February 22. Russian Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Ruslan Balbek called for Ukraine not to politicize the Eurovision Song Contest after Crimean Tatar singer Jamala won the regional qualifiers for Eurovision and was chosen to represent Ukraine in this year’s contest. “Using art figures for political provocation, as a rule, leads to popular rejection. Jamala risks unconsciously becoming an accomplice to the blockade of the Crimea,” Balbek said.
Jamala will represent Ukraine with the song called 1944 about the deportation of Crimean Tatars. Russian authorities of Crimea are concerned that the song will be used “to impose an artificially created image of the alleged persecution of the Crimean Tatars in the Russian Crimea on the European audience”.
February 23. Russian border guards started detaining and questioning all Crimean Tatar men, who were trying to cross the border between mainland Ukraine and Crimea at a checkpoint in Chongar. According to human rights activists, people were held in a queue in the street for hours, with some of them being released later without questioning. People were mostly questioned about their time in Ukraine.
“Crimean Tatars are also being interrogated, when they leave Crimea. They are questioned about religion and reasons for trips to Arab countries (Turkey, United Arab Emirates) in the past,” said the source of the human rights activists. Only Crimean Tatar men were questioned. People of other ethnicities were of no interest to Russian border guards.
February 24. In its annual report on human rights situation in the world Amnesty International called Crimea a black hole for unmonitored human rights abuses. The report says that Russian authorities took control of the media and are accusing and increasingly large number of citizens of criticizing the official policy or spreading allegedly extremist materials.
The report includes a number of examples of human rights violations by Russian authorities both in Crimea and in Russia, including the case of Russian activist Rafis Kashapov, who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for criticizing Russia’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the treatment of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea.
February 24. Alexei Lipko, CEO of Inkerman winery, says that there are not enough qualified workers for the development of wine-production in Crimea. “We are facing a situation, when there is plenty money in Crimea, but other resources are limited. We can plant grapes on 1000 hectares of land and receive reimbursement, but it will be impossible to process them due to the lack of qualified workers,” said Lipko.
Lipko also believes that local officials are coping with their tasks and federal authorities are wrongly using disbursement of funds to access effectiveness of local officials, though the money goes unspent due to the lack of other resources.
February 24. Russian opposition politician and a member of the State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev says that de facto Head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov might be dismissed soon , since Moscow is unhappy with the development of funds sent to Crimean government. “There a sword hanging over Aksyonov. Moscow is strongly displeased with the way Crimea uses the money it receives from federal budget. It is widely known that they are simply unable to use some of the money due to lack of managerial qualification. Well, and some of the money is stolen and does not reach the destination,” Ponomarev said.
He also said that the Russian leadership might put the blame for all failures of the Russian policy on the peninsula on Aksyonov. “Someone must be held accountable for the failures in Crimea. He is among the people who were perceived as passionaries’ and were needed when Crimea was seized,” said Ponomarev.
February 26. Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin explained that Ukraine’s strategy for returning Crimea consists of two main areas, diplomacy and information. Firstly, Ukraine needs to ensure that the civilized world supports Ukraine and helps it by exerting pressure on Russia and protecting the rights of people living in occupied territories. Secondly, Ukraine needs to show Crimeans, who are routinely bombarded with Russian propaganda, that their future lies with European democratic Ukraine, while Russian occupation leads nowhere.
February 26. Crimean political prisoner Oleksandr Kostenko is being refused medical care, according his lawyer Dmytro Sotnikov. “Due to the lack of medical care, Oleksandr’s hand started to wither,” said Sotnikov. Kostenko had his arm broken, when FSB tortured him in Crimea. The lack of necessary treatment was used as an additional method of torture. After his sentence was passed, he went through surgery, but no rehabilitation followed and medical care was not provided. As a result, his hand started to atrophy.
Meanwhile a cassation appeal on Kostenko’s case was considered, with his sentence reduced by 6 months. The current sentence of 40 months is 5 months shorter than the one given after the appeal and 8 months shorter than the initial sentence. Kostenko was detained by the FSB on February 5, 2015, and charged with assaulting a Berkut officer during the clashes on Maidan and storing weapons.