Research & Analytics

Crimea: Ukrainians without Russian Passports to Face Torture and Persecution

Crimia court Russia

The Russian Federation systematically discriminates and persecutes Ukrainian citizens who do not have Russian documents in the occupied territory of Crimea. Russian authorities apply migration laws to such Crimeans, which cause restrictions on freedom of movement, employment, and medical care, as well as administrative penalties and even torture.

The Crimean Human Rights Group investigated the practice of applying Article 18.8 of the Code of Administrative Offenses in Crimea (Violation of the rules of entry into the Russian Federation or stay (residence) in the Russian Federation by a foreign citizen or a stateless person) during 2019. This article was most often used by the Russian authorities in Crimea to persecute Ukrainian citizens who have not received the so-called “automatic” Russian passport.

The “courts'” websites operating in Crimea and controlled by Russian were used to collect information. The Group has documented at least 1,249 court rulings under Art. 18.8 of the Administrative Code and accumulated the results of 1,080 of them. The appeal courts have cancelled only seven of these decisions, while the others remained in force.

From 1080 resolutions under Art. 18.8 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation 677 related to the citizens of Ukraine, 313, – the foreign citizens, another 90 – the persons whose citizenship could not be defined. It is worth noting that the Russian authorities also prosecuted foreign citizens who had residence permits on the territory of Ukraine issued by the Ukrainian authorities before the occupation.

All the decisions made under Art. 18.8 of the Code of Administrative Offenses imposed administrative fines. The total amount of penalties under this article amounted to at least 2,632,500 rubles in the Crimea in 2019. Judges also imposed fines on Ukrainian citizens who, after the occupation, were forced to have a resident permit issued but did not submit an annual notification to the FMS of the Russian Federation.

Out of 1,080 published rulings, 361 stipulated not only fines but also additional punishment in the form of deportation from Crimea. In 2019, decisions about the expulsion of Ukrainian citizens living on the peninsula amounted to 177.

One of the probable reasons for such a “disbalance” can be the Russian authorities’ purposeful policy to expel the undesirable population from the Crimean southern coast, Simferopol, and Sevastopol. Previously recorded facts of Art. 18.8 use by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation employees in Yalta to expel activists disloyal to Russia, such as Alexander Kovalchuk in 2017 and Eugene Gaivoronsky in 2019 confirm this.

Torture for an absent passport 

While monitoring the decisions, the Crimean Human Rights Group found another example of the arbitrariness of the Russian Interior Ministry in Yalta and the “Yalta City Court” against a Ukrainian citizen.

In particular, on 16 August 2019, officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation detained a citizen of Ukraine Sh., who did not have a migration card with him. He lives in Yalta and takes care of his sick mother. After the detention, the police “knocked out” by torture a statement that he was allegedly in a hostile relationship with his mother and wanted to leave for the territory controlled by Ukraine. On this statement basis, Judge Nadiya Dvirnyk of the “Yalta City Court” ruled that Sh. is to be deported. After that, he was sent directly from the courtroom to the Center for Temporary Detention of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons who are to be expelled outside the Russian Federation, deported or readmitted in the Rostov region. He had spent more than two weeks there until the court of appeal cancelled the expulsion decision based on a statement from his mother and lawyer. Tellingly, the “court” took into account the actual presence of a migration card, but not the fact of torture in the decision-revising process. Accordingly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation employees were not prosecuted for the use of torture.

Another negative trend in 2019 was disregarded by “courts” close relatives’ existence when making decisions on expulsion. The Group recorded the facts of Ukrainian citizens’ deportation, despite the residence of their children and wives (husbands) in the Crimea. The relatives’ existence was also ignored during the consideration of the cases in the “courts” of the second instance. In their decisions, the “judges” copy the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruling dated 19 February 2019 №11-АТ 19-З2, which stipulated deportation of a Ukraine citizen from the Russian Federation, despite the close relatives’ residence. Such a practice is a gross interference in private and family life (a violation of Article 8 of the ECHR).

The deportation of Ukrainians from the occupied territory of Ukraine is a violation of international humanitarian law. That is another war crime of the Russian Federation committed in Crimea. Separation of Ukrainians from their families living in Crimea violates the right to respect for private and family life. The persecution of Crimean people in the occupied territories for the absence of Russian documents ignores plenty of international norms. Moreover, the shortage of such documents has become a marker that Ukrainian citizens face regular discrimination in Crimea.

Source: Crimean Human Rights Group

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