May 9, 2017

Timeline: Escalation of The Crisis in Crimea

 

Since the ousting of Ukraine's former president Yanukovych, a serious political crisis has unfolded and progressively escalated in Crimea over the past months. In this context, the Crimean Tatars, having witnessed first an invasion by Russian forces, and later the illegimate annexation of their homeland to the Russian Federation, are now facing an extremely difficult situation.

 

03 May 2017: Crimean journalist and RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena’s trial was postponed. The reporter was falsely accused of separatism in the Russian-occupied peninsula after he had published an article for RFE/RL Krym.Realii. Semena’s trial started on 20 March and has already been adjourned three times. The defendant rejects the allegations and claims to have been wrongly accused. The United States, the European Union and other international media watchdogs have already condemned the charges made against the journalist.

28 April 2017: Crimean Tatar Ruslan Zeytullaev was sentenced to 12 years of detention by the North-Caucasian Military District Court for his supposedly involvement in an allegedly ‘terrorist’ organization, the Mejlis, which is legal in most countries, including in Ukraine. Mr Zeytullaev has been on a 22-days hunger strike to denounce his unfair detention and the persecution of his peers.

21 April 2017: The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) reiterated its condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Moscow. The ICJ strongly criticized the ban of the Crimean Tatars representative body, the Mejlis, and recognized the discrimination and crackdown inflicted on the Tatar minority.

20 April 2017: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) turned down Kiev’s demand to force Moscow to cease supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The ICJ explained that “the conditions required for the indication of provisional measures” were not met by Kiev. Ukraine denounced the presence and involvement of Russian military forces in the conflict. However, the ICJ did not omit to condemn Russia’s “racial discrimination” against Crimean Tatars and other ethnic minorities living in the Peninsula.

14 April 2017: Crimean Tatar activist Suleiman Kadyrov was placed on Moscow’s long “List of Terrorists and Extremists”. This happened after Kadyrov’s post on social media challenging Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Crimean Tatar activist faced inconsistent trial procedures, strongly contested by his supporters. The defendant didn’t benefit from the presumption of innocence and was deprived of his pension.

12 April 2017: The Russian Duma has approved a bill aimed at changing the date of the country’s 2018 presidential election. The authors of the law proposed to hold the election on 18 March instead of 11 March. The 2018 election would in this case take place on the day marking the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s illegal seizure of Crimea. Observers see in this change a way for Vladimir Putin to boost the election turnout and gain more votes. The bill has yet to be voted in the lower house of the parliament, but this seems to be just a formality.  

30 March 2017:  Russian military forces continue to commit human rights violations against Crimean Tatars with impunity. As for others dissidents, Crimean Tatars are forced to psychiatric hospitalization as a tool of political repression. Many Crimean activists were arrested for their ‘involvement in terrorist groups’, something that Ukrainian organization the Karkhiv Human Rights Protection Group[TN1]  firmly denied.

24 March 2017: The Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis, Mr Ilmi Umerov, was charged of acts of separatism by a court in Crimea. This is the second time Mr Ulmerov has been accused of such acts. The defendant refutes the allegations, claiming his right to free speech. He will likely face trial in the coming weeks.

20 March 2017: Following the European Parliament’s (EP) lead, the government of the United States (US) condemned in a resolution the ongoing crackdown on the religious freedom and property rights of the Crimean Tatars. The US firmly requested Russia to stop all human rights violations in Crimea.

18 March 2017: Russia Celebrates the 3 years illegal annexation of Crimea. The festivities will take place even though Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be present.

16 March 2017:  A resolution condemning the deteriorating situation in Crimea has been voted by the European Parliament. Discriminatory policies towards the Crimean Tatars have been once again deeply condemned by Strasbourg. The European Parliament additionally called for the release of several Ukrainian activists arbitrarily detained in Russian and in the Crimean Peninsula.

15 March 2017: Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, based in Simferopol, risks 5 years of imprisonment for not agreeing to follow the editorial policy of the Crimea-based media outlets managed by pro-Russian directors. Officially he is accused of “violating the territorial integrity of Russia” and will be tried on 20 March 2017. Semena has been a journalist for 50 years.

4 March 2017: Release of Crimean Tatar activist Marlen Mustafaev.

March 2017: The UN’s International Court of Justice at The Hague has opened investigations against Russia based on the charges made by Ukraine.

