CONSEQUENCES OF THE BLOCKADE OF CRIMEA: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND HUMANITARIAN ISSUES
Brief Review, November 30, 2015
On September 20, at the three points of entry and exit to Crimea: Chongar, Kalanchak and Chaplynka the civil blockade of Crimea commenced. The initiators and organizers were the people’s deputy of Ukraine, leader of the Crimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev, people’s deputy, Chairman of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov and Lenur Islyamov, the Vice President of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, the owner of the TV channel ATR.
The organizers of the blockade announced its main objectives, namely, the blocking of food and other commercial supplies to Crimea from mainland Ukraine and the abolition of the Law of Ukraine On establishment of the free economic zone Crimea and special aspects of economic activities on the temporarily occupied territory (the Law on the FEZ).
On September 22, people’s deputy, Chairman of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov said that “it is possible that in the second stage the blockade, the main objective will be to cease the supply of electricity” and, in his opinion, “it will be in October”.
On October 6, Deputy Chief of the Department of MIA in the Kherson region Ilya Kiva said that at the night, the unidentified persons blew up the transmission tower supplying electricity to Crimea. The operational investigative group of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the MIA battalion Kherson arrived at the scene. In this regard the criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Article 194-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Intentional damage to power facilities) were initiated.
After the incident the participants of the civil blockade of Crimea obstructed the repair of the transmission tower Dzhankoy – Melitopol, damaged earlier and declared the beginning of the “energy” blockade of Crimea. Near the scene, the participants put up the tents and provided for twenty-four-hour presence. The chief of the headquarters of the “blockade of Crimea”, the owner of the Crimean Tatar TV Channel ATR Lenur Islyamov said that the energy blockade had started, and “it will continue up to the point, when the whole Crimea will be completely cut off. We will put pressure on the authorities to make the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopt a law banning the supply of electricity to Crimea”.
The experts of the State Enterprise National Power Company Ukrenergo (SE NPC Ukrenergo) arrived in order to carry out the necessary repairs of the transmission tower, but the site was blocked by the participants of the “blockade of Crimea”. The SE NPC Ukrenergo reported that it appealed to the law enforcement authorities and the SSU. For several days the company representatives negotiated with the headquarters of the blockade, as a result experts could carry out the repairs and install a new tower. On October 13, the Melitopol – Dzhankoy line was put in operation and the energy supply to Crimea was restored.
On October 20, at night, near Chongar, between the Ataman and Novy Trud villages, the unidentified persons blew up two transmission towers, which also supplied electricity to Crimea. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the explosions were carried out using mines, two of which malfunctioned and were subsequently deactivated by the pyrotechnics. The relevant criminal proceedings were opened. The chief of the headquarters of the “blockade of Crimea” Lenur Islyamov at the TV channel 112 Ukraine reported that the participants intend to obstruct the repair of the damaged towers: “If the towers are installed once again, of course, we will block the repair of these towers, definitely”.  The supply of electricity to Crimea was ensured via other power lines. The repairs were carried out of by OJSC Zaporizhiaoblenergo.  After that, the supply of electricity to Crimea continued as usual.
On November 12, at a press conference in Kyiv, the chief of the headquarters of the “blockade of Crimea” Lenur Islyamov said that the activists would stop to guard the transmission towers in the Kherson region and “let them be damaged if the Ukrainian authorities don’t stop the supply of electricity to the peninsula“. On November 19, the people’s deputy of Ukraine, leader of the Crimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev insisted “on disconnecting the supply of electricity from Ukraine to Crimea”.  He also said that the “activists at any moment can cut off the supply of electricity to the peninsula, but the Majlis insists that the country’s leadership should take the relevant political decision”.
On November 20, the unidentified persons blew up two transmission towers in Genichesk and Chaplynka districts of the Kherson region. The chief of the headquarters of the “civil blockade of Crimea” Lenur Islyamov on his Facebook page said that, in his opinion, “near Chaplynka and Chongar there was an extraordinary natural phenomenon, namely, a strong hurricane with the meteor shower once again knocked down the power line” . However, it has been found that the towers were damaged as a result of explosions. The national police in the Kherson region initiated the criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Art. 194-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Intentional damage to power facilities).
