Letter from Oleg Sentsov posted by Gennadii Afanasiev #LetMyPeopleGo

By Oleg Sentsov, letter posted by former political prisoner Gennadii Afanasiev
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Photo source: EspressoTV

Photo source: EspressoTV

Gennadii writes as an intro:
A letter from Oleg Sentsov. From our invincible prisoner !!!

“To everyone who finds this interesting!

For the third year now, I am sitting in a Russian prison. For the third year now, a war is being waged against my country. The enemy is fighting in a vile, secret, underhanded way, pretending that they have nothing to do with it. No one believes them any longer, but this does not stop them. War is never pretty, but the truth is nonetheless on our side – we did not attack anyone, we are defending ourselves. But beyond this main enemy, who is on the outside and known to everyone, there are also others. They are smaller, but they are internal, right under the skin, almost ones of our own. But they are on our side; they are only [working] for themselves. Some of them are left over from the old times, some just want to live in the old way, but with a new face. It won’t work. The big [enemy] and the smaller ones have different goals, but our path is different from all of them. And I’m not going to say  ‘let’s see who wins.’ I already know who will win. The struggle for freedom and progress is unstoppable.

Many of us are in captivity in Russia, and even more in Donbas. Some have already been released, others are waiting and hoping. Each has his own history and conditions of detention. Some use prisoners to earn PR points, others do real work. Becoming a more famous prisoner to get exchanged more swiftly than others – this is not the path I would like to walk. I do not want to steal the spotlight for myself. I want to remain just a name on the general list. It is unlikely that I will be the last to get offered freedom, but that would be a good choice.

Here, in captivity, we are restricted. Not in our freedom – that is something that cannot be taken away – but in being able to do very little for our country. More precisely, there is only one thing that we can do – to hold on. Don’t pull us out at any cost – that will not bring victory sooner. Instead, use us as a weapon against the enemy. Know that we are not your weak spot. If we are destined to become the nails in the tyrant’s coffin, then I would like to be that nail. Just know that this nail does not bend.

Sentsov Oleg Hennadevych”

Gennadii ends with:
Write letters to our indomitable hero! Declare your solidarity with him! 
677,004, Ruspublyka Sakha (Yakutia), Yakutsk g, st. Ochychenko, d. 25 PKU IR-1

Source: Gennadii Afanasiev FB

Further reading, for background on Afansiev and Sentsov:
Halya Coynash, “Oleg Sentsov: I would like to be a nail in the tyrant’s coffin. This nail will not bend”

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Petr&Mazepa: Just try it!

By Serg Marco
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Currently, after the Crimean provocation and the rather idiotic story about saboteurs with an orange tent, the overall situation has lit up in scarlet colors…

Currently, after the Crimean provocation and the rather idiotic story about saboteurs with an orange tent, the overall situation has lit up in scarlet colours. Khui Lo is making hardine statements, the Russian Federation FSB plays out a pantomime, and a “stoned Sherlock Holmes” is voicing new versions of what happened while simultaneously telling stories about immeasurable numbers of captured Ukrainian saboteurs, all of whom were in “Right Sector,” in the SBU, and on Maidan, to boot.

But the escalation can already be seen with the naked eye.

When the enemy starts amassing forces and resources, it kind of raises some suspicions. Whether or not they use these forces is the secondary question, while the primary one is: what will our reaction be? Because when a street thug is reaching for a knuckle duster, you yourself can reach either for a knife or for your wallet. And the evolution of the conflict will depend on the choice you make. Of course, in real life you can also run away from the bully, but in our situation, we share a border with the bully, and are therefore chained to him by a modest length of no-man’s land. Plus, in addition to being next to us all the time, the bully is also wasted and has an enormously over-inflated ego. In general, there is nothing pleasant about the situation. But when the bully is riding the high from his latest shot of windscreen washer and starts picking on you, you have to retaliate somehow.

“Experts” and “analysts” are now vying with each other to express different points of view, often contradicting each other. Like a sort of reverse Nostradamus. Some argue that “Putin will attack,” others say that he won’t dare, yet others demand we burn the Lipetsk factory [Poroshenko’s factory in Russia–Ed.]. So overall, it’s business as usual in our madhouse, we are nothing if not predictable.


There are some differences.

When in 2014 Russian forces started amassing on our border, I remember the general feeling of helplessness. Because everyone knew – we won’t hold. No way. Not under any set of permutations. Whether in defence, or if we dug in, or if we try to take control of the border, or if we build fortifications along the Dniepr – holding the area would be very unlikely. Because the forces were simply too unequal. At the beginning of the conflict there were reports of a maximum of 5,000 combat-ready troops, but do you think that in the 4 months between the start of the conflict and the real Russian invasion, there were many more really good, experienced soldiers? Maybe 10-12 thousand at most. Others, we have to admit, were raw, inexperienced, and had never seen combat before. In general, the same could have been said of their commanders. A mass of people with whom it was very difficult to wage war effectively. Yes, it was enough to grind down separatists, but to engage in combat with a regular army whose combat-ready ground units alone outnumbered your hastily assembled army several to one? No, it was not enough. Even without considering Iskanders and the Russian air force. It was simply not enough, no matter how you look at it.