24 February 2017: The Society for Threatened Peoples published a report listing human rights violation cases in Crimea in the last 12 months. The report draws attention to the calamitous situation of Crimean Tatars living under threat in the Peninsula. Moscow’s attempt to “russify” Crimea has set alarms bells ringing at the Society for Threatened Peoples. According to the report, more than 90 per cent of the 177 people arrested in the last few months were Crimean Tatars.

21 February 2017: Crimean Tatar activist Marlen Mustafaev was arrested by the OMON riot police officers and taken to the Centre for Countering Extremism. Mustafaev has been convicted to 11 days imprisonment for his supposed links to the Hizb ut-Tahrir organisation.

14 February 2017: Six additional Ukrainian media have been blocked in Crimea. This new ban completes the long list of media outlets that have been restricted not to say totally shut down in the Crimean region since 2015.

9 February 2017: Publication of the Statement by the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum condemning Russian authorities’ actions in Crimea. The Forum has continued to express its deep concern on human rights’ violations in this region stating that “politically motivated cases fabricated by the Russian authorities are used as an instrument of political pressure on the citizens opposing the illegal actions of the Russian Federation in Crimea.”

5 February 2017: Release of attorney Emil Kurbedinov.

26 January 2017: Emil Kurbedinov, renowned attorney already in charge of several cases involving occupied Crimean activists and Russian authorities, has been arrested on the ground of “spreading extremist materials” by Russian authorities since he had to meet a Crimean Tatar activist, under Russian surveillance.

25 January 2017: Ilmi Umerov’s attorney, Nikolai Polozov, was detained and interrogated by the Russian Federal Security Service in Crimea. Mr Polozov defends the Deputy Head of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar People, who has been accused of extremism and presented by Russian media as “a threat to the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity”.

18 January 2017: Activists of the “Strategy 18” group gathered in Moscow to denounce the persecution of indigenous Crimean Tatars by Russian authorities .

19 December 2016: The Un General Assembly has voted a resolution condemning Russia’s occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the “abuses” and “discrimination” towards Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups. Furthermore, the UN has officially recognised Crimea as “temporarily occupied” by Russia. The General Assembly urged the end of all abuses against citizens living in Crimea.

15 December 2016: Amnesty International released a report “In the Dark: The Silence of Dissent” which severely condemns Russian authorities for their ruthless control in Crimea and their systematic persecution of Crimean Tatars.

13 December 2016: A court in Russian-annexed Crimea has prolonged the detention of the Crimean Tatar leader Mr Ahtem Ciygoz to 3 months – until 8 April 2017. Mr Ciygoz has been convicted of organising public “mass disorder” in February 2014. He has been in prison since January 2015.

7-10 November 2016: Crimean Tatar activist Nedim Khalilov has been deported from Crimea and forcibly sent to Uzbekistan via the Russian city Krasnodar. Khalilov showed great opposition to Russia’s invasion and illegal occupation of Crimea. In February 2016, he filed a civil suit asking for Russian authorities’ actions to be declared illegal by a local court. Khalilov became the group coordinator of the Resistance Movement of Crimean Tatars.

November 2016: Ukraine addressed a resolution to the UN, which obliged Kyiv to be in charge of the human rights protection of the people of Crimea, in order to stop any violations of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and any other ethnic minorities living in Crimea. 38 countries including the USA, the UK, France supported the resolution.

 31 October 2016: The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought delivered to two Yazidi activists caused some discord among Members of the European Parliament, since Crimean Tatar politician and human rights activist Mustafa Dzhemilev had apparently won the ballot for the shortlisting (held on the 11 October 2016). 

27 October 2016: Two Crimean Tatars prisoners have refused to be freed in exchange for giving false testimony against Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz. Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy have been in jail since April 2015. They have been accused of a pre-annexation demonstration that took place on the 26 February 2016. Both activists have been declared political prisoners by the Russian Human Rights Centre “Memorial”.

18 October 2016: Nikolai Polozov, Russian lawyer defending political prisoners, among them Crimean Tatars leaders Ahtem Ciyogz and Ilmi Umerov, may face allegations against him by Russian authorities. The purpose of this prosecution is to discourage Polozov from defending the two Crimean Tatar activists.

October 2016: At least five Crimean Tatars were put into jail after being accused of being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization labelled as “terrorist” in Russia, but legal in Ukraine. 

29 September 2016: Russian authorities put into force the ban of the Mejlis, the self-governing body of the main indigenous people of Crimea.

22 September 2016: UN Permanent Representative of Ukraine Yurii Klymenko highlighted the violation of the Crimean Tatars’ rights at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Klymenko underlined the severe and harsh repression the Crimean Tatar have endured since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russian authorities.