The representatives of the emergency, counterexplosive and law enforcement agencies arrived at the scene to address the consequences and carry out the investigation. However, the participants of the “civil blockade of Crimea” also arrived at the scene and declared that they would interfere with the police and emergency services. Lenur Islyamov said that “this (blocking – ed.) will be participated by the Crimean Tatar activists, Automaidan, Aydar battalion and Pravy Sector”. “The headquarters of the “civil blockade of Crimea” is now here and we will block the repair of all four lines”, he said.
The police, in order to carry out the investigation and emergency repairs began to move to the damaged towers despite the resistance of the participants of the “civil blockade of Crimea”. This resulted in a standoff. The participants of the “blockade of Crimea” reported that some protesters were injured. Currently, there is no data on how many civilians were injured; the submission of applications to the police was not reported.
On November 21, the deputy general director of the TV channel ATR Aider Muzhdabaev on his Facebook page said that during the confrontation between the law enforcement officers and participants of the “blockade of Crimea” in Chaplynka, the journalist of the TV channel ATR Gulsum Khalilova got hurt. According to Muzhdabaev, the law enforcement officers hit the journalist in the stomach with the butt stock. The journalist filed a complaint with the police, the information was entered into the Unified Register of pre-trial investigations and the criminal proceedings were initiated under Art. 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Impediment of the legitimate professional activities of journalists).
The police said that based on the facts of bodily harm caused to police officers during the performance of their duties during clashes with protesters, the criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Art. 345 (Threat or violence against a law enforcement officer) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine were initiated.
The journalist of Kherson News Linda Metzger said that the participants of the “civil blockade of Crimea” and Lenur Islyamov rudely obstructed her and camera crew’s journalistic activities near the damaged transmission towers and also attacked the journalists.
According to her, the car with the journalists for a long time was not allowed to come to the scene and they were not allowed to shoot. When they finally came, they were approached by the press secretary of the Pravy Sector Varvara Chernoivanenko and asked them not to shoot because “the guys did not want their faces being shown”. In particular, she said, the activists and representatives of the Pravy Sector first had been rude to journalists, and then tried to up-end their car. Later, the cameraman was approached by several unidentified persons and attacked him. They were joined by a few other men, and forced him and the journalist into a car, began to shake it and scream telling them to leave. “They made several attempts to up-end our car, ten men beat our colleague (knocked to the ground and kicked). At the end they put us in the car and ordered to leave”, the journalist wrote on Facebook.
The journalists left the scene. Linda Metzger filed a complaint with the police, where it is decided whether to initiate the criminal proceedings with regard to these facts.
The confrontation between the participants of the “blockade of Crimea” and the law enforcement officers took place near the damaged transmission towers, which are a few kilometers away from the checkpoints and the headquarters. Currently, on the Internet there are several videos of the events, one of which was made by ATR TV channel.
The Ukrainian authorities did not make the decision to discontinue the supply of electricity to Crimea, and the agreement between the Ukrainian authorities and the de facto authorities of Crimea on the supply of electricity remains in force. The Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine Volodymyr Demchyshyn said that he would recommend the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to extend for 2016 the agreement on the supply of electricity to Crimea. Later, he added that, due to the blocking of the supply of coal from the non-government controlled areas of Donbas he considers it necessary to resume the supply of electricity to Crimea in order to resume the supply of coal from Donbas.
Currently, the repairs continue, the supply of electricity to Crimea has not been resumed.
- The situation in Crimea after the termination of electricity supply due to the damage of power lines
1) Electricity supply.
As of November 21, due to the blowing up of transmission towers, the regular supply of electricity to Crimea terminated. On the first day the power was cut off in the majority of cities and villages of Crimea. The military units, the units of the Black Sea Fleet, the buildings of authorities, Prosecutor’s office and the Federal Security Service, as well as a number of strategic and social facilities were transferred to the autonomous electricity generation (through the use of generators).
The residential areas of cities and villages have no power supply. During the first day, most villages, as well as a number of cities, for example, Sevastopol, Kerch had no power supply. As of November 22, the supply of electricity to the residential areas is carried out based on the electricity supply schedule.
