The Historical Background
Crimea has a rich history. Some archeological findings indicate its first settlers might have had arrived as early as one million years ago. Crimea was first mentioned in written sources three thousand years ago.
The Crimean steppes (and the bigger part of Ukraine’s Southern regions) were populated by the nomads: the Cimmerians (from the 9th century BC), the Scythians (from the 7th century BC as nomadic and from the 3rd century as settled people), the Sarmats (from the 1st century AD) and Alani (from the 3rd century AD), the Huns and Ancient Turks (from the 4th century AD), the Kharazs (from the 7th century AD), the Hungarians (from the 9th century AD), the Pechenegs (9th centry), the Polovetsy (from the 11th century AD), the Mongols (from the 13th century AD) and the Nogai (16th century).
The first autochthonous people – the Tauri or Taurians – settled down in the Crimean Mountains in the 8th century BC. The Goths (and some Alani tribes) settled down here in the 3rd century AD after adopting Christianity, but preserving their native tongue.
The first Elline town – Panticapaeum – was founded in 610 BC. This oldest town in Eastern Europe still exists and is known today as Kerch. In the following century, many other towns were founded along the peninsula’s entire coastline. In 480 BC these Eastern Crimean towns formed the Bosporan Kingdom. Founded between 528 BC and the yearly 5th century, the town of Tauric Chersonese preserved its republican form of government.
In the years of 110-46 BC Crimea was part of the Hellenistic Kingdom of Pontus ruled by Mithradates VI Eupator. Later, until the 220s AD it was within the orbit of the Roman Empire. By the year of 534 the city of Chersonese, the South Coast and partly the Kerch Peninsula became part of the Byzantium Empire, with the mountainous peoples of Goths-Alani tribes (“The Doros County”) serving as allies.
In the 11th century the Crimean steppes were conquered by the Polovtsy tribes. The remaining local settlers, primarily the Turks, were slowly assimilated by the new rulers.
The unique character of the Crimean Polovtsy tribes was explained by the geographic isolation of the peninsula from the other large nomadic peoples of the Dnipro steppe region. As a result of the Mongol invasion, Crimean Turks obtained the ruling dynasty – the ancestors of Genghis Khan (analogous processes took place in the entire Eurasia, particularly in the lands of Rus’). In half a century Islam became the state religion of the Crimean Ulus of the Golden Horde, thus differentiating its inhabitants from their Christian and Pagan neighbors. That is how the nucleus of the new ethic group – later to be known as the Crimean Tatars – was formed.
Starting from the 1260s the larger part of Crimea’s Southern Coast fell under control of the Republic of Venice and Republic of Genoa.
At the turn of 14th and 15th centuries the Golden Horde fell into decay. The mountain settlers of Greek, Goth and Alani origin established the Principality of Theodoro. In 1441 the Crimean beys chose Hacı Geray as their ruler, paving the way to the independent Crimean Khanate. In 1475 the Osman Empire seized control of the Crimean territories previously belonging to the Republic of Genoa and the Principality of Theodoro. The Crimean Khans fell under the authority of the Ottoman Sultans, but preserved their sovereign rule over the respected territories.
Due to this development, the peninsula’s other peoples partially converted to Islam, started speaking Crimean Tatar and observing Crimean Tatar traditions. The ancestors of the Theodoro dynasty and many immigrants from Europe and the Caucasus, who settled at the coastline, merged with the new Crimean Tatar people. The long process of the Crimean Tatar ethnic group formation explains why at least three large sub-ethnic groups emerged within one ethno group: the Tats (inhabitants of the mountainous Crimea), the Yaliboylu (inhabitants of the South Coast) and the Noğays (inhabitants of the steppe areas).
In 1771, after decades of wars, the tsarist Russian army occupied the Crimean Khanate. In 1772 the last Crimean Khan Şahin Giray (alias Shahin Khan Girai) ascended the throne. In 1783 the Tsarist Russia annexed the Khanate territories. In 1802 the Taurida Governorate was established within the Russian Empire.
In 1917 several processes were taking place in Crimea – those of democratic revolution, Ukrainization and the revival of the Crimean Tatar national statehood. In December, the First Kurultai ruled to establish the Crimean Tatar People’s Republic and form the Crimean Tatar national government. However, in January 1918 the Bolshevik army gained control of the peninsula’s territory and launched the Red terror. The Bolsheviks lost control over Crimea in April 1918 as a result of the joint military effort of the Ukrainian army led by Petro Bolbochan, the German army and Crimean Tatar protesters. The Black Sea fleet raised the Ukrainian flag on April 29, 1918. The negotiations about Crimea joining the Ukrainian State continued until the fall of 1918. In 1919-1920, the peninsula’s territory turned into a battlefield between the Red and White Armies. The Red Army won.
In 1921 Crimea was turned into the autonomous administrative unit of Russia.
The Soviets started substituting the deported indigenous people of Crimea with population loyal to the Kremlin, primarily from Russia. It changed the peninsula’s ethic structure entirely. The memory of former owners of this land was also destroyed. Almost 80 percent of native Crimean Tatar settlements got new Soviet names.
During the World War II from 1941 until 1945 Crimea was under German occupation. Having expelled the Nazi Army, Moscow baselessly accused the Crimean Tatar people of collaborating with the Nazis. Starting from May 18, 1944, the Kremlin deported more than 200,000 people, including newborn children, to Central Asia and other inland Soviet territories. This deportation turned into the Genocide, as during the first years of deportation 20-25% of Crimean Tatars perished. The representatives of other ethnic groups – Germans (since 1941), Italians (since 1942), Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks and foreign subjects (1944) were also subjected to deportation in their entirety.