August 2016: Checkpoints located between mainland Ukraine and Crimea have resumed. People heading to the Russian-occupied Crimea have been authorized to go through some checkpoints while people willing to reach mainland Ukraine have been blocked. Russian military hardware has been seen near Armyansk and Dzhankoy: troops with tanks blocked the entrance to this cities, for unknown reasons.

31 July 2016: During the 5th meeting of the World Congress of the Crimean Tatars, a list of reported victims since the Russian invasion in 2014 was set out – the Congress recognises that 9 people were killed, 15 kidnapped and 25 detained. The disappeared Crimean Tatars have been mourned during this World Congress.

22 July 2016: The First Deputy Minister of information policy of Ukraine Emine Dzheppar reported that according to their official numbers there have been in total 24 political prisoners, 16 missing citizens and 10 dead activists in Crimea. Among them 18 political prisoners, 10 missing and 7 dead are Tatars.

20 July 2016: Russian Human Rights Centre, “Memorial”, has qualified the 4 Crimean Tatars arrested and convicted on terrorist charges by Russian authorities as political prisoners:  Ruslana Zeytullayeva, Ferata Sayfullayeva, Rustem Vaitova and Prymova Nuri, known as the “Yalta Group”, were accused of being involved with Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization officially labelled as terrorist by Russian authorities.

25 May 2016: Crimean Tatar activist Ervin Ibragimov has gone missing the night of the 25 May in Bakhchysarai. The former city council deputy and member of the executive committee of the World’s Congress of the Crimean Tatars was about to attend a court hearing against Crimean Tatars that have been detained because of their participation to an event commemorating victims of Deportation. Ibragimov has not been found since.

15 May 2016: Crimean Tatar singer Jamala won the Eurovision, beating the other finalist, Russian singer Lazarev. Her song ‘1944’ denounced Stalin’s deportation of more than 240.000 Crimean Tatars from Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula during the Second World War. Her victory stirred a lot of critics on the Russian side saying that this decision was influenced by the current political situation.

7 May 2016: Another mass detention of Crimean Tatars occurred in the coastal city of Yevpatoria in Russian annexed Crimea. According to Ukrainian Journalist Osman Pashaev, the 25 detainees were taken to the police station, where they were interrogated and fingerprinted. 

12 April 2016: Kyiv’s  Court of Appeals agreed to extend the seizure of Stanislav Krasnov, the Crimean Head of the Civil Volunteer Corps “Azov-Crimea”. Krasnov’s lawyer accused the Ukrainian authorities of acts of torture against his client. Krasnov had to be hospitalized after a brain commotion.

6 April 2016: According to Crimean lawyer Jean Zapruta, a mass arrest occurred in Simferopol’s markets with the purpose of setting up a “database”. Up to 60 people were detained by Russian forces.

4 April 2016: Masked gunmen detained 35 Crimean Tatars at a café in the village of Pionerskoe, near Simferopol. According to Emile Kurbedinov, a Crimean lawyer, the armed men released all Slavic-looking clients. The other detainees were brought to the Counter-Extremism Center of Simferopol.

April 2016:  The Russian and Crimean supreme courts have formally banned the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, considered to be an extremist organization.

22 March 2016: Minority Rights Group International delivered an advocacy statement during the 31st Session of the UNHRC, expressing its concerns on the increasing number of human rights violation committed by the Russian occupying authorities against the Crimean Tatars.

15 March 2016: Ukrainian MP Heorhiy Lohvynsky from the People’s Front Party faction has suggested giving the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people national status. The Mejlis would acquire the status of a state self-regulation authority. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) repeated its unease concerning the detention of three Crimean activists accused of organizing a pro-Ukrainian demonstration, who have been detained since February 2014.

28 February 2016: Crimean Head of Civil Volunteer Corps “Azov-Crimea” Stanislav Krasnov and activist Oksana Shelest have been detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). They were accused of possessing illegal weapons.

10 February – 11 February 2016: Russian riot police conducted mass armed searches of Crimean Tatar homes, in the course whereof they arrested four human rights activists for their purported involvement in a “terrorist organisation”. The well-known activists stand on trial on charges of ‘extremism’, and their cases are but one of many examples of Russia's misuse of legislation to systematically prosecute, intimidate and harass the Crimean Tatar population.

7 February 2016: An explosive device was thrown at an office building of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars in the city of Kherson, in southern Ukraine. Fortunately, the explosion caused only material damage and there were no casualties. Leaders of the Mejlis deem the incident a “deliberate provocation by pro-Russian forces aimed at destabilizing the situation in the south of Ukraine”.