In general, the schedule of supply envisages the two-hour supply of electricity every 6 hours. However, in practice, the schedule does not correspond to the actual electricity supply. Some violations of the schedule are associated with a large number of cases of failure of the internal power grids due to the overloads during the switch on. In many cities of Crimea the electricity is currently supplied for 3-5 hours a day. Usually, the electricity is supplied in the morning (from 5.30 am to 8 am, depending on the district), in the evening (from 17.00 to 21.00, depending on the district) and in some districts at night (from 01.00 to 04.00).
In a number of villages of Crimea the electricity had not been supplied for several days. For example, the Lugovoe village of Leninsky district has been without electricity for four days, also there was no electricity for several days in Shelkino village. The electricity had not been supplied to a number of villages near Kerch as of November 22. In the Chistenkoe village of Simferopol district the electricity was supplied on average for 40-60 minutes a day. Many villages of Leninsky district on average, were provided with electricity supply for up to 2 hours per day. The villages of Big Yalta on average get electricity supply from 30 minutes to 2 hours per day.
2) Healthcare issues.
The operation of the main city hospitals is ensured through the use of generators. In Simferopol, Kerch, Feodosia, Sevastopol, Evpatoria, Yalta it is reported that the generators are used to provide electricity for the intensive care and operating rooms, the rest hospital units work depending on the unstable electricity supply.
The cancer center of Simferopol is also working using the generators, the quantity of which is not sufficient for all the departments, thus, first of all, the generators supply electricity to the emergency departments. According to the staff, the situation is complex in the hospital in Sudak, because it is not equipped with its own generators and is totally dependent on the short-term supply of electricity. In one of the hospitals of Feodosia there was a fire, which, according to the staff, occurred due to the fact that when connecting the generator its power capacity was not estimated. The fire was liquidated; there were no casualties, only the damage to equipment.
Some pharmacies operate using diesel generators, other depend on the general schedule of electricity supply. The pharmacies that do not have own generators face difficulties concerning the storage and sale of certain groups of medicines that need to be constantly kept in refrigerators. Among them is one of the most important medicines – insulin. The insulin may be sold only by pharmacies equipped with special cooling rooms and working without interruptions. For example, in Sevastopol it is forbidden to sell insulin in the absence of electricity. If the pharmacy does not have a special cooling room, the staff of the pharmacy are obliged to transfer the insulin and other medicines that require temperature control, to other pharmacies, which are equipped with generators and relevant refrigerators. However, this is associated with another problem: doctors prescribe insulin or other medicines sold by a specific pharmacy, in this connection, the pharmacies can only transfer the medicines to other pharmacies for storage, but they cannot be sold there.
The outage poses a serious threat to the life of a particular group of patients – those connected to special medical devices, such as an artificial lung ventilation apparatus or couveuse (incubator for the newborns). In Sevastopol there is an 11-year-old Ivan Plotnikov, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (Werdnig-Hoffmann disease). He is almost unable to breathe on his own and is at home connected to the artificial lung ventilation apparatus. Mother reported that the maximum battery life of the apparatus is 7 hours. A few days after the power outage in Crimea, the MES representatives delivered an additional generator to the apartment where Ivan Plotnikov resides to ensure the constant operation of the ventilation apparatus. Currently, there is no information on the number of other residents of Crimea connected to the ventilation apparatus.
The problems with mobile communication in Crimea lead to the fact that it is difficult to call the ambulance; in small towns and villages the residents sometimes deliver the patients to the ambulance stations on their own. The medical workers reported that the response to the house-calls in the absence of electricity is complicated due to the need to carry out medical procedures (injections, examinations etc.) in the light of a lantern or candle.
3) Increased repression.
In Crimea, the Crimean Tatars are being persecuted in connection with the “civil blockade of Crimea”. On November 1, the Prosecutor of Crimea Natalia Poklonskaya announced the initiation of several criminal proceedings against the participants of the “blockade of Crimea”, “The law enforcement agencies are carrying out the investigations of all the activists and members of the so-called blockade”.
On November 2, the searches were carried out in the homes of the director general of Queen Media LLC (the Crimean branch of the ATR TV company) Elzara Islyamova, deputy director general Lilia Bujurova and in the home of Edem Islyamov, the father of the ATR TV channel owner, businessman Lenur Islyamov.