But two years have passed since then. Hundreds of thousands have been through the war. They have smelled gunpowder, they have understood the army (even though they often use curse words to describe this understanding). The generals gained experience, new brigades were formed and old ones, brought up to full strength. Commanders have become real battlefield commanders. Lots of young blood went into the VDV Command, the Special Operations Centre, the infantry.

When I sit around drinking coffee with my friends (three lieutenant-colonels), I can’t help but notice that I had hardly expected I’d be sitting and chatting about life with lieutenant-colonels serving in the capacity of colonels, under 35 years of age. To me, a lieutenant-colonel was always some old guy pushing 50, with a big belly and other trappings of authority. And yet here they are, my peers, we’re sitting around, telling jokes, laughing.

And yes, there is a lot more work still ahead. But, looking back at two years ago and into today (just like Klitchko), we realise that a lot of work has been done by the Ukrainian people, by volunteers, by the command. And we can quarrel and argue, criticize and get hysterical, but we have remained a cohesive nation, with a clear goal that everyone understands. And we are walking towards that goal together.

And the result of these two years can be seen today. The new threat didn’t crush the morale of the people and the command like in 2014. Battalions have immediately enveloped themselves with combined units, turning into battalion tactical groups. Specialised trucks have appeared on the roads, carrying large-diameter pipes. The tank mechanics have run to check on their armour, to see whether there was some small thing they forgot to fix. With angry, measured strides, the infantry is now moving out of the barracks and towards the front, to strengthen specific areas. The infantry at the strongpoints has started estimating where the enemy attack would come from in their sector and what they are going to do about all of this. In the cities, volunteer organisations, which have been developing territorial defence among the locals, have started calling up everyone who are nearby and keeping them in close contact. And my inbox is getting progressively full of messages like, “All right, buddy, we are off now, going to go for a little trip. I won’t be in touch for about a week, I’ll buzz you when I get back.”

The country has shed its “younger brother” complex. It’s not afraid. The country is carefully watching the bully’s hands and is not even thinking of reaching for its wallet. It has already reached into a pocket for the knife, and baring its teeth and growling through its gritted teeth: “Just try it!”

And we are not calling for help from the USA, or from Poland, or from Batman and Superman. We have our people, our weapons and our equipment; we have our country. To hell with all of these discussions about the Budapest Memorandum and entreaties about the next Minsk Agreement. Just try it!

When some other bloggers and I came to the National General Staff for the first time, we were shocked by the fact that [Viktor] Muzhenko thinks in completely different terms. We were interested in… well, what can a civilian ask? How many tanks did we have, how many do we have now, how many men are in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, when will we win the war… Basically, nothing original. But it was a surprise for us to see the situation through Muzhenko’s eyes. He does not perceive the “DNR” and “LNR” as a threat at all. By how little he focuses on them, it is obvious that these entities exist solely because Russia is covering them with regular troops. Muzhenko’s main enemy is the Russian Federation. And we sat there, dumbfounded by the flow of information: which army corps is positioned where in Russia, what logistics they have, what our reaction time is, exactly why this number of brigades were deployed and why this many brigade training exercises were carried out to understand whether we can cover several areas while manoeuvring… The General Staff have done their homework in considering this option. And they have worked on this for a long time.

I remember that when we came back from that meeting, dumbfounded by the flow of information and by the sheer seriousness of the game that our command is playing, many laughed when they heard our stories, and said: “Russia is launching a full-scale assault? Don’t be ridiculous.”

But we know that our command was preparing for the war option, without regard to their citizens’ scepticism and assumptions.

That means that all railway lines and deliveries of fuel and ammunition to the east from Russia are now being monitored more and more closely. All the “moles” are now tasked with new missions. Both in Crimea and in the east, the number of Russian Federation units is being analysed: their designation and composition, staff structure and battle capacities, and dozens of other parameters. Because for these past two years, we have not been preparing to wage war against the “DNR.” We were preparing, in the event of the escalation of the conflict, to stop Russia itself.

I am not going to play Nostradamus and try to predict the future. Maybe the current hullabaloo is simply a test, to see whether or not we’ll piss our pants from this threat. Maybe it’s an attempt to pull part of our forces away to the south and to carry out another attempt to break through in the east. Or maybe this really is an escalation that will end in a full-scale war. I don’t know. I don’t have the information. After all, as I write this text, Russian Iskanders might be taking aim at the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s Parliament] buildings in Hrushevsky Street, and the General Staff [building] on Povitroflotskyi Ave, in an attempt to decapitate our command, while attack aircraft with tricolors on their wings are being hastily refuelled on the air fields… Therefore, we won’t go around guessing.

But I can say one thing for certain: the time to “break open the food reserves” is coming. We already can see that the loudest “patriotic radicals” have all stuck their tongues up their asses: no loud statements, no patriotic slogans. But soon, others will start to speak. Those who will offer to make peace with Russia, to smile at her and ask for forgiveness, and so on, while the Russian Federation flexes its biceps. Because war is not always on the battlefield. It is also fought here, in the rear, to win the minds of the people. So we will look out for those who start to play into Russia’s hands.