4 February 2016: The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the Crimean Peninsula which condemned in particular the targeted abuse and persecution of the Crimean Tatar population. Supported by five parliamentary groups and authored by more than a hundred MEPs, the resolution called for Russia to immediately put an end to the systematic persecution of indigenous Tatars, respect their cultural and religious rights, and release those of the community’s leaders who were illegally detained. The European Parliament also urged the Russian authorities to allow international institutions and human rights observers to enter the peninsula.

1 February 2016: After more than one year during which no delegation from international organisations or NGOs had been allowed access to the Crimean Peninsula, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, stated that an independent team would be sent to Crimea in order to assess the human rights situation on the illegally annexed peninsula, stressing that the investigation would be impartial and not “deal with any issue related to the territorial status of Crimea”. The mission’s findings will be presented to the Secretary General in late February or early March 2016.

28 January – 2 February 2016: According to a member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Eskender Barijey, there have been raids on Crimean Tatar families in the Dzhankojsky region and Leninsky District of Crimea. The mass searches, the reasons for which are unknown, targeted houses of several families, as well as the premises of an Islamic Cultural Centre in Simferopol where local law enforcers “accidentally” found banned books.

28 January 2016: Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, announced that he would insist on the permanent monitoring of the situation in Crimea, in particular given the recent reports on Russia’s human rights violations against indigenous Tatars in Crimea. According to him, the Ukrainian government and several international organizations, including the Council of Europe, had agreed to send a preliminary mission to Russia-occupied Crimea – despite Russia’s predictable resistance against this decision.

28 January 2016: Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, and the Ukrainian presidential envoy for Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, during a meeting in Strasbourg discussed the idea of setting up an inter­national group consisting of, among others, the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which is supposed to work on the de-occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. The two countries will be forging ahead with the plans for the establishment of such a group during a visit of Ukraine’s Foreign Minister to Ankara in February 2016.

25 January 2016: According to Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine is about to file lawsuits to “various international courts” over the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia. He further stated that the international discussion of the issue – apart from a roadmap for the de-occupation of Crimea – should also focus on the release of illegally detained people and on safeguarding Crimean Tatars’ human rights.

21 January 2016: Crimean occupation “authorities” issued an arrest warrant for the National Leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, and placed him on a federal wanted list for the alleged commission of “several crimes”. Like many other Tatar leaders, following an international trip, Dzhemilev was not allowed to enter the peninsula soon after its illegal annexation by Russia and sought refuge in mainland Ukraine.

15 January 2016: Renowned Crimean Tatar journalist and blogger, Zair Akadyrov, was arrested, detained and threatened by the so-called ‘Center for Countering Extremism’. Akadyrov was detained in connection to demonstrations that took place in February 2014, prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea.

15 December 2015: Senior members of Mejlis and other leaders of the Crimean Tatar people – most of which are currently in exile in mainland Ukraine – met with foreign diplomats in Kiev to discuss the persecution of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea. The most important items on the meeting’s agenda were the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and the dire situation of Crimean Tatars.

30 November 2015: Mustafa Dzhemilev, representative of the Crimean Tatars, outlined the conditions for ending the energy blockade imposed on the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula. Among the Crimean Tatars’ request was the immediate release of key leaders of the Tatar community, who had been arrested earlier on accusations of organizing “mass disturbances”. After key electricity pylons supplying Crimea from Ukraine had been damaged by activists opposing the Russian annexation, only few services and government offices were operating in Crimea.

22 November 2015: Russian authorities declared a state of emergency in Crimea after the destruction of two pylons carrying electricity from Ukraine to Crimea had left close to two million people on the peninsula without power. The Crimean activists responsible for the power outage prevented repair crews from fixing the damaged pylons.

12 November 2015: The Ukrainian Parliament has voted to officially recognize the 1944 mass deportation of more than 200,000 Crimean Tatars by the Stalin regime as genocide. Tens of thousands died of exposure, disease, and starvation in the traumatic forced migration from their homeland to Central Asia. The event is commemorated annually on 18 May and an important part of the Tatars’ collective memory. In 2014, the annual commemoration had been the target of Russian repressive measures in Crimea.

9 November 2015: National Leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, and Chairman of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatars, Refat Chubarov, met with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in Kiev, talking primarily about Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014. Chubarov, who is currently in exile in Ukraine’s capital, called the exchange of views between the two parties “frank and open”.

