Why is the Kremlin taking Ukrainian political hostages? | VIDEO

Dozens of Ukrainian citizens are now in Russian prisons for crimes they have never committed.

Russian authorities arrest them arbitrarily for participating in peaceful rallies outside Russia, defending rights of others or writing journalistic articles. They persecute Crimean Tatars based on ethnic origin and equate their practicing of Islam to terrorist activity. Using brutal violence, they force the political prisoners to admit their guilt for killing the people who died elsewhere or never existed at all.

But what makes Russia so eager to take Ukrainian hostages, torture them, humiliate their dignity, and imprison them for years and decades?

The Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has been sentenced to 20 years in Russian jail for resisting the occupation of his native Crimea. He is one of the 44 Ukrainian hostages of the Kremlin. The #LetMyPeopleGo campaign advocates for the release of all of them.

Read more: The Sentsov-Kolchenko case: what you need to know

In Russia and occupied Crimea, you may end up behind bars simply because you have a Ukrainian ID. No matter which views you hold: left, right, or even pro-Russian. But you’re at double risk if you have supported the Euromaidan revolution or you are Muslimlike the indigenous population of Crimea, the Crimean Tatars, who opposed Russian invasion. Now 19 Crimean Tatars are accused of terrorism, and the reason is that they are faithful Muslim believers.

Read more: 7 myths driving Russia’s assault against the Crimean Tatars

What does Russia get of imprisoning these people?

  • First, Putin’s government persuades Russians that they at danger and need to be protected by a strong power from “spies,” “saboteurs,” and “terrorists”.
  • Second, it reinforces the Russian state media’s story of Ukraine as “Enemy #1” and switches Russia’s status from aggressor to victim in the time of the ongoing war.
  • Third, it makes residents of occupied Crimea fear their own country, Ukraine.
  • Also, the Russian security services create the illusion of their effective work but in fact oppress any dissent.

The imprisoned Ukrainians are the hostages of Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine. Because of this, Russian authorities fabricate cases against them. It’s not hard: here are a few tools they apply.

Torture

Under torture, the semi-literate laborer from Donbas Serhiy Lytvynov “confessed” to murdering 48 civilians in Donbas, which was broadcast on state TV. Afterward, Russia canceled these charges as false but invented new ones and send him to serve 8,5-year sentence in the Far East.

Read more: Five unknown Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia

Falsification of the evidence

Ukrainians Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were accused of fighting in Chechnya in the mid-90s—at a moment and in the location where there was no warfare going on yet. They were imputed murdering thirty soldiers who were documented to have died elsewhere. Klykh and Karpyuk were brutally tortured: beaten, suffocated, electrocuted through genitals, kept without sleep and food for several days and “confessed” to all the absurd accusations.

Read more: Lawyer: Karpyuk was tortured the most. They needed a case against a real banderite

Six things you need to know about the show “trial” of Stanislav Klykh

Extension of the Russian jurisdiction where it never was

Russia accuses Ukrainians of taking part in the developments beyond its jurisdiction both in space and time.

  • Andriy Kolomiyets was sentenced to 10 years and Oleksandr Kostenko—to 3 years 11 months in jail for participating in the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv.
  • the Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz faces up to 15-year imprisonment for organizing a rally against the occupation of Crimea on 26 February 2014, before Russia formally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula.

Read more: Remember the Crimean Tatars jailed for resisting Russian occupation

Imprisoning journalists is convenient for Russia too

The Ukrainian correspondent Roman Sushchenko lived in Paris and wrote about Russia’s influence on France and Europe. He was arrested on a private visit to Moscow and accused of “spying” on fictitious charges.

Read more: Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko celebrates birthday in Putin’s prison

Meet Mykola Semena, the Crimean journalist prosecuted for disagreeing with Putin’s landgrab

As more than forty Ukrainian political prisoners remain in Russia custody, dozens of kids are left without parental care.

We should stop this. In 2016, global pressure on Moscow enabled the release of some Ukrainians: Nadiya Savchenko, Gennadiy Afanasyev, and Yuriy Soloshenko. We can release more.

Read more: Afanasyev and Soloshenko: How the FSB breaks prisoners

How can you help?

  • Tell your friends about the Kremlin’s hostages and #LetMyPeopleGo campaign,
  • Organize a demonstration in front of a Russian embassy,
  • Contact your politicians & media,
  • Ask Russian officials about Ukrainian prisoners at any chance,
  • Write letters of support to political prisoners.

Demand Russia let Ukrainians go home!

The video was produced by Euromaidan Press in the framework of #LetMyPeopleGo campaign advocating for the release of the Ukrainians illegally held in Russia and occupied Crimea. It was first demonstrated at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris during the international colloquium Cinémas d’insurrection (February 2017).

You can watch the video in English, French, and Ukrainian. If you want to be a volunteer and help with its translation into other languages, please contact us at [email protected].

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