Findings of monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic response in Crimea (April 13 – 19, 2020)

Follow the link to read previous Findings of monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic response in Crimea

March 16-29

March 30 — April 5

April  6 — 12

 

 Acts and Decisions of Crimean Authorities de facto

1.1. Government of the Russian Federation

On April 18, Edict of RF President # 274 was adopted, aimed at regulating the situation of foreigners and stateless persons for the time of COVID-19 restrictive measures. For March 15 to June 15, 2020, the expiry periods of the documents permitting the stay of foreigners and stateless persons on the territory of the Russian Federation and the time of their voluntary departure due to court decisions have been suspended. The edict also allows employers to employ such persons to work without the necessary “migration” documents. For March 15 to June 15, no decisions shall be made on the undesirability of the stay of foreigners and stateless persons, their administrative removal or deportation.

On April 18, Edict of RF President # 275 was adopted, that amended temporarily the standards on the personal identity document validity (including 14 year’s old children). So a passport or a driver’s licence which validity has expired from February 1 to July 15 2020, shall be considered valid personal identification documents.

 

1.2. Crimea

On April 13, by Edict # 104-U, Edict of S.Aksionov “on the high-alert regime” was again amended. So, a mandatory self-isolation was canceled for certain officials arriving in Crimea for official purposes, and for drivers and forwarders delivering goods to Crimea. Then the shift work was prohibited for people arriving in Crimea.

This edict extended the list of grounds for leaving home (out of self-isolation), namely, the wording “the need for people to take urgent actions requiring personal attendance” appeared. The norm appears to be undefined in terms of “urgency” and “personal attendance”. This could cause corruption risks for making reports on self-isolation requirement violation since a policeman, for instance, would decide whether the reasons to leave home has been urgent or not.

The new decree has changed the approach to defining enterprises that may continue to work in the quarantine regime. Now the list of permitted types of work and services is defined by RF President Edict dated 2 April 2020 # 239 “On measures to ensure the sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population in the Russian Federation due to COVID-19 spreading” and Ordinance of the “Council of Ministers” of Crimea #444- r dated 14 April 2020.

The restriction period for freight and passenger traffic has been also extended to April 30, though the movement of small fishing vessels is now permitted.

On April 14, by Edict 106-U “On introducing additional social support measures in the Republic of Crimea provided due to spreading of 2019-nCoV”, social care was expanded. The document establishes a one-time payment of RUR2,000 for low-income pensioners, a monthly surcharge of RUR5,000 for a child born from April 1 to December 31, 2017, until reaching the age of three, a monthly reimbursement of part of the employers’ costs related to the remuneration of workers under the risk of firing, and the organization of their temporary employment, in an amount not exceeding RUR18,846 per one such employee.

On April 15, Resolution of the “Council of Ministers” of Crimea # 213 ‘On establishing incentive payments for special working conditions and additional workload for medical staff providing medical care to people who have been detected a new coronavirus infection and to people at risk of infecting with a new coronavirus infection” was published.

 

1.3. Sevastopol

On April 13 Edict # 30-UG of so called ‘Governor of City of Sevastopol’ on additional restrictions in the city was signed. Now the city may be entered or left only through 24h check points, provided that the fact of residence registration or actual residing in Sevastopol has been confirmed. These restrictions are not applied to the staff of enterprises that continue to work in the quarantine regime (if a special permit document is available), for people whose activities are related to disaster management, or arriving in Sevastopol by special purpose transport. Everybody shall undergo the body temperature measurement at the check points, should the temperature be above 37°, the passage shall be forbidden, and such a person shall be delivered by a medical ambulance to a medical establishment. The check points shall be staffed with police, Russian Guard, RF FSB. The edict also commits the people coming back from the business trips to self-isolate for 14 days at the residence place, and in case of its absence, the self-isolation shall be at the observation location.

The next edict – # 31-UG of 13 April 2020 – imposed a ban on selling construction materials at trading locations where the trade can’t be managed without visiting the facility.

On April 15 ‘Department of Education and Science of Sevastopol’ issued Order # 391-P, that established 20 May 2020 as the last day of the academic year, with teaching in April – May to be managed in remote (online) mode.