15 September 2015: In what must be regarded as a politically motivated trial, Crimean Tatar activist Rafis Kashapov was sentenced to three years in prison by Russian authorities for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred. Kashapov, chairman of the Tatar Public Centre, had been vocal online about his frustrations with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

7 September 2015: Crimean Tatars leaders Refat Chubarov and Mustafa Dzhemilev announced that Crimean Tatar activists in exile in mainland Ukraine are organizing a protest to block roads and checkpoints to Crimea. Even though the initiative’s immediate goals is to prevent mass deliveries of food and other goods to the occupied territory, its overarching objective is to raise awareness of gross human rights violations against the Crimean Tatar population.

30 August 2015: The bodies of two Crimean Tatar activists, Mehmet Selimov and Osman Ibragimov, were found near Simferopol, on the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bodies of both men were found to have stab wounds. The Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar People’s Assembly, Nariman Celalov, reported that authorities had established the identity of the perpetrators and were engaged in an operation to locate them. The victims had been missing since 21 August 2015.

17 August 2015: Referring to inter-ethnic relations as a ‘delicate matter’, Vladimir Putin warned the Tatar community during his three-day visit to Crimea not to seek a special status on the peninsula. Meeting with representatives of various minorities, Mr Putin said that Crimea is a "mirror of multi-ethnic Russia" and discouraged speculations on the potential recognition of special rights for a particular ethnicity in the peninsula. Moscow continued to reaffirm its accusations that foreign countries are funding human rights activists to "destabilize the situation" in Crimea. Meanwhile, the Kremlin had been supporting Crimean Tatar groups willing to cooperate with Russia.

6 August 2015: The Crimean Tatar newspaper “Yany dyunya” broke into 58 years’ worth of archives and hard drives, computers and cameras were stolen. This robbery resembled a pattern of incidents which serve to suppress opposition voices to Russia’s presence in Crimea. 

2 August 2015: Around 200 Crimean Tatar groups from several countries met in Ankara, Turkey for the Crimean Tatars World Congress. During the conference, leaders stressed that ending Russian annexation and allowing Crimean Tatars to return safely to Crimea requires “all necessary measures”.

According to the leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, approximately 10,000 members of the community had left Crimea since March 2014, when Russia illegally occupied the peninsula. Speakers also highlighted that following the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the Ukrainian Constitution should grant autonomy to the Crimean Tatars. 

29 July 2015: Ahead of the August 2015 Crimean Tatar World Congress, Russian intelligence and state investigators called on the extradition of Crimean Tatar leaders, such as Mr Zair Smedlyaev and Mr Nariman Celal to Russia for questioning. Despite a UN resolution confirming Crimea as sovereign territory within Ukraine, this move from Moscow made clear that Russia does not seek to align itself with or respect internationally recognized territorial sovereignty.

22 July 2015: The Crimean Tatars held Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. Many in the Muslim community partook in these festivities in fear of further persecution by the Russian authorities. 

10 July 2015: Mustafa Dzhemilev, the historic leader of the Crimean Tatars, called on Turkey to follow the example of EU countries and impose sanctions against Russia over its illegal occupation of Crimea. Mr Dzhemilev stated that the Tatars understand the sensitivities around Turkey’s relations with Russia in part due to their trade and energy cooperation, but has nonetheless urged Turkey to actively take measures to end the annexation of Crimea. 

3 July 2015: Mr Ridvan Bariiev, representative of the Crimean Tatars, presented a resolution to UNPO's XII General Assembly, stressing increased concern about the situation of Crimea’s indigenous population, further worsened under Russian occupation of the peninsula. The resolution urges the international community to take a firm stand against Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea and to protect Crimean Tatars from ethnic persecution. UNPO adopted the resolution, thus affirming its strong commitment to the struggle for self-determination of the Crimean Tatars and to the full restoration of their rights, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.

16 June 2015: Despite a reluctance to implement EU and U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, Turkey defended the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This was evidenced by a Turkish delegation sent to the region, whose mission culminated in an official report on human rights violations in the peninsula.  The delegation head, Professor Zafer Üskül noted only 15 schools provide education in Crimean Tatar, and concluded by mentioning that at least 200 more would be needed to meet current demand. President Erdoğan expressed concern over the report’s findings, noting that the Crimean Tatars continue to be subjected to speech, language, education, residency, and judicial restrictions.

