Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine says that nothing has changed in Crimea over the last year: “It’s even worse.” Each year, Russia’s punitive actions towards Crimean activist are becoming more severe. According to Dzheppar, Russia carefully seeks out activists and saboteurs and imprisons them, and it is important to let the world know, in order to save those political captives.
“The most efficient instrument is to somehow proliferate this information – to make other people know what’s going on in Crimea.”
Most political prisoners in Crimea are either Ukrainian or Tatar, explains Dzheppar. The majority of them are still awaiting a court decision. “Crimean prisoners are hostages,” she says. Every Ukrainian traveling in Crimea can potentially be blamed as a saboteur, and Russia uses disciplinary measure to instill fear into the population.
“The strategy of the Russian Federation is first to erase Ukraine from Crimea and to make everyone believe that Crimea is happy today and that the Russian reality is much better than the Ukrainian reality. And, of course, to make Crimea believe that Ukraine forgot about Crimea,” she concludes.
Hromadske spoke to Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine in January 2017 in Ukraine.
What is the most important thing to know about the Crimean cases of Redvan Suleymanov, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Mejlis and others? What are the chances that these people can be freed? And how can you describe the situation in comparison with the last year in Crimea?
Nothing has changed, it’s even worse. Every year we have the situation, when the punitive actions are getting stronger and tougher towards the activists, who live in Crimea--mostly Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. The main and most important thing is to know about these cases. Today, Crimea is the territory, which doesn’t have freedom. This is the fact, that Russia is a punitive state, that Russia today is seeking political prisoners and looking how to find them.
Russia finds extremists, terrorists, and saboteurs. Punitive actions are there. So this is the most important is to know that Russia acts blunt and brutal in Crimea, by putting people into prison, by finding those activists. This is the most important. Of course, it doesn’t solve the whole issue. We can’t de-occupy Crimea, with knowing just this.
I know, that this is the most important aspect, and knowing this and vocalizing this to the whole world is the instrument of saving those people. If no one knew what Russia is doing there, I’m sure that the number of those political prisoners would be higher. Not even 10 people would be in the prisons or lost, but hundreds and thousands. So the most efficient instrument is to somehow proliferate this information, to make other people know what’s going on in Crimea.
Do Europe and the western world know enough about violations of human rights in Crimea?
In terms of information, you don’t have any clear criteria which is enough or which is not. Information can be unlimited. I think that Europe and the world in general know what’s going on in Crimea. And this is why they still support international initiatives like resolutions--one of the most recent on the 19th of December, the General Assembly voted for the Ukrainian resolution that blames all those prosecutions in Crimea. This is exactly why we need this information policy.
It’s not enough in terms of de-occupation. By knowing that, we can’t get back this territory. But at least it’s the most efficient that we have for today. The Crimean issue, as far as I get it, it’s not solely the Ukrainian case. I mean the whole world today is surviving a very tough period – ISIS, Syrian issue, extremism. There are so many issues. This is a kind of blunt position of Russian Federation. American elections. So many puzzles of this big issue. I think that today, the world still doesn’t have any recipe on what to do, because we have so many challenges which and somehow, no recipes. We really need some time to find find proper responses for that.
Can we talk about any possibility to free political activists?
The overwhelming majority of political prisoners in Crimea are still in the process. The criminal prosecution is still there. There is no decision of the court yet. In this case, there is a process and there is no decision, so we can’t discuss the possibility of exchange. But I think this can be also an instrument for exchange. The same we have in Donbas, but it’s not yet in practice. We have to start considering this option. Crimean prisoners are hostages. Those Ukrainians, who live in Crimea, all people there are hostages. This case of saboteurs.
Every Ukrainian citizen, who travels in Crimea can be potentially blamed as a saboteur. So this is what they do. On the one hand, they squeezed out all active Ukrainians, who lived in Crimea. And those, who remain living in Crimea, they’re trying to put them into that level high level of fear, so that they could keep silence forever. In this case, in order to keep the fire burning, you need to put wood every ten minutes. In this case, these public stories, these political cases and political prisoners will be there just to keep the temperature.
The strategy of the Russian Federation is first to erase Ukraine from Crimea and to make everyone believe that Crimea is happy today. That Russian reality is much more better than Ukrainian reality and, of course, to make Crimea believe that Ukraine forgot about Crimea. The whole propaganda is there, convincing them that Ukraine forgot. They discredit Ukraine; they discredit Ukrainian people, saying that Crimea is neither in the political agenda, nor in peoples’ minds.