But for now, Ukraine is carefully watching the Russian Federation, ready to whip out a weapon at the bully’s first sudden movement. You want a full-scale war? Just try it!

Source: Petr&Mazepa

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Fascists, Friends of Russia

How does one explain the Kremlin’s cooperation with far-right radicals in Europe, including neo-Nazis?

By Yuri Federov
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Carnival in Düsseldorf. Caption: "The right-wing European parties." Photo: Shutterstock

Carnival in Düsseldorf. Putin figure propping up with money a saluting arm that bears the words: “Right-wing European parties” with their names and country flags listed below that. Photo: Shutterstock

The Kremlin, as well as its propagandists and political analysts, love to label the Ukrainian government established after the events of 2013-2014 as “Fascist.” They aren’t discouraged by the fact that President Petro Poroshenko isn’t a charismatic dictator, that the political regime in Ukraine is far from being authoritarian (if anything, it resembles the aristocratic democracy of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth), and that right-wing parties and nationalist movements hardly managed to get 7 – 10% of votes between them.

This begs the question: are Kremlin denizens simply projecting onto Ukraine the features of Russia’s own political system? And how can one explain the Kremlin’s cooperation with far-right elements in Europe, including the neo-Nazis?

This is a relatively new phenomenon. Before 2014, Russian authorities relied on contacts with large corporations and key figures of the European political mainstream, viewing such links as their essential tools for exerting Russia’s influence in Europe. If the Kremlin considered any relations with radical elements, they were only viewed as secondary. [VoU Ed: please note texts by Anton Shekhovtsov on indoctrination camps dating back to 2005 and 2006]. Maybe the one exception worth mentioning was the French National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, had met with the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and other Russian leaders back in August of 2013. However, Russia’s intrusion in the Ukrainian situation has changed the situation. Being too close to Vladimir Putin and his entourage became unseemly for respectable people concerned about their reputation.

Of course, Putin still has some friends amongst the European elite, ones who aren’t too politically squeamish. Albeit, they are few. For example, some members of the French and European Parliament from the Republican party, retired leaders like Gerhard Shröder and Silvio Berlusconi, and some of the heads of state of Central and Eastern Europe. Last October, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, also visited Moscow. Although it is possible that the intention behind his visit wasn’t as much to publicly support his “friend Vladimir,” but rather, to persuade him to “amicably” get out of Donbas, abandon his reckless support of Assad, and stop threatening Europeans with military invasion. If that was the case, Sarkozy’s mission was unsuccessful.

The rejection of Russian policies by most Western elites has now forced Moscow to seek allies among the European political marginals, such as the extreme left and radical right, including those of a neo-Nazi inclination. The latter, which are particularly delighted by the current Russian authorities, include parties and figures with more than scandalous reputations. For example, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Brevik called Putin “a fair and decisive leader, worthy of respect.” Gabor Vona, the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian radical nationalist party, delighted his Russian friends by his claims that “Europe’s role is that of a servant, following America’s orders. A secret war is underway, and Europe is losing it. The European Union is fully subordinated to the USA, as if it were just another state.”

Moscow, naturally, pretends to be unaware of any other statements made by their Hungarian allies, such as the declaration of one Judit Szima, a Jobbik candidate in the elections to the European Parliament, that “anti-Semitism is not just our right, but our duty… We must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Meanwhile, Krisztina Morvai, member of the European Parliament from the same party, proposed that “proud Hungarian Jews should play with their tiny circumcised penises, instead of vilifying me.” This wonderful lady is still in the European Parliament, and enjoys lecturing Federica Mogherini on the protection of the rights of Russians in Ukraine and the Baltic States.

“Cooperation with Putin brings tangible financial benefits”

Putin-lovers also include the German National Democratic Party which considers itself, not without good reason, to be the political and ideological heir of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party. “While the West is getting increasingly entangled in the web of Zionist sorcerers, Putin fearlessly leads Russia to greater strength, freedom and independence. The German people can only dream of such political heroes now,” – says the official site of the party’s Saxsony-Anhalt section. Also among Putin’s friends is the Bulgarian “Attack” [Ataka] party, whose goals are the recognition of Orthodox Christianity as Bulgaria’s official religion, Bulgaria’s exit from NATO, and the expulsion of the country’s Roma and Turkish population. In this same company is the Greek “Golden Dawn,” which glorifies the Third Reich and the regime of the right-wing dictator Ioannis Metaxas. Portraits of Putin are being carried around Rome by members of the [Italian] neo-Fascist “National Front” movement, whose founder Adriano Tilgher was given a prison sentence for attempting to re-found the Fascist party. This list can go on, with mentions of splinter groups and gangs united under neo-Nazi slogans adopted by ultra-nationalists, anti-Semites, homophobes, anti-immigration activists, eurosceptics, and other marginal groups who see today’s Russia as their ideal social order. Ideologically, these are largely the same groups that comprise the core supporters of Putin’s regime in Russia.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the shadow of Vladimir Putin. Moscow, Winter 2016

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the shadow of Vladimir Putin. Moscow, Winter 2016

However, the list of Putin’s European friends is not limited to this list of neo-Fascist marginal groups. Also on it are the French National Front, the Austrian Freedom Party, the German “Alternative For Germany,” the Hungarian Fidesz party led by the current Prime Minister Orban, and other parties with claims to respectability. Their leaders are hardly sympathetic to Putin and his regime, but they see him as a useful ally in realizing their geopolitical aspirations: namely, to weaken the global role of the USA and the European Union. This is the natural reaction of those groups and sectors in Europe – including among the elites – who struggle to adapt to European integration and progressive globalization in general, fail to compete with American corporations and, as a result, are inclined to balance between the two nuclear powers, the USA and Russia.

