FSB Search Ukrainian Cultural Activist in Russia-Annexed Crimea
30 August, 2018

The Russian Security Services (FSB) have raided the home of activist and co-founder of Crimea’s Ukrainian Cultural Center Olha Pavlenko for her alleged ties to a “terrorist” organization, which she denies.

“It seems as though some sort of ‘terrorist organization’ from Ukraine was planning an assassination attempt in Crimea. And I am suspected of being connected to this group, which is banned in Russia,” Pavlenko says.

Photo credit: Oleh Kamushkin/ (RFE/RL)

The “terrorist” group  in question is the nationalist organization Right Sector – the same organization filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was alleged to have been involved in when he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment on fabricated terrorism charges.  

Photo credit: Illya Taresov/ (RFE/RL)

FSB officers arrived at Pavlenko’s home at 6:30 a.m. on August 29, claiming to be maintenance workers. According to the activist, she was mysteriously unable to use her phone, but eventually managed to contact her lawyer via WhatsApp messenger.

After the search, the activist’s phone and computer were confiscated, and all data from these devices was copied. Pavlenko was not arrested, but now has to appear before the Russian Investigative Committee.

Photo credit: Anton Naumliuk/(RFE/RL)

The Ukrainian Cultural Center was founded in 2015  and aims to promote Ukrainian arts, culture and holidays in the occupied peninsula. Last year, they also began publishing their own Ukrainian-language arts and culture newspaper “Krymskiy Teren,” which circulates around 500 copies.

Photo credit: (RFE/RL)

The founders of the Centers emphasize the fact that they are apolitical and focus solely on arts, history and language. However, their work is often politicized by others and therefore attracts the attention of the occupying Russian authorities.

This is not the first time the activists from the Center have come under attack from the Russian authorities in Crimea. In 2015, co-founder Leonid Kuzmin was beaten organizing an event in commemoration of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Crimea. He was later fired from his teaching job for his pro-Ukrainian views, which he was told “bring imbalance into the educational process and exacerbate the conflict,” according to the school’s management. Due to the constant pressure he faced from the Russian authorities, Kuzmin left Crimea and now lives in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region.

/By Sofia Fedeczko