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October 3 – October 9 News Digest: Top 7 Stories about Crimea

October 09, 2015 12:33 0 2172 QirimInfo
Russia blocking independent Crimea-focused news websites, Crimea blockade discredited by paramilitary organizations, IDPs lobbying for their right to vote to be restored and more.

Russia blocking independent Crimea-focused news websites

October 5. Early this week three news websites that write about events Crimea, but are based in Ukraine — Center for Investigative Journalism, Sobytiya Kryma and BlackSeaNews — have received notices from Roskomnadzor, Russian telecom and media watchdog, that their websites contain “calls for mass unrest, and extremist activities”. The websites were to delete the articles in question or have access to them restricted in Russia and Crimea.

These three news websites present an alternative view of the events in Crimea and cover the topics ignored by mainstream Crimean media, for example, human rights violations. Thus, the experts believe the scope of crackdown on independent media in Crimea that was previously limited to Crimea-based media is widening.

Crimea blockade discredited by paramilitary organizations

October 6.On Tuesday, October 6, a scandal erupted after Crimean Human Rights Group reported numerous infringements by paramilitary formations participating in the trade blockade of Crimea. Fighters of Right Sector, Azov and other organizations reportedly detained, searched, interrogated and a number of people trying to cross the border.

The blockade of freight traffic to Crimea was initiated by Crimean Tatar activists to exert pressure on Russian authorities of Crimea and lobby changes of Ukrainian laws regarding the occupied peninsula, but a number of Right Sector fighters and representatives of other civic organizations and volunteer battalions had joined the blockade from the first day, raising widespread concerns. On Wednesday, October 7, in an attempt to straighten things out deputy head of Kherson department of Ministry of Internal Affairs Illya Kiva said that now on all the car checks near the Crimean border are to be conducted with a police officer present.

Mufti of Crimean Muslims to be excluded from the Mejlis

October 6. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is to consider stripping Emirali Ablaev, the mufti of Crimean Muslims, of his membership, said Mustafa Dzhemilev, a prominent Crimean Tatar leader and politician, on Tuesday, October 6. “He, unfortunately, has become a puppet in the hands of the occupational authorities,” said Dzhemilev.

Experts say that for some time after the annexation Ablaev, who has been leading Crimean Muslims since 1999, was able to distance religion from politics and refused to declare support for either side of the conflict, but lately the situation changed, judging by the negative outcome of August meeting between Ablaev and Refat Chubarov, the Chairman of the Mejlis. 

Nuland: sanctions against Crimea will stay in force until it returns to Ukraine

October 7. Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, reiterated the position of the US that Washington will lift sanctions against Crimea only after the peninsula returns to Ukraine.

This reminder is crucial at the time of complicated multilateral negotiations regarding the future of embattled regions of Eastern Ukraine. US economic sanctions against Crimea were introduced on December 19, 2014, widened in July 2015 and Sanctions include a ban on trading with occupied territories and direct or indirect consumption of goods or services produced by Crimean companies. 

Crimean authorities to sell 30 health resorts

October 7. Occupational government of Crimea is planning to sell 30 unprofitable health resorts that it has previously “nationalized”. Currently the health resorts in question mostly do not operate. Some of them have about 30-40% of rooms occupied and are “arduously staying afloat”.

Amid the general lack of transparency in Crimean economics and governance, this decision casts light on the lamentable condition of Crimean tourism industry. Though it is widely understood that the inflow of tourists and investments diminished after the annexation, it is extremely hard to determine the real state of affairs. 

IDPs want their right to vote restored

October 7. During a meeting on Wednesday Verkhovna Rada’s committee on juridical policy and justice decided not to introduce a bill reinstating the voting rights to internally displaced persons from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. This meeting was the last opportunity to introduce the bill in time for it to be passed before the local elections in Ukraine on October 25.

Currently the people registered as IDPs are not able to vote in the regions of relocation, though the activists believe IDPs should have the same rights as the locals, since they have mostly moved over a year ago and pay the same taxes. A number of human rights activists and NGOs are trying to lobby this change and, among other things, have written an open letter to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and organized a media campaign.

Crimean law enforcers are keeping Crimean Tatar disctirct of Simferopol surrounded 

October 7. Crimean law enforcers that last week have surrounded Ak-Mechet district of Semferopol — inhibited mostly by Crimean Tatars — are continuing to search houses, gather personal information on residents and check their documents. At first police and OMON officers were looking for Bekir Nebiev, who is suspected of killing two medics on September 26, but later they ceased explaining their actions.

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