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Activists: Crimea energy blockade does not help Ukraine’s cause on peninsula

While many Ukrainians cheered the start of the electricity blockade of Crimea in late November and called it long overdue, Ukrainian rights activists monitoring the Russian-occupied peninsula see it only as a cause for alarm.

“If prior to these actions it was possible to definitely say that Russia was the only player permanently violating human rights in Crimea, and that for the restoration of these rights it would be necessary to have the peninsula de-occupied, now that is not the case,” Vissarion Aseyev of the Yalta-based Almenda human rights group told the Kyiv Post.

“Ukraine is now also violating the human rights of Crimeans. And it is becoming systematized,” he said.

Aseyev’s concerns have also been voiced by many ordinary residents in Crimea, the peninsula with a population of about two million people that Russia invaded and annexed last year.

Residents have found themselves the victims of this ongoing tug-of-war. And while Ukrainian activists manning the blockade in Kherson Oblast have proudly spoken of their actions as a necessary measure to wrest their homeland back from Russia, many ordinary Crimeans, like Aleksei Yakovlev, say they will never trust the Ukrainian authorities again.

“The blockade’s organizers were always going on and on about their conditions and demands. But what they didn’t realize is we have already given up on them, we aren’t waiting for their help,” Yakovlev, out on a stroll with his wife, told the Kyiv Post.

“Russia has already finished most of the work on their power bridge, soon that’ll be up and running, just in time for New Year’s,” he said.

Yakovlev said he was lucky to have electricity at home, though others have been harder hit – some with only a couple of hours a day.

“I know some people who live further out from the city center were forced to huddle around little impromptu fires,” he said.

Although Ukrainian activists allowed repairs to one of the four power lines that were damaged and power has been partially restored, Russian-installed Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov has vowed that the peninsula will never rely on Ukrainian power supplies again.

Nevertheless, Ukrainian deputy and Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov on Dec. 10 said the blockade’s organizers were willing to stop electricity supplies again if Russia did not recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine and stop persecuting Crimean Tatars on the peninsula.

While Chubarov promised to make maintaining Crimea “very expensive” for Russia, ordinary residents on the peninsula complain that the blockade has cost them dearly as well – and that the organizers were bargaining with people’s lives.

“Ukraine sees us as its citizens, and Russia sees us as its citizens, but neither one of them sees us as human beings,” Olga Skripnik of the Almenda rights group quoted one Crimean resident as telling her.

The resident asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Aseyev pointed out some unpleasant parallels between the blockade and events that shook Crimea in 2014.

The method and format used by those manning the blockade, Aseyev said, “are highly reminiscent” of what happened in Crimea in February-April 2014.

At that time, people calling themselves “Crimean self-defense forces” blocked entrances and exits from Crimea as well. And they also searched vehicles, confiscated property and deprived people of their rights and abused them, all the while holding weapons in their hands and hiding their identities. There is practically no difference in terms of their methods,” Aseyev told the Kyiv Post.

Skripnik was equally weary of characterizing the blockade as a civilian initiative, saying in an interview with Ukrainian media in early December that comparisons should not be drawn between the blockade and the EuroMaidan Revolution that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

“Maidan was a manifestation of the public will, the will of the people. This is not,” she said, adding that the initiators were “responding to human rights violations with more human rights violations.”
“The initiators of this were Refat Chubarov and Mustafa Dzhemilev, two lawmakers, and Lenur Islyamov, who up until recently was an entrepreneur with ties to Moscow,” Skripnik said.

According to Skripnik and Aseyev, it would be wrong to portray the blockade as a grassroots initiative and ignore the fact that most ordinary Crimeans had no say.

“The organizers are pursuing some goal that is known only to them. But they are masking their true aims under the rhetoric of protecting human rights and caring for the Crimean Tatars and all Crimeans,” Aseyev said.

In an interview with Kyiv Post on Nov. 25 Dzhemilev defended the blockade.

“Tatars in Crimea are ready to suffer for some time to allow the pressure to take effect,” the Tatar leader said.

Aseyev denies that this is the case.

“This is purely malicious manipulation of the public for the achievement of their own personal desires,” he says.

Despite the human rights activists’ criticism of the blockade, Islyamov hailed the measure as a success in a blog post on the news website Obozrevatel.ua on Dec. 9. Saying the action would now be moving into the next phase – to parliament – Islaymov said that “the government has heard us.”
But the same cannot be said for many ordinary people in Crimea.

Yakovlev, when asked how he felt about the blockade organizers’ recent decision to let power lines be fixed and their threats to renew the campaign, said simply: “I’ve stopped paying attention to them.”




Crimean citizens are recruited into the Russian army in violation of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of WarOn 30 July, 2017 another action was held in Sevastopol calling to serve under the contract in the Russian army. The citizens of Sevastopol again were recruited for military service. At the so-called “point of selection for military service on a contract basis” they distributed booklets with agitation to serve in separate coastal defence brigade 126 and in landing ships brigade 197 of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. Agitation was held in Sevastopol during the celebration of the day of the Navy on Nakhimov Square. According to the Crimea.Realii website, an exhibition of land military equipment was held on the same square; The exhibition included: a mobile coastal anti-ship missile system “Bastion” with a unified homing missile “Yakhont”, a mobile command and staff radio station, a floating wheeled armoured personnel carrier, an anti-aircraft missile system S-300 “Favorit” for the destruction of modern and prospective aircraft, a 122 mm missile-antiaircraft complex Grad, a multiple launch rocket system “Uragan”, an anti-aircraft missile system “Pantsir”, an air defence missile system “Osa”, a charging car, a self-propelled artillery “Gvozdika”. According to Russian media, the occupation authorities held a naval parade in the city, where military a demonstration fire was organized. The event began with the entrance of the three-masted sailing frigate “Khersones” to the Sevastopol Bay, at which students of the Ukrainian University (Kerch State Maritime Technological University) earlier had a maritime practice. According to local and Russian media, the training ship “Perekop”, missile cruiser “Moscow” and the diesel-electric submarine “Stary Oskol”, as well as the naval aviation Ka-27 helicopters and Su-30SM fighters, also took part in the military parade. Such actions of the Russian Federation in the territory of Ukraine, which was occupied by it, grossly violate international humanitarian law and are prohibited by international conventions. The Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) earlier recorded the holding of similar agitation events for military service in the Russian army in the occupied peninsula. We remind you that Article 51 of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War explicitly prohibits the invocation of an occupying power in the occupied territory. The head of the CHRG, Olga Skrypnik, noted that among other things the Convention prohibits propaganda of the military conscription in the occupied territories, including all the advertising posters, various “patriotic” events in schools and universities where people are called to go to the Russian army. Both contractual and regular service are under the ban. Photos of the mobile point of military drafting and promotional booklets were made on 30 July in Sevastopol.

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