Target: Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
Goal: Secure release of Andriy Schekun and Anatoly Kovalsky, anti-war activists unlawfully captured by unauthorized paramilitary forces in Crimea
In the autonomous region of Crimea in southern Ukraine, armed bands of extrajudicial paramilitaries have begun patrolling the streets and taking military installations under control as “self-defense” units. Members of units often wear civilian clothes or camouflage uniforms without insignia, and are armed with truncheons and firearms. Despite the statements of “commander” Pavel Sheremet that the units have no right to conduct searches or arrests, the units have attacked and harassed journalists, violently dispersed demonstrations, searched people and vehicles, and apprehended citizens.
On March 9, peace activists Anatoly Kovalsky and Andriy Schekun were roughly searched, struck, and apprehended by members of a “self-defense” unit at a train station in Simferopol. The phones of both men stopped working shortly afterwards. Police gave contradicting reports on their whereabouts after the incident. The head of the Crimean Council of Ministers declared that Kovalsky and Schekun would be detained until the upcoming referendum on the status of Crimea — however, he revealed no information about the whereabouts or status of the two men.
The plight of these two peaceful protesters illuminates the lawless vigilantism becoming widespread throughout Crimea. The voices of the international community must show permissive Crimean authorities that this injustice will be neither tolerated nor ignored.
Political instability has enabled gangs of armed men to search, coerce, and intimidate citizens throughout the Republic of Crimea. On March 9, supposed self-defense units detained and arrested Anatoly Kovalsky and Andriy Schekun without even a pretense of due process.
The members of the international community demand to know the condition and whereabouts of these two men, and to see them released from illegal custody. Armed men with on oversight or coordination with police authorities cannot be allowed to arrest and detain peaceful citizens. Please correct this grave injustice.
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Photo Credit: Mstyslav via Wikimedia