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. On Nov. 23, 2017, a team of Russian National Guard troops with OMON and FSB secret police officers carried out raids in which five Tatar leaders were briefly detained while their homes were searched. Kashka was among those targeted, and died during the operation. An initial report said Kashka had died of coronary artery disease, but an investigation carried out months later after her family had contracted a lawyer revealed that she had suffered several broken ribs. Authorities are still not providing an explanation.
A leading LGBT rights group projected messages for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in giant letters on the wall of the Presidential Palace in Helsinki hours before the summit between the two leaders was set to open. "Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya," read one message displayed by the Human Rights Campaign. Other projections read: "The whole world is watching" and "Silence is deadly." The group said in a tweet ahead of the action: "Last year, reports surfaced of Chechen authorities rounding up and detaining more than 100 men who were suspected of being gay or bisexual and 20 have been murdered. Today HRC confronted Trump and Putin in Helsinki over these crimes against humanity." The statement continued: "For more than 15 months, @realDonaldTrump has refused to publicly condemn the systematic torture, abuse and murder of LGBTQ people occurring in Chechnya as Vladimir Putin has licensed the violence to continue." (Mediaite)
The European Parliament on June 14 overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russian authorities to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and all the other "illegally detained Ukrainian citizens" in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea "immediately and unconditionally." Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a Russian prison in the far-northern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region since May 14. He is demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners. Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. A Russian court in 2015 convicted him of planning to commit terrorist acts and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He denies the accusations.
The US approved the sale of $47 million worth of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) to Ukraine Dec. 22, with the State Department issuing an export license for 210 of the Javelin ATGMs and 35 command launcher units (CLUs) to fire them. Responses from Kiev and Moscow were predictable. "I am grateful for the leadership of President Donald Trump, clear position of all our American friends, and for strong bipartisan support of Ukraine," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Facebook in English. Countered Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: "Today the United States is clearly pushing [Ukrainian authorities] towards new bloodshed. American weapons can lead to new victims in our neighbor." He added that Washington had "crossed a line." (Popular Mechanics, RFE/RL, TASS)
Former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladić was sentenced to life imprisonment Nov. 22 by the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), for crimes committed during the Bosnian conflict from 1992 to 1996. Mladić was found guilty of two counts of genocide, crimes against humanity (five counts: persecutions; extermination; murder; deportation; and inhuman acts), and violations of the laws or customs of war (four counts: murder; terror; unlawful attacks on civilians; and taking of hostages).
Riot police raided a bookstore in the Belarusian city of Hrodno on Oct. 9, interrupting a lecture by anarchist historian Pyotr Ryabov, who was visiting from Moscow State Pedagogical University, and arresting him on the pretext of breaking up a "unsanctioned mass gathering." Ryabov, who had been giving a presentation on "Libertarian Social Thought," was convicted two days later on charges of "hooliganism" and sentenced to six days in jail. He promptly went on hunger strike. Belarusian human rights activist Alyaksandr Vaytseshyk, who came to the hearing to support Ryabov, was detained on the scene and charged with contempt of court. Ryabov's supporters picketed the Belarusian embassy in Moscow Oct. 13 to demand his release. (ContraInfo, Oct. 14; LibCom, Oct. 13; RFE/RL, Oct. 12)
Hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Barcelona as a general strike was called Oct. 3 to protest "grave violation of rights and freedoms" by Spanish security forces during the vote on independence for Catalonia two days earlier—when close to a thousand people were injured as Civil Guard troops dispatched by Madrid used rubber bullets and tear-gas in an attempt to prevent the poll from taking place. The strike was widely honored; the city's port was shut down, and Barcelona's metro lines cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times. Street traffic was snarled by barricades erected by protesters on major arteries, with hand-painted banners reading "Occupation forces get out!"
Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov was convicted by Russian-appointed judges in Simferopol Sept. 27 on spurious "separatism" charges, and sentenced to two years. An outspoken critic of Russia's occupation of peninsula, Umerov was arrested late last year, forcibly interned in a psychiatric facility, and then charged on counts of separatism, and forbidden to leave the country. The European Union condemned his sentencing as "a violation of human rights," while Human Rights Watch called it "ruthless retaliation" for his opposition to Moscow's annexrtion of Crimea. Umerov was deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Majlis, which has now been officially suspended by Moscow. (UNPO)