The year of 1954 was also important for Crimea’s history, as Moscow decided to transfer it under Ukraine. The decision was logical and based on real needs. Russia could not provide for the normal economic life on the peninsula, as almost all supplies were provided from Ukraine. The Soviet leadership explained its decision by the following logic: “with consideration of economic proximity, territorial proximity and close trade and cultural ties between the Crimean oblast and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.”
It should be underscored that the 1954 process of Crimea joining the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was documented in accordance with all legal norms. The governments and parliaments of the Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine consequently adopted the necessary legal rulings. The republican constitutions were also amended with the necessary provisions.
Although the Russian propaganda attempts to convince the entire world community that Crimea was “eternally Russian”, this is a false stereotype. The peninsula was part of Russia for a relatively short time period. Crimea was part of the Russian Empire from 1783 until 1917. During the same period Russian emperors gained control of several European countries, some of which are EU and NATO members at the present moment. Crimea was part of Russia (as Russian Soviet Socialist Republic) only from 1921 until 1954 (the 1941-1944 German occupation excluding). In other words, Crimea was part of Russia for about 30 years. Consequently, the myth about the so-called ages-long “Russianness” of Crimea simply does not stand.
Similarly, the Crimean Tatars made the peninsula’s ethnic majority until the early 20th century. The Russians became the ethnic majority as a result of repressions, persecutions and deportation of Crimea’s indigenous people.
Although in 1967 the Crimean Tatars were rehabilitated from the “mass betrayal” (of the Soviet state power) accusations, they were not allowed to return to their native land. The mass return of Crimean Tatars to Crimea was not made possible until 1989. The country that took upon itself the key role in accommodating the Crimean Tatar repatriates and assisting them in settling down was independent Ukraine.
The timeline of the occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea
20 February 2014 is the beginning date of the armed aggression when the first cases of illegal crossing of the Ukrainian state border near the Kerch Strait by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and its use of military formations deployed in Crimea to block Ukrainian military units were recorded. Later this date was incorporated in the Ukrainian legislation and it also appears on the ministerial medal of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation "For the Return of Crimea".
On 23 February 2014, the biggest pro-Russian mass meeting took place in Sevastopol. For the first time, the appeal not to recognize the Ukrainian authorities was announced publicly. Also, the so-called "people's mayor" of Sevastopol, Russian businessman Aleksei Chaly, was "elected". On the same day, a mass meeting was held in Moscow calling for the division of Ukraine into three parts and the sending of Russian "volunteers" to proclaim "Novorossiya" with its capital in Kharkiv. That day in Sevastopol, near the building of the former prison, the mourning meeting of Crimean Tatars was held to pay tribute to the event that took place on February 23, 1918, when the Bolsheviks tortured Noman Çelebicihan, a politician and statesman, Prime Minister of the Crimean People's Republic and one of the organizers of the first Qurultay of the Crimean Tatar People. At the event, both the Crimean Tatar national flags and the state flags of Ukraine fluttered together.
Upon its completion, the participants moved forward to the city of Simferopol, where at 13.00 a rally gathering 15,000 people in commemoration of Noman Çelebicihan and against pro-Russian separatism began.
On 24 February 2014, ships of the Russian Navy, which guarded the offshore zone in the area of the Sochi Olympic Games, took on board in Novorossiysk operational hardware and units of Russian servicemen, which were used to seize administration buildings and blockade Ukrainian military units on the territory of the ARC and Sevastopol, and held a course for Sevastopol.
On 26 February 2014, mass meetings under the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea took place. One of them was held by pro-Russian organizations demanding the autonomy of Crimea within Russia (approximately 2,000 people); another one, which was attended by about 12-15 thousand people, mainly Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, was convened by the decision of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people aimed to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It was able to prevent the session of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where, according to the plan of the Russian side, a separation from Ukraine should be announced.
On 27 February 2014, the Russian military without identification marks seized the buildings of the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC and the ARC government in Simferopol.
On 27 February 2014, at gunpoint of Russian servicemen from the 31st Air Assault Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC "voted" for the so-called "referendum on the status of Crimea" and appointed a representative of the party “Russian Unity” Sergei Aksyonov as a Head of the Government of Crimea.
Russian Armed Forces units are blocking Ukrainian military units and facilities on the peninsula. On the night of February 27th to 28th, Simferopol and Belbek airports and land entrances to Crimea from the Kherson region were blocked. On the same day, the checks of combat readiness of the Southern Military District troops of the Russian Federation took place, in which up to 150,000 personnel, 90 aircraft, 120 helicopters and 880 tanks were involved.
On 1 March 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation a proposal to send Russian troops to Ukraine "to eliminate threats to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, compatriots, personnel of the military contingent of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation which deployed … on the territory of Ukraine ". The Federation Council unanimously supported the proposal. On the same day, Russian storm troops were deployed in Rostov, Voronezh, Kursk, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions. On Polissya, Slobozhanskyi, Donetsk and Crimean operational directions, a strike force was created, which was held in full combat readiness prior to Russia invading Ukraine in the end of May 2014.
In early March 2014 Russian occupation forces shut down Ukrainian television broadcasting.
