Journalists at risk in Crimea
Ukraine, action created 14.3.2014, petition is active
At least five people - journalists and activists - were arrested by a group of armed men in military control crossing near Crimea. After a few days in captivity, all detainees have been released, but a similar situation may happen again. Journalists are necessary to provide objective information about the current situation in the region. Amnesty International is therefore calling to ensure the security and freedom of movement for journalists and other people in Crimea, including people from mainland Ukraine.
On 9 March, photographer Oles Kromplyas, journalist Olena Maksymenko and their driver Eugene Rakhno disappeared after being stopped at a checkpoint, reportedly manned by riot police officers and armed, plain clothed masked men without any identifiable insignia. The armed men, who claimed to be from Crimea’s “self-defense” forces, had guns and knives. Their colleague, journalist Oleksiy Byk, was in a separate vehicle with his brother, a resident of Crimea.
Oleksiy Byk told Amnesty International that he also saw two women kneeling in front of their car with their hands tied. Surrounded by piles of clothing, papers and notebooks, the women were crying. Oleksiy Byk said he could hear the armed men threatening them. The women were later identified by their car license plate as Oleksandra Ryazantseva and Kateryna Butko, both AutoMaydan activists from the Kiev-based group that organized automobile protest actions during the EuroMaydan demonstrations. Kateryna Butko is the group’s press secretary and Oleksiy Byk said he saw that she was wearing a press badge identifying her as a journalist. At 4pm Oleksiy Byk and his brother were allowed to leave, due to the brother’s residency in Crimea. When they returned 30 minutes later their colleagues’ car and the armed men were gone. However Oleksiy Byk said he could still see the two women kneeling, still with their hands tied, in front of a military tent in the distance. Oleksiy Byk and his brother left and immediately contacted Ukrainian media.
On Tuesday 12 March, at around 5pm local time, there were reports from Crimea that Oles Kromplyas, Olena Maksymenko, Eugene Rakhno, Oleksandra Ryazantseva and Kateryna Butko had been released.
Crimea is a peninsula that lies to the north of the Black Sea. Most of it consists of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, a self-governing territory which is part of Ukraine. The Crimean city of Sevastopol is also the location for the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet, in accordance with a bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Russia.
On 26 February 2014, the first reports were heard of clashes between pro-Russian activists and EuroMaydan supporters (protests in Kiev, which caused the fall of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych) in the capital of Crimea and in other places of the peninsula.
On the night of 27 February 2014, an armed group occupied the building of local government in the Crimea. Armed men in uniforms without markings, using military equipment, took over objects belonging to the Ukrainian army and naval fleet. In Simferopol, a new regional administration was appointed, which opposes the clerical central government. This election, held by the Crimean parliament on the 27 February, resulted in a new President of the Autonomous Republic and was held in the presence of unidentified armed men.
On 6 March, the Crimean parliament passed a call for a referendum. The inhabitants of the Crimea will vote on 16 March on the possibility of separation from Ukraine in favor of close ties to Russia. As of now, the area is fully under the control of the army and other military groups.