Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.11.2017
Russia is escalating its abuse and violations of human rights. Ukraine is trying to bring the world’s attention to the violence of the Russian occupation regime in Crimea and Donbas. The rest of the world is trying to ignore what is happening, afraid of fulfilling its responsibilities under international human rights law to punish Russia and seek justice for the victims of Russian aggression.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group noted on November 26 that the number of political prisoners held in Russia and in temporarily occupied Crimea is now over 60. Iryna Gerashchenko, First Vice Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, said on November 24 that the number of civilians, soldiers (Prisoners of War), volunteers and reporters who are hostages of the Russian occupation regime in Donbas is 162. In Crimea the number of hostages is growing because the Russians are abducting more Crimean Tatars. In Donbas the number of hostages is growing because the Russians are abducting more Ukrainian patriots. The Russian invader-occupiers especially hate and fear Ukrainian citizens who espouse the principles of freedom, honesty, and solidarity embodied by the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and the “EuroMaidan” Revolution of Dignity.
Activists attempted to draw the world’s attention to the plight of some of the over 200 known Ukrainian hostages of the Russian invader-occupiers. On November 26, flash mobs called “Waiting in vain” were held in airports around the world. Name cards were held up – names of men and women who were certain never to arrive because they are in a Crimean jail, in a Russian gulag, or in a Donbas dungeon. Some names are well-known, like filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and journalist Roman Sushchenko. Most of the others are well-known to Ukrainians, but have been all-but ignored by other Westerners.
As the flash mobs were going on, Olexander Kolchenko had his 28th birthday in a dungeon in Russia. He was arrested along with Oleg Sentsov, charged with bogus terrorist offences (“preparing” an attack), and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, added his voice to the world-wide chorus calling on Russia to release its hostages. Wishing Olexander Kolchenko a happy birthday, President Poroshenko wrote: “We do not stop fighting for your release and release of all Ukrainian hostages. Ukraine is with you, Olexander.”
Western democracy and European nation Ukraine is fighting against Russia’s grave abuses and violations of human rights. Other Western democracies and western European nations are saying very little and doing absolutely nothing about Russia’s crimes against humanity. Quite rightly, there are specific sanctions against corrupt Russian officials who are responsible for the torture and eventual death in prison of Sergey Magnitsky. But there are no new sanctions against corrupt Russian officials who are torturing Oleg Sentsov right now. Bill Browder, colleague and friend of the deceased Sergey Magnitsky, said in a tweet on November 20: “Condition of Oleg Sentsov, a political prisoner of Putin, is becoming increasingly desperate. Looks strikingly similar to what they did to Magnitsky. This demands our immediate attention and outrage.”
These are our fellow human beings. It is offensive to our common humanity that these men and women are abducted, tortured, subjected to harsh treatment, deprived of medical care, deprived of their liberty, and even killed for no reason whatsoever. Appealing for the release of hostages is not enough. An abiding defence of human rights demands the liberation of Crimea and Donbas from Russian invader-occupiers.
Picture: all data as on 31.03.2017