The Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) records the cases of harassment by Russian special services of Crimean citizens that live on the mainland of Ukraine now or the citizens of other regions of Ukraine, who come to Crimea to visit relatives or for other reasons.
Currently the norms of the Russian legislation are applied in Crimea. In the first place the norms of “anti extremism” or “antiterrorist” legislation in Crimea. These norms are not clearly defined, they are used selectively and for political reasons, and it is impossible to rely on an objective justice in Crimea today. Therefore if you have decided to go to Crimea, it is necessary to take certain precautionary measure. This is especially important for civil society activists, journalists, members of the Maidan, Ukrainian volunteer movements and socially active citizens of Ukraine.
- The CHRG recommends suspending your account on Facebook (or other social networking sites) during the travel time. Russian security services monitor the information published in social networks, including the posts sharing. Any criticism of the Russian authorities, publications which express your pro-Ukrainian position, including publications and photos during or after the Revolution of dignity on the Maidan with the participants of Maidan, photos with soldiers of the Ukrainian army, members of the volunteer units, volunteers and politicians may be qualified as extremist or terrorist by the Russian security services.
The Federal Security Service of Russia monitors not only the publications and photos, but also lists of your friends. There were cases when during the questioning security services were interested why Ukrainian military, politics or Ukrainian activists are in the friends list on Facebook.
If you cannot suspend your account for some reason, in this case you can use the instructions for Crimean citizens about how to protect themselves from the persecution for ideological dissension by the de facto authorities of Crimea prepared by digital security expert Nicholay Kostinyan.
We would like to draw your attention that it is not recommended for the citizens of Ukraine to have accounts in social networks such as “VKontakte”, “Odnoklassniki” etc., as these networks, in fact, controlled by the Federal Security Service of Russia. Even after the removal of these accounts the information that was posted there, including your personal message in the chat rooms, is available to Russian special services. Hence, experts recommend Ukrainians to refuse to use Russian social networks, or at least, not to publish the posts on political issues and not to discuss politics in their personal messages.
- The CHRG recommends, where possible, not to take smart phones during travel to Crimea, as they usually also contain a lot of information about you. Your accounts, emails, passwords, stored photos can be accessed through these devices. That may seem safe for you, but to the Russian security services they may be of an interest. Your telephone book may also be an interest for Russian Federal Security Service, because it can contain contacts of activists, journalists, military, and their families.
Cases when telephones were confiscated from citizens crossing the “Crimean border” by Russian border guards and they were interested in the contact list, were documented by the monitors of the CHRG.
In this regard, it is better to take a regular phone with the minimum of necessary and safe contacts during the trip to Crimea.
- Do not take the other gadgets like laptops, tablets and other devices without special need. Remember that it is quite difficult to remove information from them and experts can recover files that were deleted by not a professional. If you really need to take such device with you, contact the specialist who will help you to “clean it up” correctly.
- Pay attention to your clothes and accessories. It is not recommended to take any “Right Sector” symbolic or the symbolic of The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as these organizations are prohibited in the Russian Federation. It is not recommended to attract the attention with any other Ukrainian symbolic.
- Read the rules of “Russian border” crossing before the trip, as the Russian Federation considers Crimea as its territory and restricts the import of many products and goods.
You will have to communicate with the Russian special services at the entrance to the Crimea. Remember that Russian border guards are employees of the Federal Security Service of Russia. Do not attempt to joke, do not ask any unnecessary questions, do not tell anything about yourself if you are not asked. Also, do not react to provocative questions from the guards, such as the ownership of Crimea or who is guilty in the war in Donbas, etc. While responding to questions, try only to provide the information which is already available in your passport. For example, answering the question about your actual place of residence it is better to state the address of residence, which is mentioned in your passport that you provide to the border guard.
- During communicating with people in Crimea, remember that they can write a denunciation to the Russian security services about you. Now it is widespread and encouraged by the de facto authorities. The CHRG was reported about cases of denunciations by neighbours, friends and even relatives. Moreover, the new article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Failure to report a crime” is now come into effect.
- The CHRG recommends minimise the amount of mobile phone calls in Crimea, especially if you are talking about individuals, organizations, political opinions, assess political situation.
Pay particular attention to those situations, if the person you are speaking to is Crimean citizen, and he or relatives of such a person are under investigation in Crimea. The Federal Security Service of Russia, the prosecutor’s office, the police eavesdrop on telephone conversations “within the operational activities”, and occasionally engage in attempts to hack their accounts or emails in respect of people “under investigation”, as well as their relatives or friends.
Try to use different secure communications, not mobile communication. Mobile operators are obliged to store information about all the phone calls and messages for some period of time and they are required to provide it upon request of the Federal Security Service of Russia or the prosecutor’s office.
If you still have problems with the security services in Crimea: the search was conducted, you were invited to the questioning or simply asked to write an explanatory letter, do not sign anything. Any information given by you may be used against you. During interrogations, you can take advantage of the Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and not testify against yourself and your relatives. Look for the opportunity to seek legal help from a lawyer straightway.
Contacts of the Crimean Human Rights Group:
e-mail: [email protected]
tel .: +38 067 22 40 173 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crimeahrg/