The "Alternative for Germany" holds a rally against German immigration policy. Autumn 2015

The “Alternative for Germany” holds a rally against Germany’s immigration policy. Autumn 2015

The ideological affinity with Putin’s Russia is supported by material interest, as cooperation with Putin sometimes brings tangible financial benefits. For instance, in 2014, with some assistance from the MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, the National Front received a loan of some 9 or 10 million euros from the recently closed First Czech Russian Bank, which is owned by Russian structures connected to Gennady Timchenko. Reports say that Schaffhauser received a 140 thousand dollar fee for mediating this transaction. The “Alternative for Germany” Party is suspected of receiving financial assistance from Russia. It is possible that these are only some isolated, accidentally-leaked cases. Neither Moscow nor its partners in the European far-right are inclined to inform the public about the sensitive aspects of their cooperation.

The Kremlin, in turn, uses European far-right elements to support its external policies by propaganda. To name one case, their representatives staffed a group of international observers called on to confirm the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum and “elections” in “separatist”-controlled areas of Donbas. The far-right leaders are constantly featured on Russia Today broadcasts and in other government-controlled Russian media, creating an illusion of European public support for Putin… and receiving generous rewards. But the Kremlin’s main objective is to weaken NATO and the European Union. To achieve this, Moscow is trying to transform the far-right into a significant political force, and it spares neither effort nor money in this pursuit.

Source: Svoboda.org

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Dmitry Tymchuk: Military update 07.28 #LetMyPeopleGo

information_resistance_logo_engDmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Member of Parliament (People’s Front)
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

(See end of post for acronym glossary)

Operational data from Information Resistance:

While remaining highly active with shelling and armed provocations, Russian-terrorist forces have accelerated the combat training of their units stationed in the rear. As of today, local terrorists and Russian mercenaries, led by “instructors” from the Russian Federation Armed Forces, have created a unified system of combat and skills training for units of the “1st” and “2nd” AC [Army Corps], involving a number of military exercise grounds and centers in occupied areas. The training undergone by these units also includes a rotating “initiation” in real combat conditions at the front line.

Near Avdiivka, occupiers deployed 122 mm cannon artillery, as well as 120 mm and 82 mm mortars. Fire from positions north and northwest of Yasynuvata and from the MineralneYakovlivka area targeted the ATO forces’ positions near the “industrial zone” and in the private residences sector (dachas) south of it. A pair of enemy BMP-2’s operated close to the Yasynuvata junction and the traffic police (GAI) station.

The occupiers also actively shelled the areas surrounding Avdiivka. The terrorists repeatedly used 120 mm mortars from the direction of the junction and northern outskirts of Spartak, firing at the ATO forces’ positions near the Putylivska mine air collector shaft (Butivka mine). An enemy mobile attack group with SPG-9M stand-mounted grenade launchers and ZU-23-2 anti aircraft systems “raked” the ATO forces’ positions near the Donetsk International Airport (DAP) and further west (Opytne and Vodyane). Close to Pisky, terrorists fired several times from 82 mm mortars and heavy machine guns. A similar scenario occurred in the ZaitseveMayorsk area, [with firing] both from the direction of Holmivskyi and from north of Terykonna station.

Consequences of July 25-26 shelling in Avdiivka, Sedova street. The house burned down completely after a direct hit. The residents have sheer coincidence to thank for their survival: they were spending the night at another address. Source

Militants near Staromykhailivka brought up a new mortar unit of five to six 120 mm mortars from Vesele. Ukrainian troop positions on the southwestern and western perimeter of Krasnohorivka came under fire from the northern part of Staromykhailivka. The enemy in this area also used 82 mm mortars.

In the coastal direction of operations, the situation remains tense. The enemy is proving particularly active in the Dokuchajevsk area, where militants are constantly trying to “push back” the ATO forces from this locality. South of the town and near the Tsentralnyy Karyer [Central Quarry] waste banks, there is constant shelling by militants from mortars of both calibers (individual mortar shell explosions were also recorded near the Mariupol-Donetsk highway close to Novotroitske). There is also enemy shelling in the vicinity of Berezove (mainly from small arms and stand-mounted grenade launchers). The enemy uses grenade launchers and mortars (82-120 mm) in the Talakivka, Hnutove, and Shyrokyne areas.

On the Svitlodarsk salient, the enemy is actively using AGS-17’s and 120 mm mortars. The ATO forces positions close to Rozsadky and south of Luhanske were frequently shelled, from enemy positions southeast of Nyzhnje Lozove and from the direction of Novohryhorivka.