2 June 2015: In an effort to destabilize the Platform of Crimean Tatar Organizations at the World Congress of Crimean Tatars in Turkey this summer [2015], Russian Federal Security Service submitted an appeal to Interpol calling for the extradition of Crimean Tatar Mejlis Chairman, Mr Rafat Chubarov to Russia. Under Article 280.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, Russia initiated criminal proceedings against Mr Chubarov, finding him in violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. 

21 May 2015: On the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944, Turkish President contacted Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, to express his solidarity with the Crimean Tatars.

8 May 2015: A high-ranking member of the Mejlis began a hunger strike while awaiting trial in a Crimean detention facility. Mr Ahtem Ciygoz was arrested in January 2015 by the Russian authorities for organizing "mass disorder". He was accused of having played a role in the clashes that took place with pro-Russian demonstrators in February 2014, a month before the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. His arrest took place in the context of a growing crackdown on the Crimean Tatar’s rights. 

16 April 2015: Following ATR’s forced shut down on 1 April 2015, Russia replaced the channel with its own Government-sponsored television station, continuing the country’s longstanding practice of silencing opposition views and cracking-down on freedom of expression. 

7 April 2015: Despite Vladimir Putin’s official discourse highlighting that Russians ‘have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea’, Crimean Tatars cultural specificities continued to be targeted because of their ethnicity by the Russian authorities’ policy.

3 April 2015: The European Union and Ukraine denounced the Russian crackdown on Crimean Tatar media, stressing that this constitutes an evident violation of the right to freedom of expression and unrestricted access to the plurality of media. Ukraine’s President, Mr Petro Poroshenko, vowed to re-establish the ATR services on mainland Ukraine. The ATR television broadcaster and several other Crimean-Tatar outlets were forced off-air after Wednesday’s [1 April 2015] deadline for renewing their operating licenses with Russia’s media regulator. Silencing this critical media voice highlighted the growing pressure exerted on the Crimean Tatar community in occupied Crimea.

2 April 2015: Russia shut down ATR, the only Crimean Tatar Channel, despite its strong relationship with Russia, Turkey’s Foreign Minister has demanded Russia to allow the broadcast of ATR Channel, and stated that after this issue is solved, an unofficial delegation will be sent to the peninsula to investigate the ongoing human rights violations that the Crimean Tatars are facing.

1 April 2015: Tatar TV and radio stations were progressively forced to close; the last TV station ATR broadcasting in the Crimean Tatar language saw its application for a new Russian license rejected by Roskomnadzor, Moscow’s media regulator.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern over a crackdown on the freedom of the media since Crimea’s annexation by Russia. According to the organization, “since March 2014, the authorities regularly use the term “provocateur“ to describe anyone who criticizes local authorities or Russia’s actions in Crimea“ including ATR the last independent TV station run by the  Crimean Tatar ethnic minority.

31 March 2015: Commenting on the current situation in Crimea, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia recognized the compulsory registration of Crimean Tatar media as a “blatant attack on freedom of expression, dressed-up as an administrative procedure“ and “a crude attempt to stifle independent media, gag dissenting voices, and intimidate the Crimean Tatar community.”

25 March 2015: Two Crimean Tatar community leaders were banned from their homeland by the new authorities, several prominent members remained in detention after having participated to a pro-Ukraine rally and at least seven community members have disappeared under Russia’s rule. 

24 March 2015: During his official visit to Ukraine, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan offered humanitarian assistance and a $50 million loan to Ukraine and called for protection of the rights of the Crimean Tatars. Mr Erdogan, who avoided mentioning Russia’s conduct, nevertheless expressed support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He added that the Turks have been closely monitoring the situation of Crimean Tatars and will continue to include their problems in Turkey’s bilateral agenda and in international platforms.

17 March 2015: Marking the first year of Crimea’s annexation by Moscow, Crimean Tatars described the new leadership’s policy of harassment, intimidation and violence, including abductions and arrests on false accusations towards their community.

9 March 2015: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe denounced extensive media censorship in Crimea. Ms Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE media freedom representative, criticized the crackdown on independent media, citing that at least 13 journalists have suffered from physical attacks and threats, while six media organizations on the peninsula have been raided.

5 March 2015: Freedom House released a new report, which documents the situation in occupied Crimea, where residents increasingly face civic, political and human rights violations. The document highlights how the Crimean Tatar population is particularly affected by unreported infringements and intimidations taking place in the peninsula. 

