MEPs call on Russia to release political prisoners, discuss Crimea

EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

A woman waves a Crimean Tatar’s flag from a car in downtown Kiev, Ukraine.

MEPs call on Russia to release political prisoners, discuss Crimea


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The European Parliament reiterated today its condemnation of the illegal annexation three years ago of the Crimean peninsula and the City of Sevastopol by Russia. It deplores violations of freedom of speech, abuse of the media, forced imposition of Russian citizenship and the discriminatory policies imposed by the so-called authorities against, in particular, Crimea’s ethnic Tatar minority.

The European Parliament called on Moscow to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who are in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

In the resolution adopted today, the parliament urged Russia to “release without further delay all illegally and arbitrarily detained Ukrainian citizens, both in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and to provide for their safe return.”

It listed 30 people, including filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian prison after being convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in a trial supporters called absurd, and reporter Roman Sushchenko, held on suspicion of espionage.

The list, which the parliamentary statement said was not complete, also included several leaders of the Crimean Tatar minority, which rights groups say has faced abuse and discrimination since Russia seized the peninsula from Ukraine in April 2014.

Russia should stop giving “all inhabitants of Crimea Russian passports” and “release without further delay all illegally and arbitrarily detained Ukrainian citizens, both in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and to provide for their safe return”, urge MEPs. It should also “immediately cease the practices of persecution”, as many cases have been reported of “disappearances”, torture and systematic intimidation of local citizens opposed to the annexation of Crimea.

MEPs reiterated their call for the immediate reversal of the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea’s decision of 26 April 2016 to ban the Mejlis, the legitimate and recognised representative body of ethnic Crimean Tatars, an indigenous people of the peninsula whose “rights have been gravely violated”.

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