On 16 March 2014, the so-called “referendum on the status of Crimea” was held, which contradicted the Constitution of Ukraine and fundamental norms of international law and was not recognized by the international community. Upon the decision of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the Crimean Tatars and the pro-Ukrainian population of the peninsula completely boycotted this Russia-orchestrated event. On 14 March 2014, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared unconstitutional the decree of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, according to which a "referendum" was held.
On 18 March 2014, in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin, "head of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea" Sergei Aksyonov, "Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of the Republic of Crimea" Vladimir Konstantinov and "Chairman of the Coordination Council for the Establishment of the Department of Life Support of the City of Sevastopol” Alexei Chaly signed the so-called "Agreement on the Admission of the Republic of Crimea to Russia".
On 21 March 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ratifying this "agreement".
On 25 March 2014, - the last military unit holding the Ukrainian flag in the Crimea was seized - a minesweeper of the Ukrainian Navy "Cherkasy". The Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are completely occupied by the Russian Armed Forces.
3.1 Violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Despite the efforts of the international community, the situation in the temporarily occupied by Russia Crimea deteriorates in all aspects, most notably in the spheres of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Criminalization of freedom of expression on social networks, interference and censorship of the media and human rights organizations, including Crimean Tatar organizations, torture and ill-treatment, inhumane jail and harsh prison conditions, and impunity of Russian law enforcement officers for these crimes have become the "new normal" in the Russia-occupied Crimea.
Russia persecutes human right defenders, journalists, and activists. Today eight citizen journalists are currently in detention in Crimea and one is under house arrest. They are Server Mustafayev, Timur Ibragimov, Marlen Asanov, Seyran Saliev, Remzi Bekirov, Ruslan Suleymanov, Osman Arifmemetov, Rustem Sheikhaliev, Amet Suleymanov.
On 10 March 2021, Vladyslav Yesypenko, an associated journalist for the Radio Free Europe, was detained in Crimea under bogus charges. Only one month after Vladyslav’s arrest the independent lawyers were admitted to the case. During the court hearings on 6 April, Yesypenko stated he was tortured by the Russian law-enforcement to extract confessions. Despite this, the court ignored his testimonies and decided to extend his arrest until December 18, 2021. Vladyslav faces up to 18 years of imprisonment.
According to human rights watches, 231 people have become political prisoners since the occupation and are persecuted for political reasons. 158 of them are Crimean Tatars (including those already released).
Today, Russia illegally detained over 100 Ukrainian citizens under politically motivated charges in Crimea and Russia. Most of them are Crimean Tatars (including those not physically behind bars: no-show, house arrest).
The Russian Federation trespasses its antiterrorism legislation and uses military courts to illegally convict Ukrainian citizens under the bogus charges of extremism and terrorism activity. The pre-trial investigations and trials take place with numerous procedural violations and in conditions of complete disregard of the evidence provided by the defense of the defendants' non-involvement in the incriminated acts. There are also numerous documented cases of non-admission of independent lawyers to illegally detained citizens of Ukraine.
Entire families of Crimean Tatars are politically persecuted. Examples include brothers Teymur and Uzeyir Abdullayev (sentenced to 17 and 12, respectively); brothers Seytumer and Osman Seytumerov and their uncle Rustem Seitmemetov (under investigation); father and son Enver and Riza Omerov (on January 12, 2021, they were sentenced to 18 and 13 years in prison respectively), together with their relative Rustem Ismailov (sentenced to 14 years) and others.
According to human rights defenders, about 200 children of illegally detained human rights activists and citizen journalists are brought up without their fathers’ care. A number of them have never seen their fathers because they were born after their arrests. At least 25 children developed severe medical diagnoses because of stress and moral suffering.
The occupation authorities are persecuting Ukrainian symbols. The most high-profile cases are the imprisonment of Volodymyr Balukh and Oleh Prykhodko, who were sentenced to up to five years in prison for their pro-Ukrainian stance. In September 2019, V. Balukh was released. Oleg Prykhodko has been behind bars since October 10, 2019. From July 2021, he is kept in prison for dangerous criminals - “Vladimir Central.”
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the illegally imprisoned Ukrainian citizens are particularly vulnerable, as they are deprived of adequate medical care. Russia ignores complaints on seriously deteriorated health conditions, even despite the obvious symptoms of COVID-19, it does not provide the necessary examination and treatment and applies inhuman means of isolation to detainees suffering from COVID-19. According to human rights organizations, prisoners suffering from COVID-19 or having its symptoms are being transferred to solitary confinement cells in Russian penitentiaries.
Human rights defenders also report harsh conditions in the detention facilities and a lack of medical assistance. Today desperate attention is needed to elderly prisoners they are Servet Gaziev and Dzhemil Gafarov.
Servet Gaziev (61 y.o.) suffers from chronic cholecystitis and hypertension. Dzhemil Gafarov (59 y.o.) is a group II disabled person suffering from chronic kidney disease. On June 10, right after the trial, Servet Gaziev and Dzhemil Gafarov were taken to hospital due to a sharp deterioration in their health. Servet Gaziev and Dzhemil Gafarov are both participants of the so-called second Simferopol group of Hizb ut-Tahrir. They have been held in pre-trial detention since March 27, 2019.
Russian prison administrations continue practicing psychological and physical pressure on the detainees (Valentyn Vyhivskyi, Teymur Abdullaev, Oleh Prykhodko, and others) in the absence of monitoring by human rights organizations.
