Protests and media freedom concerns over Russian-Occupied Crimea
“Stop capitulation” protests held in Kyiv
On 14th August 2021, members of the National corps held a protest action dubbed "Let's stop capitulation!" on Bankova Street in Kyiv. The protesters called on the president to end repression against war veterans, and urged him to abandon the "capitulation agreements" with the “enemy” and to stop supplying water to the Russian-occupied Crimea.
According to Ukrainian Pravda, soon after the protest started, clashes broke out between the protesters and security forces. Seven police officers received eye burns and several National Guardsmen were injured. The Ministry of Internal Affairs added that the participants neglected to accept the invitation of the security forces to pass through inspection for dangerous objects before being admitted to the OPU.
After the protest action (mentioned above in peaceful assembly section), a correspondent of the "Letters" newspaper, Oleksandr Kuzhelny, was brutally attacked. Kuzhelny was approached by some participants of the protest, who demanded that he delete the photos he had taken during the rally, where he had documented attacks on two other journalists. He suffered numerous kicks to his head.
Reacting to the attacks on the journalists, the European Federation of Journalists called on the authorities to investigate the case and protect journalists during demonstrations.
The EFJ General Secretary, Ricardo Gutiérrez, said:
“Oleksandr Kuzhelny, Anton Filipp and Valentyn Bannykh are yet another addition to the devastating list of journalists being attacked during demonstrations. The authorities must do their best to protect the press in such a hostile environment. We call for meticulous investigations to hold all involved attackers accountable!”
Coalition for Media Freedom calls for release of journalists detained in Crimea
The Coalition for Media Freedom members expressed concern about the deteriorating media freedom in occupied Crimea, Ukraine, including the continued harassment of journalists by the Russian Federation.
Their statement highlighted the case of Vladislav Yesipenko, a freelance journalist on Radio Free Europe, who was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 10th March 2021, and who has been undergoing torture and ill-treatment in detention. Yesipenko’s work focused on social and environmental issues, including a social survey he had conducted among residents of Crimea.
The statement also mentioned nine other Crimean Tatar journalists - Servers Mustafayev, Timur Ibragimov, Marlena Asanova, Seyran Saliyev, Remzi Bekirov, Ruslan Suleymanov, Osman Arifmemetov, Rustem Sheikhaliev and Amet Suleymanov - who continue to be detained in Russian occupied Crimea.
The Coalition called on the Russian Federation to immediately release all journalists who have been unjustly detained and allow journalists to undertake their work without fear of persecution.
We strongly protest against the illegal decision of the Southern District Military Court of Russia of August 16, 2021 to convict four citizens of Ukraine Ruslan Nagaev, Lenur Khalilov, Ruslan Mesutov and Eldar Kantimirov in the so-called "Hizb ut-Tahrir Alushta group" case. pic.twitter.com/jTGMdcBJBG— MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@MFA_Ukraine) August 16, 2021
Crimean Tatars imprisoned in the “Hizb-ut-Tahrir case”
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union announced in August 2021 that four members of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir group who were accused of organising terrorist activities, were sentenced to 12 to 18 years’ imprisonment by a Russian military court, calling the sentences politically motivated. The four Crimean Tartars, LenurKhalilov, Ruslan Mesutov, Ruslan Nahaiev and Eldar Kantimirov, had been actively involved in religious activities in their neighbourhoods. Kantimirov participated in protests against politically motivated repressions in Crimea and visited victims of searches and trials in politically motivated cases.The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union denounced the sentences and called on Russia to release the four.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir is an international pan-Islamist political organisation, banned in China, Egypt, Germany, Russia, Turkey and some Arab countries. It aims to unite the Muslim community and implement sharia globally. In Ukraine, the organisation is not banned.