Indigenous peoples, national minorities and religious communities are brutally persecuted by Russian occupation administration in the temporarily occupied Crimea

Ukraine-EU consultations regarding legal consequences temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol took place today. The round was attended by representatives of the executive power of Ukraine, in particular, the Head of DESS Viktor Yelenskyi.

There were discussions of the disturbing situation regarding ethnic and religious affairs in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which has worsened and intensified since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The most acute among them are the oppression of Crimean Tatars and religious organizations on the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, the desecration of historical monuments of the Crimean Tatar people, as well as the illegal conscription of the indigenous people of Ukraine into the ranks of the army of the occupying state.

  • The Russian Federation continues to persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses, banned in Russia as an extremist organisation in 2017 without any convincing reasons. In 2022, at least 12 believers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched, 1 believer was sentenced to 2 years of conditional imprisonment with a probationary period of 3 years and 3 believers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment, with restriction of movement for a period of 1 year after completing the sentence, and a 7-year ban on publications in the mass media and on the Internet.
  • The situation with the Crimean Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine remains tense. Since 2019, the Crimean Diocese has been under permanent risk of eviction from the St. Prince Volodymyr and St. Princess Olga Cathedral of Sacred Equal Apostles (the main OCU cathedral in Crimea) in Simferopol due to unlawful decision of the Russian occupational administration. The eviction of the Crimea Diocese from its Cathedral in Simferopol is equivalent to the total destruction of the religious minority group of the OCU in Crimea. On October 28, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted Resolution No. 1213 regarding the transfer of this cathedral from the property of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to the state property of Ukraine. It is assumed that the cathedral will be transferred to the free use of the Crimean Diocese of the OCU, and after the de-occupation of the peninsula it will return to the property of the OCU
  • Russian Federation continues the practice of persecution for alleged “unlawful missionary activity” those religious communities that refuse to obey to centralised organisations loyal to or controlled by occupation administrations.
  • Residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea, in particular those belonging to national minorities and indigenous peoples of Ukraine, continue to be drafted into the Russian army in the process of military conscription and so called “partial mobilization”. As part of the Russian army, they are used in hostilities against Ukraine. It is known that in the temporarily occupied Crimea, after Vladimir Putin announced “partial mobilization” in the Russian Federation, representatives of the Crimean Tatar people were given at least 1,500 military summonses. Such actions represent a direct and gross violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other norms of international humanitarian law.
  • In 2022, the Russian authorities announced their intention to create a recreation area on the territory of the Sauskan Muslim cemetery in the city of Bakhchisaray, which is located near the Khan’s palace and is considered one of the oldest Muslim cemeteries in the city. Such a decision caused indignation on the part of representatives of the Crimean Tatar community and poses a threat to the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the Crimean Tatar people on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula.
  • The Russian Federation continues the arbitrary destruction of the Khan’s Palace in Bakhchisaray ‒ the most significant object of the architectural heritage of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, which is a component of the object “The historical surroundings of Crimean Khans’ capital in Bakhchysarai”, included in the UNESCO Tentative List. It is known that the Russian authorities destroyed the Golden Cabinet of Kirim Gerai Khan, dismantling the roof and stained-glass windows, and turning this monument into a newly constructed object with elements of historicity. These construction works are taking place as part of the so-called “restoration works” that began in 2017. In 2021, UNESCO published a report in which it was noted that Russian restoration of the Bakhchisaray Palace of the Crimean Khans is distortive.
  • Crimean Tatars continue to be systematically persecuted and oppressed by the Russian occupation authorities. According to the data of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, during the period of the first 9 months of 2022, in the temporarily occupied Crimea, there were recorded 108 detentions (83 of which involved Crimean Tatars) and 138 arrests (104 of which involved Crimean Tatars).
  • Mejlis — the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people — is still banned by the Russian Federation as an extremist organisation. On May 26, 2022, the appellate instance of the illegal occupational so-called “the Supreme Court of Crimea” changed the previous verdict against Mustafa Dzhemilev, Soviet human rights activist and dissident, Ukrainian politician, one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar national movement, chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people in 1991-2013, in absentia, sentencing him to 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 rubles.
  • Russia’s illegal violent actions, restrictive and repressive measures against peaceful citizens require strong international reaction of condemnation and continued strong support for Ukraine in its desire to return the temporarily occupied territories under its own control. After almost 9 years of continuous violations of human rights and fundamental norms of international law, it is clear that de-occupation of the Crimean Peninsula is the most reliable measure to ensure security and proper implementation of the rights of national minorities, indigenous peoples, and religious communities of currently temporarily occupied Crimea.
  • In 2022, Ukraine continued the development of the legislative framework to ensure the proper implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples of Ukraine (Crimean Tatars, Krymchaks, and Karaites, who predominantly live on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula) provided for by the Law of Ukraine “On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” of July 21, 2021. On August 19, 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted Resolution No. 936 “On Approval of the Procedure for Consolidating the Legal Status of the Representative Body of the Indigenous People of Ukraine and Depriving Such Status” and Resolution No. 1018 “On Approval of the Procedure for Conducting Consultations of Executive Power Bodies with Representative Bodies of the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine”. The adoption of these normative legal acts creates the proper institutional conditions for the involvement of representatives of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine in the management of public policy issues that concern the rights and legitimate interests of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine.