Activists from a Ukrainian Cultural Centre, Halyna Baloban and Olena Popova, were detained at the train station in Simferopol, a city in annexed Crimea.
Journalist Anton Naumlyuk reported the news: "[Russian law enforcement] stated that they had an inclination that [the activists] were ‘going to engage in illegal activity’, and took them to the railway district department. They are now talking with a police officer,” he wrote.
Naumlyuk noted that Russian law-enforcement in Crimea regularly detains members of the Cultural Centre on the eve of and during Ukrainian national holidays, “so that they do not display public activism.”
“I think they will hold them for three hours, handout another warning about the liability for engaging in illegal activity and let them go. I hope that it’s nothing serious, but still pay attention,” the journalist summarized.
Subsequently, lawyer Edem Semedlyaev stated that the police had released the activists.
Since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, pro-Ukrainian residents and the indigenous Crimean Tatar population of the peninsula have frequently faced discrimination and political persecution.
The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Simferopol was founded in May 2015, in response to the fact the police detained Ukrainians who went to lay wreaths at the monument of Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko.
Since then, the Centre has engaged in cultural and educational work, organizing lectures on Ukrainian history and readings of literature by Ukrainian writers.
In turn, the occupying authorities prohibit activists from holding public events, call people in for questioning and “conversations” at the law-enforcement agencies and warn them of the inadmissibility of extremism.
In February 2014, Russian special forces seized control over key government buildings on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Under occupation on March 16, an illegal referendum was held on Crimean independence resulting in broad international condemnation. Three days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean separatist leaders signed a draft treaty admitting Crimea into the Russian Federation, which was later ratified by the Russian legislature.
/Text by Sofia Fedeczko