On November 23, the member of the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people Eskender Bariev said that in Crimea, in the Razdolnoe village of the Soviet district the FSS officers arrested Ilyas Khalilov, took him to an unknown destination and the reason for the arrest is unknown.
On November 24, at the entrance to Crimea (Kalanchak) the border guards of the Russian Federation and the FSS RF officers, without explanation of the reasons arrested the activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Center of Crimea Veldar Shukurdzhiev. He was released the next day early in the morning, and he was able to enter Crimea, where he permanently resides.
On November 25, Eskender Bariev reported that his parents in Crimea were visited by the FSS officers, which aimed to find out the whereabouts of their son (Eskender Bariev). The FSS officers informed the parents that they were looking for their son in connection with the explosions of transmission towers in the Kherson region. Eskender Bariev currently resides outside of Crimea and openly supports the “civil blockade of Crimea”.
On November 26, Sergei Aksyonov at a meeting of the interdepartmental headquarters for emergency response in Crimea appealed to the Ministry of Information of Crimea with the requirement to cut off the Ukrainian mass media – TV channels and radio stations that broadcast in the northern regions of the peninsula. He said: “The Ukrainian media should be eliminated! I don’t want to hear that someone is watching them”.
On November 27, the Sevastopol authorities announced the introduction of new restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly. The amendments define the maximum number of persons participating in public events; determine the minimum distance between the participants for their identification. The government of Sevastopol is now planning to determine the venues of meetings, as well as impose additional restrictions on the organization of activities on the territory of railway stations, shopping centers, markets etc.
4) Issues related to social infrastructure and communication.
On November 23, in the majority of educational establishments a day off was announced due to a power outage. The Sevastopol authorities, as of November 23, decided to suspend the work of kindergartens and schools for 1-4 classes in Crimea in view of the emergency situation caused by the termination of electricity supply to the peninsula from the territory of Ukraine. On November 24, Sergei Aksenov announced a decision to introduce, until November 30, the unscheduled holidays in schools and kindergartens of Crimea.
In many cities and villages there were problems with water supply to residential areas; a few days later, most city water pumping stations were connected to the generators. There central heating is not provided currently – the reason for the cut off is the warm weather. City authorities report that the heating will be turned on if the average temperature is +8 degrees Celsius.
The sale of fuel is restricted; mainly it can be purchased at gas stations during the periods of electricity supply. In this regard, there are long queues at the gas stations; some of them set the maximum volume of fuel sold.
For example, in Sevastopol of the 50 gas stations only 21 have diesel generators allowing to work during power outages.
In most regions of Crimea there are problems with mobile communication, there is a very limited access to the Internet. In some areas, even when the electricity is supplied there is no Internet access.
The local authorities, in order to inform the population, distribute the leaflets with the recommendations on what to do during power outages, emergency numbers and numbers of hot lines. In Sevastopol, in order to inform the residents of the city a system of “information on wheels” of the Russian Networks and Information is used. The cars equipped with audio communication systems are used in other localities.
In the area of food supply the local residents reported on the problems with the supply of bread to some regions, which is largely due to the inability of local bread-making plants to operate based on a normal schedule. In some areas (Simferopol, Sevastopol and other) the sale of perishable goods is limited.
5) Issues faced by the small business.
A number of small businesses (for example, private bakeries, repair services for home appliances and computer equipment, a number of catering facilities) were forced to suspend their activities. The income of entrepreneurs and employees in small businesses depends on the sales of products or services, and thus their incomes have currently decreased substantially.
- Monitoring of the checkpoints of the “blockade of Crimea”
On November 22-23, the monitors of the Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG), together with the journalists of the Voice of Crimea visited the checkpoints of the “civil blockade of Crimea” located in along the administrative border with Crimea.
One checkpoint is located in about 2 kilometers from the checkpoint Kalanchak. Two more checkpoints are located 50 meters and 1-2 kilometers away from the checkpoint Chaplynka. The other two checkpoints are located about 300 meters apart in the direction of the checkpoint Chongar. Between them there is the headquarters of the “blockade”, as well as the representatives of the volunteer battalion Pravy Sector and civilian corps of battalion Azov.