Illegal movement of protected persons
According to forcibly imposed in Crimea the Russian law, all the “terrorist cases” are trialed in the “Southern District Military Court” (Rostov-on-Don). Even at the stage of judicial investigation, detainees are transferred to trial on the territory of the Russian Federation. They are often not returned until the court verdict. Even if the case was heard in Crimea, after the sentence comes into force, people are transferred to Russian prisons, especially in political cases. Furthermore, Russian authorities try to send them as far as possible. For example, Oleg Sentsov was sent to Labytnangi, Alexey Sizonovich to Irkutsk (both released on September 7, 2019), Emir-Usein Kuku, Ruslan Zeitulaev, brothers Teymur and Uzeyir Abdullayev to Salavat, Republic of Bashkortostan. It intentionally cut dissent’s ties with their relatives to increase the psychological pressure both on detainees and on their families. Such treatment of Ukrainian citizens - their illegal movement from Crimea is a war crime under international law.
Russia does not effectively investigate cases of enforced disappearances and missing persons. During 2014-2018, 44 people became victims of enforced disappearances in Crimea. Six of them were found dead. The fate of 15 people remains unknown.
The violation of the right to education in native language
Russia deprives ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars of a right to education in native language. The most dramatic is the decline of Ukrainian language learning. The number of pupils, who studied Ukrainian language, decreased 54 times – from 13 589 to 249. The preschool education is absent completely. Only 6100 pupils are actually studying Crimean Tatar language – that’s only 3,1% of the 200 000 pupils.
The violation of freedom of religion or belief
Russia provides the systematic policy of oppression of all religious communities, not controlled by Moscow: Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslim communities.
There were 2083 religious organizations in Crimea before the occupation in 2014. Only about 700 of them survived persecution and re-registration in accordance with Russian law.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the most persecuted religious organization in Crimea. Its oppression is an element of the policy of eradication of Ukrainian identity in temporarily occupied territories and a component of the policy of displacement of those who disagree with the occupation.
Even before the occupation the parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were a religious minority on the peninsula: the number of Kyiv patriarchy communities was already 14 times smaller than the number of Moscow Patriarchate communities. However even the relatively small religious community of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which actually numbers about 5 000 believers, 4 priests and only 9 parishes (from 46 that acted before the occupation), is under constant pressure and persecution. In 2020 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church community was evicted from its principal cathedral in Simferopol for a debt of 2,95 UAH (0,09 euro). In Yevpatoria the occupation authorities ordered the demolition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church temple.
Russia illegally extended its legislation to the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol and prohibited the activity of the religious organization «Jehovah’s Witnesses», which is determined as extremist in Russia (art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation). Today seven Ukrainian citizens are in prison in this case. Russian authorities charge them with ungrounded accusations under article of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation «Organization of the activities of an extremist organization» (art. 282.2). Muslims and Muslim communities, who are not connected with so-called «Spiritual Muslim Administration of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol» (сontrolled by Russian occupation authorities), are systematically persecuted.
The violation of the freedom of expression
More than 300 violations of journalists´ rights have been recorded by human rights activists from the beginning of the occupation. The large-scale process of rollback of the freedom of expression on the peninsula is carried out with the help of: legislation of Russian Federation on counteraction of extremist activity; criminal prosecution for calls for separatism; administrative prosecution of journalists; arbitrary detentions; physical attacks; threats; liquidation of independent media; blocking of alternative sources of information. Only 232 of 3000 media registered before the occupation sources were able to overpass the re-registration procedure. At the same time all 12 independent Crimean Tatar media outlets were forced to leave the peninsula due to the persecution.
On 10 December 2020, the «Supreme Court of Crimea» sentenced in absentia the owner of TV channel ATR Lenur Islamov to 19 years in a high-security prison; he was found «guilty» in «sabotage organization, the creation of illegal armed groups and calls to violate the integrity of Russia».
On 20 April 2021, Russian occupation authorities fined the editor-in-chief of the «Qirim» newspaper Bekir Mamutov for publishing a report of UN Secretary General where the Crimean Tatar Majlis was mentioned.
After displacing the independent media from occupied peninsula, Russia holds in prison 8 civilian journalists and one more under house arrest.
On 10 March 2021, the «Radio Svoboda» associated journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko was detained under bogus charges. He was tortured and denied access to independent lawyers for a month.
Virtually every political prisoner undergoes a month-long forced psychiatric examination. In Russia the victims of «punitive psychiatry» are not only political prisoners, but also Russian oppositionists, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens.
On 14 October 2020, the occupation authorities ordered a compulsory in-patient psychiatric examination for Oleksandr Sizikov, who has a visual disability (complete blindness) and is persecuted by Russian occupation administration for political reasons. Having received the expert opinion on his sanity, the «court» returned O.Sizikov under house arrest until 26 March 2021.
Ban of the Mejlis
Ban of the Mejlis and systematic oppressions of the Crimean Tatars structures, religious and cultural organisations as well as media have ruined the entire system of national institutions of the Crimean Tatars in the occupied Crimea.
These actions of Russia constitute a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and human rights, a manifestation of racial discrimination. They are an element of the large-scale intimidation and harassment campaign against those who did not agree with the occupation of the Autonomous Republic Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
The above-mentioned steps of the occupation authorities have become an element of the discreditation campaign against the Crimean Tatars aimed to describe them as potentially dangerous social group inclined to extremist actions, while the Crimean Tatar representative institutions as criminal communities that try to destabilize the situation in the peninsula. It was made to ruin the system of Crimean Tatar national institutions and to outlaw their national leaders as well as 2,500 members of local mejlises.