 

2.Restrictions on Passing Checkpoints

 The Ukrainian checkpoints at Crimea keep on working under the entry/departure restrictions introduced by the Ordinance of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine according to which the Ukrainian citizens are allowed to leave or enter Crimea only on humanitarian grounds (regardless of residence registration). The decision of passing checkpoints on such grounds is taken by the Head of the State Border Service of Ukraine.

According to the Ordinance of the Russian Federation Government of March 27, 2020, travelling through the Russian checkpoints at Crimea is still banned even for those possessing passport of the citizen of the Russian Federation. Exceptions are, for example, “the citizens of the Russian Federation permanently residing in the territories of certain regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions” or close relative death cases. Thus, the citizens of Ukraine with their place of residence registered on the peninsula are not allowed to leave the territory controlled by Ukraine..

On April 17, at the Dzhankoy checkpoint, Russian border guards refused Oleg Sofianik, a Ukrainian national, to leave Crimea. Since he was forced to receive a Russian passport, he was not allowed to pass as a “citizen of the Russian Federation,” referring the RF government ordinance on the ban for the RF nationals departure. Oleg Sofianik intended to move to the territory controlled by Ukraine for permanent residence. He is a Soviet dissident – for refusing to serve in the Soviet army he was forced to mental treatment.

 

3. Practices of applying restrictive measures

Forced observation is imposed by the court decisions, with Rospotrebnadzor preparing the relevant files to the court. So, regarding two relatives of the woman with COVID-19 confirmed, Rospotrebnadzor sent files to the Yalta Town Court for imposing the forced observation due to their rejection to accept the observation.

On April 13, in Yevpatoriya, despite the ban on holding peaceful meetings, there was an official flower laying ceremony dedicated to the anniversary of the liberation from Nazi invaders.” According to reporters, 9 persons took part in the action, including the representatives of the Veterans Council and the town administration. None of participants was wearing the personal protective equipment (masks and gloves). On April 18 the similar action was held in Balaklava.

Residents of Kerch video recorded a lot of people assembled, without any social distance observed, in front of ZALIV Plant. According to their words, such situation is observed every morning, after the plant has restating its operations, that may endanger the workers with COVID-19 infection.

 

Public transport and movement in the settlements

On April 13, the authorities de facto announced issuing passes for citizens over 65 years old who had the need for “immediate action attended personally” during the period of restrictive measures. In this situation, people should address the local administration. The procedure that will govern the issuance of such passes should be developed and communicated to administrations on April 14. However, such regulatory acts are not publicly available.

Since April 15, at the entrance to Kerch, the traffic police have been stopping most of the cars for inspection. Drivers and passengers are asked to show documents allowing them to leave their place of residence, as well as indicate the purpose of the trip and the place of car destination .

Due to the limited public transport schedule, people are queueing in long lines at the stops, and the compartments of the public transport are overcrowded. The current schedule cannot meet the mobility needs of people and needs additional trips.

 

Religious restrictions

According to statement of the Spiritual Authority of Crimea Muslims, there will be no Friday and collective prayers in the Crimean mosques until 30 April.

The Simferopol and Crimean Dsocese of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, as demanded by Rospotrebnadzor, decided to suspend visiting churches by parishioners for Easter days.

The St. George’s Monastery in Balaklava was closed due to the threat of the COVID-19spread, as there was a pilgrim in the monastery who was ill with COVID-19 .

 

Education system

The number of compulsory exams for 9th grade pupils was reduced to 2 – Russian language and Mathematics (usually they take 4 exams). The start date for taking the unified state exam for school graduates was also set on June 8.

 

Militarization in quarantine context

The so-called “military commissariat of the Republic of Crimea” reported that citizen personal reception and work of medical commissions within the conscription campaign that started officially in Crimea on April 1, was stopped until April 30. The preliminary date for sending the first group of draftees from Crimea was announced to be postponed till May 20 2020.

The crews of aircraft and helicopters of the Naval Aviation and Air Defense of the Black Sea Navy of the Russian Federation began preparations for the air part of the “Parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Victory,” held traditionally on May 9.

In addition, military exercises have been in process in Crimea. So, the crews of the RF Black Sea Navy sea minesweepers “Ivan Golubets” and “Zheleznyakov” are taking part in the planned tactical exercise .