Militants are particularly active in the Luhansk direction of operations, near Stanytsia Luhanska and Novozvanivka (mainly using small arms, VOG [anti-personnel] grenades, and AGS-17’s).

The enemy is actively reinforcing their units in the western sections of Horlivka, in the Petrovskyi district of Donetsk, south of the city, as well as on the coastal flank. During the past 24 hours, considerable vehicle traffic (including special-purpose vehicles) was observed along the southern section of the Donetsk Bypass, from [pistol club] Artemida in the direction of Oleksandrivka, as was the movement of up to 10 BBM armored fighting vehicles (mainly BTR-80’s and MT-LB’s). Near Horlivka, a mobile attack group (two BMP-1’s, an Ural truck with a ZU-23-2, and two Kamaz trucks with personnel and ammunition) drove past the knitwear factory northwards.

Consequences of July 25 shelling in Avdiivka, Turheneva street. Source

There has been a notable increase in the concentration of militant units in the Bezimenne area, as well as north of the town. In total, up to a militant motorized infantry company has been moved to the area. In the Dzerzhinsky district north of Sakhanka, positions for armored vehicles and transportation trucks are being equipped.

The leadership of the “DNR Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA)” has delivered a report on its work over the past six months. During the “DNR MIA” directorate meeting held in Donetsk, it was stated that during the first half of this year, the crime-solving rates were 80% for murders, 85% for crimes with grievous bodily harm, and about 60% for fraud. At the same time, the “confidential” section of the “DNR MIA” leadership’s final report noted an increase in the number of crimes in the occupied areas of Donetsk region, with a tendency for a further rise in criminality. Especially singled out were the widespread disregard of curfews by the local population and the general ineffectiveness of “law enforcement” agencies, primarily due to corruption among “DNR MIA” officials. According to the report, in June 2016 alone, about 600 cases of corruption were recorded in organisational units of the “DNR MIA.”

In the “DNR,” investigation continues in the case of Valentin Laktionov, the deputy head of the Donetsk city “administration,” arrested on July 19, 2016, on charges of fraud over “humanitarian aid” medicines arriving from Russia. According to the documentation, the medicines were supposed to be distributed free of charge to medical institutions in Donetsk, whereas in reality they were sold through the network of pharmacies. Attempts by Laktionov’s patrons in the “DNR” leadership to “hush up” the case have met with a tough response from Russian “supervisors” demanding severe punishment for this “official.” The Moscow representatives believe that looting of “humanitarian aid” sent from Russia to the “DNR” has become so prevalent that it requires a series of criminal show trials and court rulings against the local high-level “officials” involved in this type of fraud.

Source: Dmitry Tymchuk FB 


AC – Army Corps
ACV – armored combat vehicle
AGS-17 – automatic grenade launcher
ATO – Anti-Terrorist Operation
BMP – infantry fighting vehicle
BTG – battalion tactical group
BTR, APC – armored personnel carrier
BRDM – armored reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle
BRM – armored reconnaissance vehicle
DAP – Donetsk International Airport
DNR – “Donetsk People’s Republic”
DRG – sabotage and reconnaissance group
ELINT – Electronic Intelligence
GRU – Russian Defense Intelligence, the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation
KSM – command and staff vehicle
LNR – “Luhansk People’s Republic”
MGB – Ministry of State Security
MOD – Ministry of Defense
MT-LB – light multipurpose tracked vehicle
MLRS – multiple-launch rocket systems
OMSBR – Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade
SBU – Ukrainian Secret Service
SPG-9 – stand-mounted grenade launcher
TZM, TLV – transporter-loading vehicle
UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drones or other)
ZU-23-2 – anti-aircraft artillery system

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Anton Naumlyuk: “Ignoramuses, the fathers of stupidity”

The defendants in the “Hizb ut-Tahrir” case in Crimea – who are they: terrorists or the oppressed?

By Anton Naumlyuk, journalist and freelance correspondent for Radio Svoboda (all photos by Anton Naumlyuk)
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Dua - collective prayer of Muslims in Crimea for imprisoned Crimean Tatars. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Dua – collective prayer of Muslims in Crimea for imprisoned Crimean Tatars. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

The session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly [July 1-5], which recently ended in Tbilisi, adopted a resolution “On the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the violation of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people.” A large portion of Crimean Tatars are pursued by the authorities of the Russian-annexed peninsula for participating in the activities of the organization “Hizb ut-Tahrir.” Russia – is one of the few countries in the world where “Hizb ut-Tahrir” is recognized as a terrorist organization and banned. Who are they really, members of the “Islamic Liberation Party?” What do they seek and why are they persecuted? Special correspondent for Radio Svoboda [Radio Liberty] Anton Naumlyuk met with members of the movement and their relatives.

