail Ismailov, Alexandra Dvoretskaya, Sergei Kovalsky, Andrei Ivanets, Evgeny Novitsky, Alexei Shubin, Airie Agiosman, Igor and Elena Kiryushchenko, Olga Skrypnyk, Father Kvich, Anna Andrievskaya and Natalia Kokurina, Omar Aslan, Nikolai Podolyaka, Asan and Eskender Bujurov, Maria Sorokoumova, Sergei Mokrushin and Vladlen Melnikov, Galina Dzhikaeva,and Victor Neganov.
The most recent examples of such forced displacement took place in August and September 2017. On June 20th 2017, the Ukrainian activist Natalia Kharchenko was forced to leave the territory of Crimea because of constant interrogations, searches and criminal proceedings against her. On August 11th 2017 after a search in a Crimean Tatar’s house the father and one of his sons left Crimea. On September 1st 2017 Leonid Kuzmin, an activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea, was forced to leave the peninsula due to constant threats and harassment.
Apart from the at least 30,000 individuals who left Crimea, a lot of institutions and companies have also left, due to a lack of opportunities. Among them are Tauride National University, media and public organizations, and Ukrainian and international companies.
The recent most disturbing trend is the changes to the Russian law on citizenship, which were introduced in 2017. According to these changes, persons convicted of terrorism can be deprived of citizenship after being found guilty. This means that in Crimea people accused of terrorism for political reasons may subsequently be deprived of their citizenship and deported. Accusations of terrorism are putted forward against disloyal Crimean Tatars and the legislation is used as another tool to drive them out of Crimea. Such measures once again testify to the use of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship when it is convenient for de facto authorities.
All these measures taken by de facto authorities since 2014 have to be seen in the framework of the Russian occupation of Crimea. They are all driven by the attempts of the occupation authorities to establish control and to change the composition of the population of Crimea and force the civil population of Crimea into loyalty towards Russia. In case of ’disloyalty’ affected people, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, must either leave Crimea or keep silent. If in 1944 the Soviet policy was to have the whole Crimean Tatar people forcibly deported from the peninsula, the present day policy of Russia continues it by various hybrid means which are more difficult to monitor, record and protest.
- To provide international independent monitoring and research of the situation in Crimea, including demographic changes since 2014;
- To include deportation and transfer of population as an issues within resolutions and other human rights decisions taken by the international organizations or European states;
- To enhance the sectoral and individual sanctions for human rights violations in Crimea
- To continue support provided to Ukrainian governments, civil society organizations, internally displaced persons and victims of human rights violations in Crimea.
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