Ukrainians in Crimea: six types of punishment for refusing the Russian passport

Ukrainians in Crimea: six types of punishment for refusing the Russian passport

What’s it like for Ukrainians residing in Crimea without the Russian citizenship? Part of Crimeans, who had officially refused the Russian citizenship, received residence permits in Crimea. However there are those who did not do that on purpose. From the Ukrainian legal standpoint all the documents issued in Crimea by Russian de-facto authorities are considered illegal. Both those who have officially refused the Russian citizenship and those who have never applied for the Russian “Crimean” passport are facing problems. These are not only pro-Ukrainian activists but also “common” Crimean residents who do not openly demonstrate their position.

UCMC publishes translation of the short version of Ukrainska Pravda’s article.

SANCTION 1. Persecuted for pro-Ukrainian position

“For example, when we were taking pictures of ourselves in vyshyvankas (Ukrainian national embroidered shirt – UCMC), we were detained with no explanation and taken to a police station where we were questioned. In addition to that they were saying: “It is possible that they will find your beheaded body somewhere. That’s why you need to leave your fingerprints, because there would be no other way to identify you,” remembers Mykhailo, activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea. Like many others he refused getting Russian documents and got under “special attention” by the Russian Security Service.

Another example is the case of activist Volodymyr Balukh. He has been held in one of Crimean pre-trial detention centers since December 8, 2016. Human right defenders are convinced that the activist was arrested due to his position as a Ukraine citizen. Volodymyr was formally charged after projectiles were allegedly found in his mother’s house. The search itself was conducted with blatant violations. Prosecution does not have any proof that would testify for Balukh’s liability. It is more likely that he is persecuted for political motives.

Crimean Antonina (the name was changed) also fell victim to her convictions. The woman says that not so long ago she gave an interview to a journalist from a Ukrainian media. After the interview was published, her neighbors, who had also read the media, started insulting her child. They suggested that they leave in a rude form (“Bugger off, hohols”; hohol is an insulting word for Ukrainian) and wrote on the house fence “Death to Bandera people” (Smert Banderam). Police refused to investigate the case.

SANCTION 2. Limited access to medical assistance

Activist Mykhailo says persecution for beliefs is just one part of the problems that the persons who refused to take up the Russian citizenship are facing. Getting medical assistance also gets complicated. Last year he got sick, he was refused medical assistance in a state clinic due to the fact that he was not enrolled in the health insurance program – it is not possible to do so without the Russian passport. He had to turn to a doctor he knew. It turned out he had pneumonia and he was recovering at home.

Crimean Olena is also one of the persons who refused to take up the Russian citizenship. She’s got no Russian passport but had to get the residency permit. “It was very funny when I was registered in a state clinic where I was going to deliver a child. They gathered an entire concilium of doctors. They could not figure out what to put in the medical registration documents. I have neither the Russian passport, nor the temporary residency mark.”

The need to use healthcare services is used as an instrument to force Crimea residents to get the Russian passport.

SANCTION 3. Dismissal at work

After March 2014 Crimean “authorities” started considering all Ukrainians as foreign citizens, even if they had always had Crimean registration marks in their passports. To employ Ukrainians as foreign citizens, they have to get the labor permit. If a person does not want to get it, it is a dead-end.

For example, Yalta-based researcher, PhD in biological sciences Guriy Korniliyev was fired on August 8, 2016. The scientist is convinced that the dismissal resulted from his refusal to take up the Russian citizenship. When at work they learnt that Korniliyev did not have the Russian passport, he was suggested several times to call back his claim that he had lodged to refuse from the Russian citizenship, but to no avail. Korniliyev said that two more staff members of the Nikitsky Botanical Gardens were fired together with him for their pro-Ukrainian position.

Employers who hire Ukrainians in Crimea are being fined.

SANCTION 4. Not possible to re-register vehicles

Crimean Antonina keeps sharing her trouble. Those, not in possession of the Russian passport, cannot undergo the new registration procedure for their vehicles. They also cannot get Russian car plates on their Crimean vehicles.

Staff of the Simferopol customs house “advised” her to bring in the vehicle presenting the residency permit and after having paid customs duties. However it is expensive and complicated in practice: you pay first and only then you can bring the vehicle in.

“It would be fair to say that they made me change the registration in the passport. I got registered (propyska in Ukrainian) at my friend’s in Mykolayiv. I am now entering Crimea as a foreign national with a migration card and can stay up to 90 days. I am also allowed to bring in the vehicle based on the temporary import customs rules,” Antonina explains.

SANCTION 5. Refusal to provide banking services

If a Crimean with the Ukrainian passport does not have a residency permit, he or she will be refused services at the bank.

Yalta-based Yuriy Formus went to the Chernomorsky bank for reconstruction and development to pay the state duty for a court proceeding. Bank refused servicing him. In the official reply he was explained that the bank is rendering services only to Russian citizens or foreign nationals upon presentation of respective documents.

“To run entrepreneurial activities here with a residency permit you would need to get a lot of documents. There are also problems to open bank accounts, it is not possible at all to get a bank card,” said Crimean Elena.

SANCTION 6. No registration at the residential address

Elena spoke about another problem she had to face. In the annexed Crimea, if a person is not the owner of the accommodation where they live, they need to sign the social rent agreement – the agreement with city “authorities” consenting to live in the premises.

Elena’s parents live in a social housing facility. They got no property rights for the apartment. When Elena was getting the residency permit, she was automatically assigned “registration” in this apartment in the document. However when her parents tried to sign the social rent agreement for this apartment they were refused.

“The explanation was that Ukraine citizens – me and my child, are registered in the apartment. The fact that I have been registered there for over 20 years did not work out,” Elena said.

As a result, the woman decided to unregister from the apartment. So she found herself without the registration at all. When she tried to register at another address, the reply she got was that it is only possible to get registered with apartment owners.

Russian legislation bears no regulations as to such situations. When people who refused the Russian citizenship come across these legal gaps local “authorities” are just closing their eyes on it. “They pretend we’re not even here,” the Crimean says.

A Ukrainian residing in Crimea that wished to remain anonymous said: “The only solution to these problems is de-occupation. Otherwise we will all get either imprisoned or forced out of homes. My mother is a Putin supporter, so are the parents of my husband. I can only turn to my good friends, and to Ukraine, in which we do believe and which we live and breath,” the woman says.

Cover photo: Irina Tiumentsev/Depositphotos