In Tbilisi, on the initiative of the Ukrainian delegation, the participants of the OSCE once again talked about fundamental human rights violations on the peninsula, referring to the reports of the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

“The growing repression of, violence against and discrimination of indigenous Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, including kidnapping, murder, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention or imprisonment; repressive measures on the part of the de facto authorities against the Mejlis Crimean Tatar people and its leaders,” – states the text of the resolution. In addition, it specifies the facts of “manifestations of violence and discrimination based on religious bias” – the capturing of churches and attacks on priests, especially Protestant and Orthodox Christians who belong under the jurisdiction of the Kyiv Patriarchate. “As well as raids and searches of mosques and madrasas of the Crimean Tatars, restrictions on the distribution of Muslim religious literature under the false pretext of the fight against extremism,” – the document’s authors point out. About the same wording is contained in the resolution adopted by the European Parliament at the beginning of the year in Crimea. Behind the general terms of the resolution, several dozen criminal cases against Crimean Muslims are hidden, including the vast majority of the Crimean Tatars, but there are also Russians and Ukrainians who profess Islam.

Bakhchysarai mosque. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Bakhchysarai mosque. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

The most significant case against Crimean Muslims – is the accusation of involvement in the Islamic organization ” Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami” (the ‘Islamic Liberation Party.’ – RS), banned by the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. There are 14 people on the peninsula now being prosecuted in this case, the trials of four of them are already underway in the North-Caucasian Military District Court in Rostov-on-Don, investigations into the rest are not yet completed. All of them were charged under Article 205.5 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code. Those who are charged with the creation of a cell organization face 15 to 20 years in prison, the rest of the prospective participants – up to 10 years. If detentions continue, and local lawyers do not doubt they will, then after the “Spring anti-terror amendments” enter into force, this period will increase to 20 years.

“The law is not retroactive, they will judge them according to the rules that were current at the time of their arrest and charges,” – expressed lawyer Emile Kurbedinov with confidence. He is defending multiple defendants in the “case” of “Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami,” as well as the journalist Mykola Semena who is accused of separatism, and who is now under house arrest.

Dua (a collective prayer) of Crimean Tatars in Yalta. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Dua (a collective prayer) of Crimean Tatars in Yalta. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Utopia “Hizb ut-Tahrir”

The Islamic Liberation Party” appeared in 1953. It was founded by Sharia judge Takiuddin an-Nabhani, and calls for a “pure Islam.” In most countries the organization operates entirely legally; it is recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia, and is pursued in a number of the republics of Central Asia, Turkey, and Pakistan. In the United States, it is recognized as an “organization that promotes the spread of the ideas of Islamic fundamentalism and radicalism,” but is not banned; in Germany it is prosecuted for anti-Semitic views. Germany’s decision was appealed in the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights], but to no avail: although the court did not find signs of terrorist activity in the “Hizb ut-Tahrir,” it acknowledged that its objectives are contrary to the values of the European Convention on Human Rights. These objectives are to spread the Islamic way of life and the organization of a Caliphate, thus rejecting any violent methods.

“Probably, this organization is indeed utopian”

“The organization…aims to eliminate non-Islamic governments and establish Islamic rule worldwide by recreating the “World Islamic Caliphate,” initially in regions with a predominantly Muslim population, including Russia and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries. The main form of activity: militant Islamic propaganda combined with intolerance of other religions, the active recruitment of supporters, and purposeful work on effecting a split in society (primarily propagandist with powerful financial support), “- says the decision of the Supreme Court dated February 14, 2003, when they simultaneously banned 14 Islamic organizations. Not a single fact of “Hizb ut-Tahrir” terrorist activities was specified in the reasoning of the decision. A year later, when the prosecution of members of the organization in Bashkiria and other regions began, the human rights movement “Memorial” cited in its report to Moscow City Court judge Vladimir Usov, who at one of the case conferences, said: “Probably, the organization is indeed utopian, but perhaps even human rights activists understand that I must be guided by the decision of the Supreme Court.” Despite a number of restrictions of its activities, the party is not recognized as terrorist in any European country, except for Russia.

Believers in a mosque in Bakhchysarai. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Believers in a mosque in Bakhchysarai. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

A “Conveyor Belt” for Crimean Muslims

14 people living in Crimea are involved in the case about membership in “Hizb ut-Tahrir” taking place now. Until the spring of 2014, they did not feel pressure from security officials; in Ukraine the organization operates completely freely. Russian legislation has changed their status from “radical Muslims” to “terrorists.”

Detentions began in late January of 2015 when FSB operatives staged simultaneous raids at two houses – in the village of Orlyne near Sevastopol and in neighboring Shtormove. In April, security forces again came to Orlyne and detained another man. Three of them – Rustem Vaytov, Nuri [Yuri] Primov, Ferat Sayfullaev – are accused of involvement in “Hizb ut-Tahrir.” Ruslan Zeytullaev – in the organization of a cell. This “Sevastopol group,” began to be judged in the North Caucasus Military District Court of Rostov on June 1st. The remaining ten people are waiting for the completion of their investigations, which will last at least until the autumn.

Enver Mamutov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Enver Mamutov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Subsequent detentions took place in Yalta in February and April of 2016. The total detained on February 11 was 12 people from all over Crimea, but eight were released. The searches took place, including in the home of Crimean human rights activist and member of the Contact Group on Human Rights – Emir Huseyn Kuku, whom security officials arrested on the same charges – membership in a terrorist organization. The case of the six people of the “Yalta group:” Emir Huseyn Kuku, Inver Bekirov, Muslim Aliev, Vadim Siruk, Arsen Dzheparov and Refat Alimov, apparently, will be considered separately by the Rostov court.