In Sevastopol involvement of the paramilitary unit members – Kazaks – to patrol the streets together with the police and to have ‘preventive conversations’ with the local people has been recorded.

Detention Centers and Penal Colonies

Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation Alexander Kalashnikov addressed the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the threat of the COVID-19 spreading in pre-trial detention centers. In his letter, he confirms the information of the CHRG and other human rights organizations that the Simferopol pre-trial detention center is overcrowded. Due to the fact that the pre-trial detention centers are overcrowded, he asks the Supreme Court to guide the courts on applying alternative measures of restraint that are not related to keeping in custody.

Prisoners in the pre-trial detention center confirm that they are not receiving yet any medical care and personal protection means.

Liability for violating the restrictions

Since April 14 the number of patrol teams composed mainly of policemen and the Russian Guard, has been increased in most Crimean cities and towns.

Since April 15 the public transport stops in Sevastopol have been patrolled by the police, the Black Sea Navy men, representatives of the Public Security Department and ‘volunteer guard men’. They demand the passengers to show the passes of established format and declare the trip purpose. Administrative reports are produced due to the inspection results.

‘Deputy Head of the Police of Crimea’ informed that 208 administrative reports had been made in Crimea by the police for 24h of April 15 under RF CoAO Article 20.6.1 for violation of ‘high alert regime’, namely that ‘people were in the street without any reason’ .

The practice of compiling administrative reports and adjudicating under RF CoAO Article 20.6.1 shows an arbitrary interpretation of the norms of this article. It is important to note that the decree on the “high alert” regime does not explicitly prohibit visiting public places. At the same time, the rule on “self-isolation” is often interpreted by police as an absolute ban on going out.

For instance, April 4 an administrative report was made against Maksim Shustov in the town of Saki under RF CoAO Article 20.6.1-1 that he had left the residence place without permitting documents. The policemen, when making the report, told him that he would be given just a warning notice because he had admitted the quilt. However, on April 13 ‘Sudak District Court’ ruled that he be punished with a fine of RUR15,000. The minimum fine for this Article part is RUR1,000.

Regarding the examples, one should also note the reports made against a Yalta resident who was walking to the ATM to withdraw cash, or a Sevastopol resident who was fishing on the pier.

On April 17 it was informed that the Investigation Committee had started a criminal case against a 35 year’s old Simferopol resident because she ‘had applied force against a policeman monitoring the self-isolation regime observation’ .

Since April 15 amendments of the CoAO of Crimea made by ‘Law of Republic of Crimea’ # 64-ЗПК/2020 of 10 April 2020 came into effect. These amendments established increased penalties for violation of restrictive measures. On April 14 the so called MIA of Crimea published its vision of the restrictions and punishments for their violation, that contradicted Edict # 63-U on the ‘high alert regime’

 

4.Informing the people, access to necessary medical services and personal protection means

According to the official information of the authorities de facto, as of April 19, 61 cases of COVID-19 infection were recorded in Crimea (45 in the “Republic of Crimea” and 16 in Sevastopol). Information about the first officially recognized case of the infection in Crimea appeared on March 21.

The Crimean authorities de factor confirm the issues with ‘hot line’ operations on COVID-19 matters. For instance, ‘minister of labour and social security’ of Crimea informed that the ‘hot lines’ were constantly busy thus it was impossible to report the people who came to Crimea from Russia.

Access to medical establishments

As stated by the authorities de facto, about 300 Crimeans came to the medical establishments with ARVI symptoms for April 14-15, and over 20 of them were placed in hospital with community-acquired pneumonia symptoms.

On April 14 it was reported that a COVID-19 case had been detected in the Krasnogvardeysk neuropsychiatric residential facility. On April 17 it was decided to introduce the observation regime in the facility .

In the inpatient department of Hospital No. 1 of Sevastopol, the threat of COVID-19 infection was announced. After that, the Russian Guard placed the medical staff and patients of the department ‘under protection’. According to patients, there are at least 109 people in the establishment. Everyone was forbidden to undergo “self-isolation” at home and left in the hospital. Patients reported that the hospital lacked conditions for a long stay – there were no enough WC rooms and showers. Only when the situation became known to the public, the city authorities de facto announced that the inpatient department had been put into observation mode until April 20. It was also promised that part of the people would be transferred to a rest house, and part – to the municipal hospital No. 9.

