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33 Crimeans have been prosecuted by the Russian authorities for the refusal to serve in the armed forces of Russian Federation – human rights activists

Kyiv, October 25, 2018.

33 Crimean citizens have been prosecuted of the occupation authorities to for avoiding joining the ranks of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. Three more sentences will be announced shortly. This information was disclosed by human rights activists during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Facts were established during the data collection to form the evidence base for the submission of an informational message by Ukraine to the International Criminal Court on the compulsory conscription of its citizens in occupied Crimea to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In accordance with the norms of international humanitarian law, such actions of the occupying country are a military crime.

“It is important that during this time [since Crimean occupation] citizens are not only drafted to the Russian Armed Forces, but this is done under the coercion due to the fact that a repressive system of recruitment has been created, because that there is a criminal responsibility for evasion from service in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, – said Maksym Tymochko, lawyer of the NGO “Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union”. According to the Rome Statute, such persecution by the occupying power is an international crime.

They also documented evidence that Crimean conscripts had left the peninsula to avoid the draft and prosecution for evasion from service. “This allows to view another related international crime – forced displacement of the population (…) A person doesn’t seem to be moved physically, with the help of some organs, but there is an atmosphere that forces them to move,” said Vitaliy Nabukhotny, lawyer of the NGO “Regional Center for Human Rights”.

In total, within the framework of the monitoring, the expert group collected 165 legal acts that confirm the fact of the military service awards, given to Ukrainian citizens in Russian Army of in occupied Crimea. “These are the orders of the President of the Russian Federation from the beginning of the conscription campaign, the orders of the Minister of Defense, laws that “allow” to give awards in the occupied territory, orders of administrations to allocate funds for conducting a campaign in certain regions of Crimea”, – said Oleksandr Sedov, analyst of the NGO “Crimean Human Rights Group”. In addition, they collected 199 publications from media and the sites of administrations of Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, which specify the names of the officials responsible for the awards, and which allow accurately calculating the number of conscripts for each year in each of the Crimean districts.

2000 pages in social networks were analyzed as well. With this method the facts of the handing out of 57 nominations were documented, which were signed at Russian military commissariats in Crimea. It also turned out that at least 9 Crimean recruits received awards for participating in Russian military operations in Syria. Oleksandr Sedov separately noted that at moment there is no record of the deaths of conscripts from Crimea during operations in Syria, although there is information about the deaths of Crimean contractors. Nor did they record concrete facts of involving the Crimean conscripts in military actions in Donbas.

All collected data was included in the fourth submission of the information message of Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. Yelyzaveta Dzigora, prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, noted that their Office has already stored more than 12 volumes of materials on this case. “We have a clear strategic plan of action regarding the timelines for submitting information messages and additions to them. All this is carried out systematically, on a permanent basis, so that the previous reports concerning other war crimes are supplemented by new facts,” Yelyzaveta Dzigora emphasized.

At present, an information notice is at the stage of preliminary examination by the Secretariat of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

“At the moment, another tense campaign in Crimea is taking place, within the framework of which 3 thousand Crimeans are planned to be drafted. This indicates that the Russian Federation’s crime is not avout to end, so our work on collecting evidence will continue,” said Oleksandr Sedov.

The prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea stressed on that the fact of the voluntary service of Crimeans in the Armed forces of Russian Federation would not be an automatic basis for prosecuting them. “Generally speaking, there would be no criminal prosecution in the general sense. Each particular case will be considered by reviewing specific facts. (…) Having studied these facts, how it happened, it will be possible to understand the presence or absence of the criminal actions of such person specifically, and only then  the question of presence or absence of a possible prospect that a particular person may be prosecuted would be decided” – underlined Yelyzaveta Dzigora. Maksym Tymochko added that in itself the compulsory service in the ranks of the Russian army, in accordance with the current Ukrainian legislation, are not grounds for the loss of Ukrainian citizenship.

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