Ban of the Mejlis in April 2016 has “legitimised” the oppressions of civil, political and cultural rights of the Crimean Tatars.
The occupation authorities regularly fabricate political motivated criminal cases to display the Mejlis as allegedly extremist organization. The oppressions of representatives of national institutions of the Crimean Tatars are based on fabricated charges such as harbouring of extremists, acts of sabotage, extortion, possession of drugs and weapons etc. During the occupation, more than 100 persons have been persecuted for taking part in the events dedicated to the Crimean Tatar Flag Day or to the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars on 18 May. The freedom of speech and assembly of the members of the Mejlis that is foreseen by international instruments for ensuring the human rights is widely violated.
Ban of the Mejlis activities combined with mass persecutions of political leaders, activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, as well as other representatives of the Crimean Tatar people is an open manifestation of discrimination.
Ukraine initiated in the International Court of Justice the case against the Russian Federation in 2017 and asked the ICJ to adopt respective provisional measures. 19 April 2017 the ICJ has adopted the order that required Russia, among other things, to “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to preserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis». Russia ignores this order for more than 4 years.
Militarisation of the peninsula
After Crimea was occupied by Russia, the process of the creeping militarisation of the peninsula and the entire region of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov has started.
This issue concerns not only Ukraine but also the entire international community. This is evidenced by the adoption of the UN GA resolutions on the militarisation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as parts of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
Comparing to the pre-occupation period, Russia has more than tripled the number of its military personnel in the peninsula from 12,500 to 40,000.
Russia has also substantially reinforced and modernized the ground, air and naval components of its Armed Forces in Crimea. The group of forces deployed in Crimea is equipped with approximately 900 combat armored vehicles, more than 195 tanks, more than 283 artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, 50 helicopters and 100 aircrafts of different types.
It is of particular concern that Russia prepares military infrastructure of the peninsula for deployment of nuclear weapons, in particular by refurbishing and modernizing former Soviet storage facilities. Potential carriers of nuclear weapon (ships, missiles systems and aircrafts) have been already deployed in the peninsula.
The Russian Federation continues also its militarization of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait by building new military infrastructure and increasing the number of its battleships there.
Illegal construction of the Kerch Bridge has increased the level of threats in the region, since the bridge gives Russia:
Under the pretext of the need to protect the Kerch Bridge the Russian Federation has already committed an act of the armed aggression against Ukraine when in November 2018 it shelled three Ukrainian ships and illegally captured them with the crew members. Moreover, in July 2021 the President of the Russian Federation has sign the decree allowed the National Guard of the Russian Federation (so-called «Rosgvardiya») to block parts of the Black Sea and the Sera of Azov.
Such activities of Russia have far-reaching consequences for the security of Ukraine and the entire world. Despite the permanent pressure of international community, the Russian Federation continues to transform Crimea into its military base with full-scale ground, air and naval components. Military presence in Crimea allows Russia to:
3.2. Violation of international humanitarian law
Changing the demographics of the occupied Crimea
From the first days of the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Russia has been pursuing a systematic and large-scale policy aimed at changing the demographic composition of the population of the occupied territory. On the one hand, through systematic political repression against opponents of the occupation, primarily ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, Russia is forcing out from the occupied territories anyone who could potentially resist. About 48,000 people left the occupied Crimea.
On the other hand, Russia is actively colonizing the peninsula. During the occupation, the Russian Federation moved from its territory to the occupied Crimea according to various estimates, including Russian, more than 500 thousand of its own citizens.
Forced issuing of passports
After the attempt to annex Crimea, the Russian occupation administration forcibly issued Russian passports to the population of the peninsula. In case of refusal of citizens to obtain Russian passports, their rights to medical protection, social and pension assistance, work, etc. were artificially limited. Ukrainian citizens were forced to obtain Russian passports in order to remain owners of their own homes, property, and businesses on the occupied peninsula.
The signing of the decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin to deprive Ukrainian citizens of the opportunity to own land in the temporarily occupied Crimea is another step towards imposing Russian citizenship.
Russian citizenship was imposed on some Crimeans even without their formal consent. In this regard, Ukrainian consuls did not have access to Oleg Sentsov and Alexander Kolchenko for a long time, as Russia forcibly issued them Russian passports after their imprisonment.
Illegal expropriation of property of Ukraine and its citizens in Crimea
After the illegal annexation of the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the Government of the Russian Federation introduced large-scale expropriation and nationalization of state property, which was administered by state authorities and local governments. In most cases, the illegal nationalization of state property of Ukraine in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was carried out by adopting resolutions of the so-called “State Council of the Republic of Crimea” and orders of the “Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea”. In particular, in the period from March 17 to September 3, 2014, “State Council of the Republic of Crimea” adopted 15 resolutions according to which the property of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine , Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, property of many state enterprises such as "Administration of Seaports of Ukraine", PJSC "National Joint Stock Company" Nadra Ukraine ", the property of state services and inspections of Ukraine, property of enterprises, institutions and organizations of the agro-industrial complex, etc.
In addition, during 2014, the property of the largest enterprises and financial institutions operating on the peninsula was also nationalized. Thus, as a result of the adoption of 28 resolutions of the "Parliament of the Republic of Crimea" were nationalized, in particular, PJSC "Joint Stock Company" Krymavtotrans ", Crimean branches of PJSC" Ukrtelecom ", PJSC" Kyivstar ", PJSC" East Crimean Energy Company ", PJSC" Krymenergo " , PJSC “Kerchgaz”, private enterprise “Ukrgazprom”, PJSC “CB Privatbank”, etc.