On April 14 it was stated that medical staff of two Sevastopol hospitals closed when COVID-19 had been there detected, would be moved to other establishments to undergo observation: municipal hospital No 4 – to SOLNYSHKO Rest Camp, and Dasha Sevastopolska hospital No 3 – to IZUMRUD rest house.

According to the CHRG information, received from the Bagerovska District Hospital of the Leninsky district, work in the Leninsky district clinics is administered according to the protocol for combating cholera disease. So, if the patient is suspected of COVID-19, then after his coming, the hospital entrances are closed and material is taken for analysis. However, unofficially, the medical staff has been notified that patients suspected of COVID-19 had to be sent to “self-isolation” at their place of residence in order to “not increase the official sickness statistics.” The hospital reports the high number of cases of childhood pneumonia (up to 300 cases for the last 4 months, according to the staff), but these children were not tested for COVID-19.

The authorities de facto acknowledged that they could not provide fully the population with the necessary number of artificial lung ventilation devices. According to S. Aksionov, as of April 16, 478 beds were deployed in Crimea for treating patients with COVID-19, of which 211 were “with oxygen” and 93 were equipped with artificial lung ventilation devices. According to his information, 478 beds more would be provided in Armiansk, Dzhankoy and Simferopol until April 28. But he noted that an application submitted to the federal center was for 240 devices though only 72 were promised.

The Crimean Rospotrebnadzor reported that the pace of filling the observators in Crimea was very high, and there was need to deploy quickly new institutions to work in the observation mode.

 

Conclusions and recommendations

For 13 and 19 April, the number of officially confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased sharply, almost twice, in Crimea.

Information obtained during the monitoring indicates that the official figures of the authorities de facto of Crimea are underestimated, and in some medical institutions the management is secretly advised not to report all cases of suspected COVID-19. Thus, the official figures on the number of cases of COVID-19 infection are not true.

Medical institutions that have been switched to an observation regime cannot provide minimum sanitary conditions for patients and medical staff to stay in such conditions.

In many medical establishments, even in cases of suspected COVID-19, the medical staff continues to work without special protective equipment.

In general, the current Crimean healthcare system is not able to provide the necessary conditions to control the spread of COVID-19 and treat patients with COVID-19.

The Crimean pre-trial detention center remains overcrowded, creating serious risks for the COVID-19 outbreak among one of the most vulnerable groups – prisoners and persons in custody. The Russian Federation is obliged to switch to the practice of replacing preventive punishments with alternative ones that are not related to deprivation of liberty in order to ensure the right to life for this category of people.

The lack of legal certainty in the new rules on bringing to liabillity for violation of the restrictions of the “high alert” regime leads to an arbitrary interpretation of administrative articles and abuse of authority by the police and the Russian Guard and, as a result, unreasonable restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms.

In violation of the norms of international humanitarian law, the Russian Federation continues military training exercises in the occupied Crimea.

According to the norms of international humanitarian law, the Russian Federation is an occupying power. Art. 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention obliges the Russian Federation, with all its means available, to ensure and maintain the activities of sanitary and hospital institutions and services, health care and public hygiene in the occupied territory of Crimea, that also includes the preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of epidemics.

 Recommendations for the Government of Ukraine:

  • not to establish the exhaustive list of humanitarian grounds for crossing the Ukrainian checkpoints with Crimea, thus preserving the possibility of responding to unforeseen circumstances;
  • inform Ukrainian nationals who do not have a residence registration in the territory controlled by Ukraine about the algorithm of their actions in case of suspected COVID-19infection.
  • to monitor the situation of the COVID-19 spread in Crimea using available methods, including information from human rights organizations in Ukraine.

Recommendations for international organizations and governments of democratic countries:

  • to monitor, to a possible extent, the situation with COVID-19 spreading in Crimea;
  • not to allow the RF to use the COVID-19 situation for cancelling the sanctions imposed due to the occupation of Crimea, and violation of human rights and the international humanitarian law norms
  • appeal to the Russian Federation with the requirement to comply with the recommendations of the UN and the Council of Europe on preventing the COVID-19 spread in the Crimean places of unfreedom.

 

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