Finally, most recently in the case of “Hizb ut-Tahrir,” four residents of Bakhchisaray were detained in May of 2016. The traditional charges have been brought against them, the investigation has just begun, and all four are in the Simferopol SIZO. One of the last detained, businessman Enver Mamutov, is being held in solitary confinement. He is considered to be the organizer of the group – for this, Mamutov faces 20 years in jail to life imprisonment. Zevri Abseitov, Remzi Memetov and Rustem Abiltarov sit in common cells.

Rustem Abiltarov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Rustem Abiltarov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

“We are afraid that these detentions will continue,” – says the sister of Refat Alimov, Lenie Nazarbekova. “I’m afraid that they will come for my husband. We completely do not understand the logic – for whom they come, and for whom they don’t. Any Muslim in Crimea, it turns out, can be accused of extremism.” Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov who represents several of the defendants in the case of “Hizb ut-Tahrir,” believes that detentions of Crimean Muslims will continue. He calls this case a “conveyor belt.” Human rights activists and lawyers fear that after the ban of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people comes into force there will be another big case on charges of extremism with an unknown number of defendants.

Ukrainian political prisoners who “can escape”

In addition to the “Sevastopol group,” which is on trial in Rostov, investigations of the other defendants in the case continue. All of them have had their custody extended, despite the defense’s request to change the measure of restraint on house arrest. On July 6, the [occupied] Kyiv District Court of Simferopol considered the petition of the investigative department of the FSB in Crimea to extend the investigation until October across the entire “Bakhchysarai Quartet.”

Defendants in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Kyiv District Court of Simferopol. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Defendants in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Kyiv District Court of Simferopol. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

As was recognized by the lawyers, after the first interrogation they have not conducted any investigation, but FSB investigator Sergei Makhno, who asked to leave them in jail until the fall, claimed that the accused might leave Crimea, and the investigators need to conduct a series of examinations. “They are citizens of Ukraine, recognized as political prisoners there. That is why they could, desiring this status, leave the territory of Russia.” – the investigator stated in court. Among all of the detained are two passports – a Russian one, which is found in the case file, and a Ukrainian one, which the lawyers also offered to remove so that the law enforcement authorities would be convinced that the accused would not be able to leave the peninsula legally.

“What is the cause of such a long period?” – Judge Irina Kigitina was surprised when the investigator asked to leave the accused in custody for four months. “The conducting of labor-intensive and prolonged examinations,” – said Makhno.

Remzi Memetov in court. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Remzi Memetov in court. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

“There are no preconditions that my client would hide,” – said Rustem Abiltarov’s lawyer Oksana Zhelezniak. “His passport is in the case file, he cannot go anywhere, and has never tried to before. And finally, he has family here.” Abiltarov, the builder, has four children, as does Abseitov, and Mamutov has seven of them.

“How can Memetov threaten the witnesses, as the investigator fears, if he does not even know who these witnesses are,” – lawyer Sergei Legostov continued, trying to persuade the court. How can he destroy the evidence if it’s kept in law enforcement under guard?”

The judge was not convinced, and she left the whole “Bakhchysarai Four” in custody until October 21st. “I have no relationship to the party ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir,'” – Remzi Memetov stated in court. “I have never recruited, nor done any of what I am accused of. I’m not planning to hide anywhere, nor do I intend to put any pressure on anyone, especially since I do not know them.” He worked as a cook, and during the traditional iftar (evening meal during Ramadan – RS) for which Bakhchysarai Muslims are currently gathering in the mosque’s courtyard, they remember the pilaf which Memetov prepared.

Zebra Abseitov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Zebra Abseitov. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

“I am not and never was in any organization,” – stated Zevri Abseitov. The dentist came to court with a blood pressure monitor, complaining of health problems due to his blood pressure. “I was engaged in work I loved and reaped only the beneifts. For myself, my health is already almost gone. But my mother is left with four children and a wife.”

Appealing the court’s decision is useless; both the lawyers and the relatives of the defendants themselves understand this. A few days before the meeting in the [occupied] Kyiv District Court in the Supreme Court of Crimea [in Simferopol], an appeal on the exact same decision on Refat Alimov and Arsen Dzheparov of the “Yalta group” was considered. Video- and photo-taking during the proceedings were banned due to ‘lack of expediency.’ “I am a citizen of the Russian Federation, registered in Yalta, I live with my parents. The investigating authorities did not identify any evidence of the need to extend the investigation, no real possibility of escape.” – Alimov urged the court. “My ancestors lived on this land, my parents, and I’m not planning to flee anywhere. FSB officers tried to frighten me even before my arrest, I could have left, but I continued to live here and to work.” – Dzheparov repeated.

In my view, the only reasonable explanation for all of these extensions, is that the investigation has no evidence of any guilt, and they are putting on pressure to get a confession,”- suggested lawyer Emile Kurbedinov.

“Probably, one should not have been born a Tatar.”