The nationalization was carried out without providing the owners with any guarantees, including compensation, and was in fact an expropriation of private property. None of the decisions on nationalization were justified by military necessity.
For example, in December 2020, the National Production and Agrarian Association "Massandra", which is state owned in Ukraine, was illegally acquired by a subsidiary of the bank "Russia" "Southern Project" for 5.327 billion rubles ($ 73 million). One of the bank's founders and the largest shareholder is a friend and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yuri Kovalchuk.
The expropriation also affected the private property of individuals and legal entities. During 2014-2017, at least 3,800 land plots were confiscated in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol due to the fact that the occupation authorities reconsidered the decisions of the state authorities of Ukraine to grant them ownership, including under the pretext of building infrastructure facilities on them by the occupying power. An example of such policy was the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated 20.03.2020 № 201, which included almost the entire territory of the occupied peninsula in the "list of border areas where foreign citizens, stateless persons and foreign legal entities cannot own the land, approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of January 9, 2011 № 26 ".
Conscription to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
The occupying authority began to introduce the practice of conscription of the population of the Crimean peninsula to the ranks of the Russia Federation Armed Forces in the spring of 2015. Contrary to the norms of international humanitarian law, the occupying authorities conscripted more than 30,000 Ukrainian citizens - residents of Crimea for service in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and also extended to the Crimean Peninsula its legislation establishing criminal liability for evading conscription.
To the end of May 2021, human rights activists recorded 218 criminal cases for evasion of service in the RF Armed Forces, transferred to the "courts" of Crimea. Sentences have already been passed for 199 of them, another 19 are under consideration.
Militarization of education and propaganda of war among minors
The comprehensive militarization of education and the propaganda of war among minors is of particular concern. This process involves 200,000 children, which is almost equal to the total number of school-age children on the peninsula. In April 2020, the Russian occupation administration approved a new five-year program aimed, among other, to prepare children for service in the Russian Armed Forces and promoting such service, amounting to more than $ 23 million.
The unique natural reserve fund of the peninsula is being brutally and methodically destroyed by the occupying state for over the last seven years.
Aggressive militarization of the peninsula, its transformation into a solid military base stuffed with all possible types of weapons, including nuclear and prohibited by international conventions – chemical weapons, turns into constant ecological threat not only for the peninsula, but also for the entire Black Sea Basin. Exploitation of conservation areas for military exercises with combat firing is a common phenomenon under temporary occupation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation.
Ecologists register irreparable damage caused to the offshore of the Azov and Black Seas as a result of the rapid construction of the bridge over the Kerch Strait and the federal highway "Tavrida". The consequences are shoaling of the water area in the locations of load-bearing structures.
Also, illegal extraction of resources gradually leads to irreversible damage to the ecosystem, especially to endangered flora and fauna.
Additionally, the Russian occupation administration is extracting toxic sand for the construction of the Tavrida highway near the city of Kerch in the Upper -Churbash and Lower-Churbash tailings ponds.
Under the pretext of reviewing the status of reserves, their areas are reduced, and active construction instantly begins in the respective territories.
40 out of 48 valuable objects of national significance of the Ukrainian natural-reserve fund at the Crimean peninsula were downgraded to regional significance. Thus, it makes them extremely vulnerable to becoming a part of industrial and recreational projects.
The total area of reserves that have been damaged is 153 ha, and more than 110,000 ha of forests have been affected detrimentally by the occupation authorities in Crimea.
The Russian occupation administration overuse water resources for the construction of military infrastructure on the peninsula, which caused depletion and mineralization of water. As a result, the civilian population is suffering from a lack of fresh water.
3.4 Historical Heritage
Russian occupation administration carries out illegal activity in relation to material cultural heritage in the temporarily occupied Crimea. The Russian Federation transfers cultural values from the peninsula to the mainland Russia and excavate historical places all around Crimea. Additionally, occupying authority carries out underwater archaeological excavations near the city of Sudak and the Kerch Strait.
Museum objects, including the Khan's Palace in Bakhchisaray, are being destroyed. In order to achieve instruments to protect abovementioned objects, Ukraine has acceded to the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
One of the main aspects of this document, which the Russian Federation violates constantly, is an Article 9 that addresses the protection of cultural values on the occupied territories. According to this article, an occupying power, which has a full or partly control of another party`s territory, has no right to a. any illicit export, other removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property; b. any archaeological excavation, save where this is strictly required to safeguard, record or preserve cultural property; c. any alteration to, or change of use of, cultural property which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence.
4. The Crimea Platform
The Crimea Platform – is a new international consultation and coordination mechanism initiated by the President of Ukraine with an aim to increase the effectiveness of international response to the ongoing occupation of Crimea and mounting security threats. At the same time, this new format will focus on the amplification of the international pressure on Kremlin, the prevention of further violations of human rights and the protection of victims of the occupying regime. All these aspects have one common goal – end the occupation of Crimea by Russia and its return to Ukraine.
The Crimea Platform aims to collect under its auspices thematic events and initiatives on the Crimean issue in the framework of international organizations, other international governmental and non-governmental forums.
It is expected that the activities of the Platform will be carried out at all levels: from heads of state and government and foreign ministers - to parliaments and experts.
The main areas of Platform`s work are:
• policy of non-recognition of the attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol;
• security and freedom of navigation;
• violations of human rights and international humanitarian law;
• ecological and economic threats.