23 February 2015: Ukrainian President, Mr Petro Poroshenko, met with leaders of the Crimean Tatars in Kiev to discuss their situation in Crimea. During the meeting, Ukraine’s President, the Commissioner on Crimean Tatar issues, Mr Mustafa Jemilev, the Chairman of the Milli Mejlis, Mr Refat Chubarov, and a Kurultay delegate, Mr Rustem Umerov, discussed the need to protect the human rights of all residents of Crimea following Russia’s occupation of the region in March 2014. 

9 February 2015: Russian law enforcement announced that it will refuse Akhtem Chiygoz bail, keeping him in detention for three weeks until 19 February 2015. This marked a continuation of the repression of Crimean Tatars in the occupied Crimean Peninsula.

2 February 2015: Foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, denounced the increasing pressure on Crimean Tatars shown by Russian authorities. Speaking at the 24th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, he said that Crimean Tatars have been facing ethnic and political persecution since Russia's annexation of the Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

29 January 2015: In its recent publication ‘Freedom in the World – 2015’, Freedom House ranked Crimea as ‘not free’ with a rating of 6.5 out of 7. The human rights organization ranks civil and political rights in states on a scale from 1 to 7, with 7 being reserved for societies with highly suppressed civil and political rights. Russia received an overall rating of 6, while Crimea was assessed separately. The rating illustrates the continued discrimination and struggle endured by Crimean Tatars on a daily basis.

22 December 2014: Minorities opposed to the annexation faced strong retaliatory measures endorsed by Sergei Aksyonov, the Moscow-appointed Prime Minister. Among them, the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority was particularly vulnerable to the implementation of the nationalization law

4 December 2014: Seen by Moscow as the strongest opponents to Crimea’s annexation by Russia, the Crimean Tatar minority faced new human right abuses and increasing pressure on its members.  

17 November 2014: Human Rights Watch published its findings of the human rights situation in Crimea in a report, which is principally based on over 40 interviews with Crimean Tatars, activists, lawyers and journalists, found serious human rights abuses taking place in the region. Most worryingly for the Tatars, the Mejlis – their representative body – was at risk of being closed under anti-terrorist legislation, and media outlets were being routinely intimidated.

31 October 2014: The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Nils Muiznieks, reported that Crimean authorities have exerted severe pressure on the Crimean Tatars and continued to damage, raid and search their organizations, educational institutions, mosques, as well as businesses. These human rights abuses spread fear and intimidation within the Crimean Tatar community.

10 October 2014: Following reports of harassment and persecution of the Crimean Tatars by Russian authorities, the US Mission to the OSCE issued a statement urging Russia to end its harassment of religious and minority communities in Crimea.  This came in the wake of reports stating that five people have been the victims of enforced disappearances, including three Crimean Tatars.

9 October 2014: In the third disappearance in just over a week, Eskender Apselamov, 23, was kidnapped in Simferopol on his way to work. The situation for Crimean Tatars continued to be deeply alarming, as they were subject to wide-ranging social and linguistic discrimination, including having their homes distinctly marked by the Russians. More than 3,000 fled to the Ukrainian mainland.

1 October 2014: The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the deteriorating security and human rights situation of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea and called it his “biggest concern”. He claimed that the Crimean Tatars are under threat by frequent raids of armed and masked security personnel entering their public and private spaces. 

30 September 2014: After the kidnapping and attempted murder of Reshat Ametov in March 2014, two Crimean Tatars were abducted by unknown men in the city of Belogorsk on 27 September 2014. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, three thousand Crimean Tatars fled to Ukraine. Crimean Tatars have been targeted for speaking their Turkic language in public, while their houses have been marked by pro-Russian militiamen, a practice similar to that carried out in 1944 just prior to their expulsion from Crimea by Josef Stalin.

7 September 2014: Several madrassas, Islamic religious schools, and homes of common Tatars were searched under the suspicion of possession of literature, labeled as extremist, according to new Russian legislation. Several Islamic books, which were legal under the Ukrainian law, were recently banned by the Russian government. 

1 September 2014: The building of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis was vandalized during the night of 1 September. According to Crimean Tatar representatives, it is a provocation against Crimean Tatar people. 

31 August 2014: A book about Mustafa Jemilev was declared banned in Crimea without any explanations from the Russian authorities. The book about the Crimean Tatar leader describes his career and his achievements for his home country, and includes interviews with him. 

25 August 2014: Mustafa Jemilev, leader of Crimea Tatars, expressed his concern regarding new investigations implemented by the Russian authorities against certain Crimean Tatars, with the promise of closing the investigations if the individuals left the region.