When the judge left to make his decision, which was obvious to everyone, Dzheparov, said via video link: “Where is Zarina?” – This is his wife. She came to the center of the room so that she could be seen on camera. “She’s crying?” – Asks the accused. “It is with joy at seeing you,” – soothes the son’s mother, crying herself. Alimov’s mother calms her: “Do not worry, they will swap places with us. Hold on, we are strong. They are not mothers. One would really like to have their children end up in the place of ours. I will pray about this every day. Probably one should not have been born a Tatar… ,”- says the woman.

A dua near every house

The vast majority of Crimean Muslims consider the prosecution and the “Hizb ut-Tahrir” case itself to be pressure on religious grounds. Given the complexity of relations between the Russian authorities and the Crimean Tatars, there is an added national factor. “Why do they so not like our people?” – Dzheparov’s mother asks at the trial, to no one in particular. “Again repressions. They lower their eyes, say nothing. All their lives they’ve lived with Tatars, and now Tatars are bad. They’ve so intimidated us that only our mouths are left to seal with tape.”

“They have so intimidated us that only our mouths are left to seal with tape.”

The response to the prosecutions was the actual unification of Muslims, among whom there are clearly also non-supporters of “Hizb ut-Tahrir.” One of the original forms of protest became the “dua” – mass prayer for the fate of political prisoners, which Muslims hold near the homes of each of the detainees. In Bakhchysarai, at such prayer meetings, up to 150 people attend. At the duas are always a lot of police and plainclothes officers, they often sit in cars and record what is happening on camera. Sometimes, prior to the families’ organizing of a dua, security officials bring a warning about the inadmissibility of violation of the law on mass events. In response, Muslims are surprised that the prayers are actually equated to rallies.

A dua in Yalta. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

A dua in Yalta. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

“We ask Allah to either ease our time spent in custody, or make it so that the authorities pay attention to the real criminals, terrorists and extremists who pose a threat to society or the state, and fight with them,” – said Alexander, a Russian who converted to Islam. He became blind after a car accident, but comes to almost every session of the court, and to all the duas. After another prayer when iftar began, he went to tell the camera what he thinks about the trials of his fellow believers.

“It’s sad to look at the situation of Muslims in Crimea, but their cohesion pleases, as it begins to increase more and more,” – says the lawyer Emile Kurbedinov. Relatives of the detained Muslims created an informal organization “Crimean solidarity,” which helps the families left without men to gather the children to school, organizes the duas, and writes appeals to the authorities. Every last Sunday of the month members of “Solidarity” gather to find out what needs the families of the “unjustly imprisoned” have. Remzi Memetov’s son Dilyaver coordinates the organization. “They are our children, those who are left. How can we not help them?” – says Ruslan, a businessman from Simferopol. “Look, my son allocated five thousand [to them], I allocated something, others too – that’s how we support them.”

Dilyaver, one of Remzi Memetov's sons. "This is the son of Remzi Memetov, who was detained along with three other residents of Bakhchysarai on May 12th. Memetov was 49 years old and worked as a cook. Now his wife and two sons are left without him. One of the sons, Dilyaver, is now coordinating Crimean Solidarity – an organization of the relatives of Muslim political prisoners. Today [July 3rd], a Dua took place near Memetov’s house – a collective prayer for the fate of the political prisoners."

Dilyaver, one of Remzi Memetov’s sons. “This is the son of Remzi Memetov, who was detained along with three other residents of Bakhchysarai on May 12th. Memetov was 49 years old and worked as a cook. Now his wife and two sons are left without him. One of the sons, Dilyaver, is now coordinating Crimean Solidarity – an organization of the relatives of Muslim political prisoners. Today [July 3rd], a Dua took place near Memetov’s house – a collective prayer for the fate of the political prisoners.”

“For our children, childhood ended on February 11, within a few minutes. Right behind a man was Ilyas,” – Muslim Aliyev’s wife says, and demonstrates on her teenage son. “And we are trying to seek the truth, we do not know where to look, but we are trying. I think that these people are well aware that there was no terrorism here and that there cannot be. This means that somebody needs children to suffer, wives to suffer, and all the people to feel the pressure.”

In the house of the arrested human rights activist Emir-Huseyn Kuku two young children are left. “Probably, the Almighty gives according to your strengths, only you do not know ahead of time what you are capable of. When the searches began on February 11 all around Crimea, there were detainments, and then they began to let people go. And all of them returned to their homes, except for our four. But then I was told, and I remembered it: ‘they are alive, and you know where to find them.’ That’s all, for now, inshallah. Compared with those who are lost, the situation cannot be compared. Maybe that’s why we continue to hope,” – says Kuku’s wife Meryem.

Meryem Kuku. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Meryem Kuku. Photo: Anton Naumlyuk

Her son Bakir, who watched as masked men with guns broke down the door early in the morning, knocked his father to the floor, handcuffed him and then searched the house, recalls the February events in great detail. In his nine years, he is very serious and always calls the Russian security forces: “ignoramuses, the fathers of stupidity.” “What has befallen you, you cannot escape, and that which has passed – will never come back to you” – the boy sometimes repeats.

Source: Radio Svoboda


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