Inter-factional association “Crimean Platform”, which was established in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in December 2020, will play an important role at the parliamentary track. It will take measures at the domestic level (updating the legislation of Ukraine on sanctions, cancelling the free economic zone of Crimea, approval of legislation on indigenous people and the status of political prisoners), as well as work in parliamentary assemblies of international organizations.
The officially launch of the Crimea Platform will take place during the inaugural Summit, which is scheduled for 23 August 2021 in Kyiv. More than 100 leaders of foreign states and international organizations are invited to participate in the Summit. The Summit is expected to approve the Joint Declaration.
The core activity at the security track will be the annual Security Forum for the Black Sea and Mediterranean.
The non-governmental sector creates an expert network of the Crimea Platform with an aim to prepare analytical reports, recommendations, hold public events in Ukraine and abroad to inform the international community about the situation in and around the temporarily occupied Crimea.
The expert network will be funded through a separate fund, which will be sponsored with donor contributions. An Expert Network Forum is planned to be held on the eve of the Crimea Platform Summit.
In the seven years since the beginning of the Russian occupation of Crimea, Ukraine has made significant progress in consolidating the international policy of non-recognition of attempted annexation of the peninsula.
International organizations whose competence includes issues of global and regional security, including the UN, the EU, NATO, the Council of Europe, and UNESCO have adopted basic political decisions to support Ukraine's territorial integrity, condemn the occupation of Crimea, and state the non-recognition of its attempted annexation.
An international coalition of states has been formed within the UN to actively support Ukraine on the Crimea issue, as evidenced by the annual resolutions of the UN General Assembly condemning violations of fundamental human rights in the occupied Crimea and the militarization of the peninsula.
Key international partners of Ukraine, including the EU, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan have adopted Crimean packages of personal and sectoral sanctions against Russia and members of the illegal Crimean occupation administration, which exerts significant political and economic pressure on the occupying power and complicates the occupation regime on the peninsula.
Active work has begun within international courts, including the United Nations International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
We see significant potential in the formation of an international consultative and coordination format on Crimea - the Crimea Platform and in the future international negotiation format on the de-occupation of the peninsula. The Crimea Platform is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the international policy of non-recognition of the attempted annexation of Crimea; improving international sanctions policy; consolidation of international efforts to combat human rights violations by the occupation administration and to combat other negative consequences of the occupation (militarization of Crimea and adjacent waters, environmental threats, impact on the economies of the region, etc.).
On 27 March 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A / RES / 68/262 "Territorial Integrity of Ukraine", which reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, emphasizing the illegitimacy of the so-called "all-Crimean referendum", which was organized on 16 March 2014 by the Russian occupation authorities. Moreover, in paragraph 6 of this document, the Assembly called on States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the above-mentioned referendum and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status. Thus, the UN General Assembly introduced a "policy of non-recognition" in relation to the Russian-occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
The call not to recognize the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, condemning Russia's failure to fulfill its international obligations as an occupying power, including systemic violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms and militarization of the peninsula, was consistently reaffirmed in the following UN GA resolutions: “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”(A/RES/71/205 of 19.12.2016, A/RES/72/190 of 19.12.2017, A/RES/73/263 of 22.12.2018, A/RES/74/168 of 18.12.2019, A/RES/75/192 of 16.12.2020; “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (A/RES/73/194 of 17.12.2018, A/RES/74/17 dated 09.12.2019, A/RES/75/29 dated 9.12.2020.
In March 2014, the European Union adopted a policy of non-recognition of the attempted annexation of Crimea and imposed sanctions regimes against the Russian Federation. This position of the EU was reiterated in multiple EU documents, in particular in the European Council Conclusions of 21 March 2014, 20 March 2015 and 14 December 2018.
The EU high-level contacts with Russia were limited: the EU-Russia summits were cancelled, EIB and EBRD suspended suspend the financing of new bilateral and regional operations with the Russian Federation, in particular Creative Europe, Horizon-2020 and Erasmus+ programs. All projects led by the European Commission and the EU Member States in Crimea were also suspended.
The European Commission and the EU Member States have suspended all projects in Crimea, with the exception of small-scale projects and exchanges aimed at improving people-to people contacts.
Consulates and embassies of the EU Member States in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation follow the EU guidelines regarding applications for Schengen visas by residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. According to which residents of Crimea and Sevastopol must obtain visas at the consulates of the Schengen countries located in Ukraine.
Finally, the policy of non-recognition also applies to agreements between the EU and the Russian Federation. The EU has officially informed Russia that bilateral agreements concluded with the Russian Federation are valid only on the territory of Russia, which is recognized by the international community.
Since 2014 EU has repeatedly reaffirmed its support for Ukraine's territorial integrity in its decisions and declarations, condemned Russia's aggression, and reaffirmed its determination to pursue a policy of non-recognition of the attempted annexation of Crimea until de-occupation of the peninsula. The EU underlined that holding elections and conscription of the Crimean residents into Russian Armed Forced are illegal. It furthermore called on Russia to stop human rights violations in temporary occupied Crimea, condemned the ongoing militarization of Crimea and adjacent waters, impediments to freedom of navigation, illegal construction of Kerch bridge, change of demographic structure of the peninsula etc.
