The case of the “Ukrainian spy”: how the occupiers have been fabricating the case of Leniie Umerova for five months

2 / 06 / 2023

russian special services accuse 25-year-old Leniie Umerova of spying for Ukraine. However, the prosecution has no evidence. The girl left the occupied Crimea back in 2014, at the beginning of December 2022 she went to Crimea to take care of her sick father.  

CrimeaSOS gathered facts about Umerova’s case to show how russia fabricated a criminal case against her, practically holding Leniie hostage. 

Way to Crimea

In 2014, after the occupation of Crimea, Leniie Umerova moved to Kyiv. She graduated from school there and entered the Department of Chemical Technologies in the National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”. Before the trip to Crimea, Leniie worked in marketing and managed social networks of the Ukrainian clothing brand “VOVK”.

Leniie Umerova’s parents live in the occupied Crimea. Her father was diagnosed with cancer, and on December 2, 2022, he was sent for surgery. Leniie decided to visit her father to help take care of him. 

Due to the full-scale invasion, it was possible to get from Kyiv to Crimea only through the territory of the russian federation. The woman’s route passed through Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia. In Georgia, she boarded a bus from Tbilisi to Simferopol. At the “Upper Lars” checkpoint, russian border guards began to carefully check her. According to Leniie’s brother, Aziz Umerov, the woman was the only passenger with a Ukrainian passport. 

“During the check, officials found some information on her phone and laptop that they did not like. After that, she was interrogated by fsb-employees”, –Aziz Umerov says in the comment to “Suspilne.Crimea”

Late at night, the russian security forces called Leniie a taxi to the hotel (by this time the woman’s phone had already been taken away). The interrogation was to be continued the following day.   

Umerova did not reach the hotel. The car was stopped by russian police officers and an administrative report was drawn up for violation of part 1 of article 18.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the russian federation (CAO). The reason for the prosecution allegedly lied in the fact that the taxi driver took Umerova along the state border on a road that was considered a “regime zone” in russia. According to the law of the russian federation, it was forbidden for foreigners to drive there.

On the same day, December 4, at four o’clock in the morning (!) the court issued an indictment – Leniie had to pay a fine of 2 thousand rubles and leave the territory of the russian federation. The woman had to be taken to the country where she came from. Since diplomatic relations with Ukraine were severed, she could not be returned to her Motherland. Therefore, she was sent to the Detention Centre for Foreigners and Stateless Persons of the Republic of North Ossetia – Alania. 

First three months of arbitrary detention 

Leniie had no contact with her relatives – her phone was seized earlier at the border. Brother Aziz Umerov and a lawyer tried to free the woman by sending an appeal to the court. However, on December 16, 2022, the Supreme Court of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania did not satisfy it. 

Only on March 13, 2023, the court of cassation considered the lawyer’s new complaint. Umerova was supposed to be released after a three-month stay in the temporary detention centre for foreign citizens. On the same day, her parents, Zera and Rezvan Umerov, left the temporarily occupied Crimea to meet their daughter.

“The judge said that we should come to him, get a court decision and go to the detention centre with this decision to free her. That’s what my parents would do. But the court sent the decision to the detention centre, where they simply threw her out in the middle of the night and did not give her the opportunity to call her parents or the lawyer”, – says Aziz.

Later, Leniie’s family learned that the woman had actually been abducted. At night, after she was taken out of the detention centre, a car with four men in civilian clothes stopped near the woman. These men grabbed Umerova, put a bag on her head and took her in an unknown direction. 

“In the middle of the night, she was thrown out in a place where she didn’t know her way around at all. Completely confused, Leniie tried to find a way or any contacts that would help to contact her parents or the lawyer. But at that moment, a police arrived and, under the fictitious pretext that she allegedly did not provide documents to confirm her identity, issued a report on “disobedience to the legal requirements of law enforcement officers””, – says Aziz Umerov. 

Administrative arrest is a method of illegal detention behind bars in the russian federation 

On March 14, the court sentenced Umerova to administrative arrest for 15 days for violating part 1 of article 19.3 of the CAO of the russian federation (“disobedience to the lawful order of a police officer”). On that day, Leniie had a birthday – she turned 25 years old. 

Two days prior to the end of the administrative arrest period, on March 27, a new administrative protocol was drawn up for Umerova. Allegedly, she refused to return the phone after talking to her parents. Thus, the court ordered another 15 days of arrest (violation of rart 1 of article 19.3 of the CAO of the russian federation). Then, Leniie was issued another 15 days of administrative arrest allegedly for “refusal to get out of the convoy car” during the transfer from Beslan to Vladikavkaz.

“As we can see, the russian authorities are using administrative cases to illegally keep Leniie Umerova behind bars. There were no real grounds for her imprisonment. The Crimean woman’s only “offence” was that she refused to accept imposed russian citizenship”, – says CrimeaSOS analyst Yevhenii Yaroshenko.  

Umerova was kept behind bars for five months for fabricated reasons. For two months, Leniie’s parents, lived in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, waiting for their daughter’s release. However, their hopes were not fulfilled. 

The case on “espionage” 

On May 16, 2023, Aziz Umerov reported that russian security forces took his sister to Moscow on a private plane. On the same day, the propaganda media published a video of the “detention of a Ukrainian spy”. Relatives recognized the accused Leniie. 

Video footage from the airport

“We are not informed of any details of the case, as the case materials are classified, and a non-disclosure agreement was obtained from the lawyer. This is another case of violation of the rights of indigenous peoples, violation of the rights of Ukrainians by a terrorist state, which should receive a legal assessment by international institutions, and each of these facts should be investigated in detail”, – said Aziz Umerov at the press conference “War crimes against the Crimean Tatars – the signature of those who carried out the deportation in 1944”.

CrimeaSOS analyst Yevhenii Yaroshenko believes that russian security forces deliberately create the image of Crimean Tatars as potential terrorists, saboteurs or spies.

“The occupiers stigmatize the Crimean Tatars, pursue a policy of oppression and persecution. This is manifested through searches characterized by unprecedented brutality. When a settlement where Crimean Tatars live is surrounded by fsb-officers, employees of the centre for combating extremism, the russian guard or other security forces. In this way, the idea is imposed that the Crimean Tatars are extremists, terrorists, saboteurs or other violators of public order”, – added Yevhenii Yaroshenko, CrimeaSOS analyst.

We should remind you that according to Crimea SOS, more than 110 out of 150 victims of politically motivated persecution in Crimea are Crimean Tatars.


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