At the checkpoints there were groups of people, including those carrying arms, who checked the documents and vehicles. In most cases, these checks were carried out by unauthorized persons – representatives of “people’s self-defense”, Pravy Sector and one man introduced himself as the commandant of the “blockade of Crimea”.
In addition, at the checkpoints there was a group of armed men, who identified themselves as members of the MIA unit battalion Kherson.
Also, near the checkpoint Chongar, one man introduced himself as a representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The participants of the blockade carried out spot checks of documents and vehicles that cross the checkpoints in both directions. The car with the monitors was stopped for inspection at the checkpoints near Kalanchak and Chongar checkpoints.
At the checkpoint at Kalanchak the representative of the “people’s self-defense” asked the CHRG monitors to open the trunk for inspection and show the passports.
After the refusal to open the trunk and the attempt of the group of monitors to pass through the checkpoint, the participants of the blockade surrounded the car and stretched the line of spikes. The car was approached by the men armed with machine guns who introduced themselves as the members of the MIA unit – battalion Kherson.
The police officer asked to show the documents and open the trunk for inspection. The participants of the blockade engaged in checking the documents of passengers, explained to the CHRG monitors that they collated their documents with a list of “traitors” from the website Mirotvorets .
The monitoring group spent 50 minutes at the checkpoint near Chongar. During this time, through the checkpoint nearly 50 cars went in both directions, and each of them was stopped by participants of the blockade.
The armed participants of the blockade banned the journalists of the Voice of Crimea to shoot at the checkpoint near Kalanchak. At the checkpoint at the border crossing point Chaplynka, intoxicated persons, who introduced themselves as the participants of Automaidan-Kyiv obstructed the shooting performed by the journalists of the Voice of Crimea, threatening to break their cameras. The representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs present at the checkpoint did not respond to the ban of shooting and refused to accept an application on the offense under Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Impediment of the legitimate professional activities of journalists). The journalists filed an application to the nearest police station.
For the organizers of the “Civil Blockade of Crimea”:
— To terminate all the unlawful actions of the participants of the blockade, taking place during the “blockade of Crimea” and to prevent the unlawful actions in the future.
— To provide an opportunity to carry out the repairs of transmission towers and resume the electricity supply to Crimea.
— Not to interfere with the investigation of crimes and offenses, not to exert pressure on the investigating authorities and to facilitate the objective and transparent investigation of offenses.
— With the participation of non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, experts and representatives of the central authorities dealing with the Crimean issues, to hold a public discussion of the situation related to the blockade of Crimea.
— To take part in an expert working group on drafting a law, an alternative to the law On the free economic zone of Crimea and the strategy of reintegration of Crimea, taking into account the specific vision of the solutions to the Crimean issues based on the priority of human rights and interests of the residents of the occupied territory of Crimea.
For the state authorities of Ukraine:
— To as soon as possible carry out the effective and impartial investigations into all violations of the current legislation by certain participants of the “civil blockade of Crimea” (citizens’ complaints about the unlawful arrests and the use of violence by the participants of the blockade, damage to property, violation of the rights of journalists etc.). To carry out effective investigations of violations in the future.
— To ensure public order and the safety of passengers and pedestrians, their property.
— To take all the necessary measures, within the current legislation, to ensure the safety of persons traveling to and from Crimea in the government-controlled areas.
— To provide access to the damaged transmission towers, to perform the repairs and resume electricity supply to Crimea.
— To conduct an objective investigation of all the facts of destruction of transmission towers.
— To observe the legislation of Ukraine and not to interfere with the freedom of movement of all citizens of Ukraine, foreign citizens and stateless persons arriving and departing from the territory of Crimea.
— To take part in the public discussion of the situation on the blockade of Crimea with participation of the NGOs, people’s deputies and experts on the subject.
— To develop, with the participation of relevant experts and representatives of public organizations and to adopt a draft law, an alternative to the law On the free economic zone of Crimea, based on the primacy of human rights and the protection of constitutional rights and freedoms.
— To declare the official position of the Government of Ukraine regarding the electricity supply to the territory of Crimea.
 3 http://www.unian.net/society/1143912-neizvestnyie-povredili-vyisokovoltnuyu-oporu-dlya-podachi-elektroenergii-v-kryim-foto.html
 5 http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2015/10/13/7084673/