The European Parliament has taken an active position in support of Ukraine in the context of Russian aggression. Since March 2014, the European Parliament adopted 8 resolutions: on Russia's invasion of Ukraine (2014/2627 (RSP) of 13 March 2014; on Russia's pressure on the Eastern Partnership countries and, in particular, the destabilization of eastern Ukraine by 2014/2699 (RSP) of 17 April 2014); regarding the situation in Ukraine 2014/2717 (RSP) of July 17, 2014; 2014/2841 (RSP) of September 18, 2014; 2014/2965 (RSP) of January 15, 2015); on the human rights situation in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars (2016/2556 (RSP) of 4 February 2016; 2016/2692 (RSP) of 12 May 2016); concerning Russia, including the situation with environmental activists and Ukrainian political prisoners of July 18, 2019.
Given the principle of consensus of the OSCE, despite the constant discussions of the situation in Crimea and Donbass at the Permanent Council’s meetings OSCE did not adopt any political decisions in this regard. However, the role of OSCE in the process of resolution of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donbass is quite significant, in particular, due to OSCE participation in the work of the Trilateral Contact Group as well as activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), launched on 21 March 2014.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly expressed its support for Ukraine, in particular in following resolutions:
Since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014, NATO has consistently supported territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country, condemned Russia's aggression and the occupation of part of Ukraine’s territory. At the meeting of NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) at the level of Defence Ministers on 27 February 2014 and the extraordinary NUC meeting on 2 March 2 2014, the NATO Allies reaffirmed their commitment to the provisions of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine of 1997, expressed unanimous support for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty, condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, which constitute a violation of the international law. Since then, the Alliance's support for Ukraine's territorial integrity has been reaffirmed on numerous occasions.
With an aim to increase security in the Black Sea region on 4 April 2019 NATO Foreign Ministers endorsed a package of measures aimed to enhance situational awareness and support NATO partners in the Black Sea, in particular, Ukraine, which includes:
On 12 June 2020, by the decision of NATO Ukraine was recognized as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly also provides consistent support for Ukraine, condemned Russia's aggression against Ukraine, terminated the mandate of the Russian delegation's associated participation in NATO Parliamentary Assembly and has not supported the institutional dialogue with Russia since 2014. During the autumn session of NATO Parliamentary Assembly in October 2019, the Assembly emphasized on its support of Ukraine as a strategic partner. The decision of NATO Parliamentary Assembly to hold its annual Spring Session in Kyiv in May 2020 for the first time is a demonstration of its effective support of Ukraine.
Council of Europe
In 2014 and 2017, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted 11 decisions “Situation in Ukraine”, on 3 May 2018 - “Situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”, and on 11 May 2021 - decision “Situation with human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city Sevastopol (Ukraine) ». They declared full support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, condemned Russia's violation of fundamental norms of international law, norms of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the temporarily occupied territories.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has repeatedly addressed the issues of Crimea and Donbas. Among its key documents are the following resolutions:
• “Recent developments in Ukraine: threats to the functioning of democratic institutions” 1988 (2014) of 9 April 2014
• “Reconsideration on substantive grounds of the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation” 1990 (2014) of 10 April 2014. The Russian delegation was deprived of: the right to vote in the Assembly, the right to be represented in PACE governing bodies, the right to participate in PACE election observation missions. The grounds for challenging the credentials of the Russian delegation were the annexation of Crimea, further threats of force, and interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine.
• "Consideration of the annulment of the previously ratified credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation (follow-up to paragraph 16 of Resolution 2034 (2015))" 2063 (2015) of 24 June 2015. The PACE recognized the presence of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine, noted Russia's crucial role in supporting illegal military formations, including with armaments.
• Resolution 2067 (2015) and Recommendation 2076 (2015) “Missing persons during the conflict in Ukraine” of 25 June 2015, which state the fact of Russian aggression against Ukraine as a precondition for the problem of missing persons.
• “Political consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine” 2132 (2016) of 12 October 2016. The Assembly condemns the illegal elections to the Duma of the Russian Federation held on September 18 in the occupied Crimea and considers their results invalid.
• “Legal remedies for human rights violations on the Ukrainian territories outside the control of the Ukrainian authorities” 2133 (2016) of 12 October 2016. This Resolution is the first international instrument to recognize the Russian Federation as a party to the conflict and to use the term “effective control".
• “Ukrainian citizens held by the Russian Federation as political prisoners” 2231 (2018) of 28 June 2018.
• "The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security" 2259 (2019) of 24 January 2019. The main requirements of the Resolution to the Russian Federation: immediate release of captured Ukrainian sailors; use international legal and diplomatic opportunities to resolve and de-escalate the conflict; to ensure freedom of passage through the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
• “Human rights violations committed against Crimean Tatars in Crimea” 2387 (2021) of 23 June 2021.
Since the beginning of the occupation of the peninsula, the UNESCO Executive Board has adopted twelve decisions "Monitoring the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine)", which allowed to ensure the issue of the Russian-occupied Crimea in the list of priority issues on the agenda of this governing body for more than six years. It also allowed for establishment of the comprehensive UNESCO monitoring mechanism on the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol within the areas of responsibility of this Organization.
At the initiative of the Ukrainian side, the Director-General of UNESCO regularly holds information meetings on human rights issues in the occupied Crimea with the participation of a wide range of permanent representatives of UNESCO member states, representatives of international and non-governmental partner organizations. The event provides detailed information on human rights violations on the peninsula in the areas of national minority rights, including education and cultural needs, preservation of cultural heritage, the rights of journalists, religious communities, etc.