Crimean Tatar university students are being forced to apply for Russian citizenship and passports with the threat of not receiving their diplomas, if they do not do so.

21 August 2014: Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, appointed Mustafa Jemilev, leader of Crimean Tatars as his representative on Crimean Tatar affairs.

18 August 2014: The Chairman of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, claimed that President of Russia, Vladimir Putin’s frequent visits to the region are an attempt to display Russia’s control over Crimea. He also said that they were related to the uncertainty regarding the annexation of Crimea after the referendum on the 16 March 2014.

15 August 2014: Crimean police began questioning Muslim women wearing headscarves for their identification documents. Eider Ismailov, the assistant mufti of Crimea, claimed that “this shows that Russian police do not trust headscarfed women and sees them as a separate group in the general public. This is nothing but an insult against our beliefs as Muslims.”

12 August 2014: The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry labelled Russia’s intentions to continue to control Crimea as “unacceptable”.

9 August 2014: Crimean Tatar activist and journalist of ethnic Crimean Tatar origin from Turkey, Ismet Yuksel, was banned entrance to Crimea for 5 years.

8 August 2014: Ukrainian Ministry of Education accepted that the school books on Ukrainian history will include more information about the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars.

5 August 2011: Certain Islamic books, including educational books used in schools, and which had been previously considered legal under the Ukrainian law, were banned and considered as extremist.

28 July 2014: The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its concern regarding the human rights situation of the Crimean Tatars following the annexation of the peninsula after the referendum on 16 March 2014.  

29 July 2014: Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has released a report produced by the UN monitoring team in Ukraine. The 36 page report notes the use of violence against peaceful protestors, targeted killings, tortures, abductions and beatings and in some cases, sexual harassment carried out by anti-Government groups in eastern Ukraine. 

22 July 2014: Russian Federal Security Service officers arrived at a Crimean Tatar café called ‘Musafir’ in Bakhchisaray, to investigate alleged “illegal activity”. The Deputy Head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, Nariman Jelal, said that the café attracted attention, because it hosted iftar (an evening meal during the Islamic month of Ramadan) the day before.  

16 July 2014: Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, is proposed to lead Ukraine’s new Ministry of Crimea, set up to secure the return of Crimea to Ukraine.

14 July 2014: The Chairman of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister P. Klimkin to discuss about their collaboration with Turk and Arabic countries to address Crimean Tatar issues. The OIC with the Mejlis was set to monitor the situation in Crimea to protect the Tatars' rights and freedoms.

11 July 2014: Crimean Tatars activists, who had gathered on May 3rd to support their leader Mustafa Jemilev, are sentenced to pay a fine of 1 million rubles. 

The European Union expands the list of persons subjected to targeted sanctions – travel ban and frozen-assets - to 72 with 11 more persons suspected of undertaking actions that undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

5 July 2014: Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, received a 5-year ban on entering Russia. This decision was not based upon any legitimate or legal basis. He was accused of extremism and is to face jail time if he enters Crimea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 June 2014: Crimean Parliament submitted a list to the Russian Parliament notifying the body of all small indigenous groups of Crimea, such as Krymchaks and Crimean Karaites, but excluding Crimean Tatars as they do not count as a ‘small indigenous people’ and exceed the number of 50, 000 people.

Crimean Tatar Flag Day will be conducted in Fontany, a district of Simferopol, after the Simferopol City Council rejected the appeal of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people to hold the event in the center of the city.

24 June 2014: Russian FSB armed agents broke into a Muslim school of Crimea, allegedly suspected of leading extremist activities and hiding weapons; terrorizing the children and preventing them from contacting their parents. This event follows a series of false accusations against Crimean Tatars, such as being conducting a form of Islamic extremism. 

16 June 2014: The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people announced its boycott of the coming parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in October 2014; denouncing the voting system that will decrease the number of Crimean Tatar representatives in the Parliament.

14 June 2014: Vandals attack the Chukurcha-Jami mosque in Crimea, marking the religious building with Nazi crosses before setting it on fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 June 2014: Ukraine’s representative to the U.N., Yuri Klymenko, claimed that Crimean Tatars are facing a second deportation at a conference in Geneva.

1 June 2014: President of the USA, Barack Obama, met newly-elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on the occasion of a European tour beginning on 4 June 2014 (and may have held a meeting with representatives of the Crimean Tatars to discuss about the ongoing violations of their human rights).

31 May 2014: Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian languages are to be banned from schools to the benefit of the Russian language, which will be the only language spoken in certain high schools. 

30 May 2014: Crimean Tatar

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