Staunton, November 20 – Human Rights Watch has released an eight-page report on “Rights in Retreat” in Crimea since the Anschluss, and the occupation authorities have gone into full-denial mode in response, dismissing the report as lacking “objective confirmation” and containing only “empty talk.”
In an interview with Moscow’s Gazeta yesterday, Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of the occupation regime, said that the report was not only baseless but offensive because it called Russian power in Crimea an “occupation” regime.
He said that the report’s statements about the disappearances of Crimean Tatar were simply wrong, noting that according to his information, one of those listed as “disappeared” had in fact committed suicide. Claiming otherwise, as HRW does, is thus nothing more than propaganda against Russia.
Aksyonov said that international human rights groups should be paying attention to what he described as “the violation of human rights and mass murder” by Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” rather than focusing on Crimea where he said conditions are good and improving.
His comments were seconded and expanded upon by Lyudmila Lubina, the human rights plenipotentiary in Crimea, in comments to the Russian news media. She too said the HRW report “does not correspond to reality” and criticized in particular the report’s statement that the number of kidnappings of Crimean Tatars is going up.
Lubina said that Ukrainian officials had not defended human rights in Crimea, but no one investigated them. Now that the peninsula is part of Russia, all of them are racing to do so, a pattern that she said called into question the purposes of those compiling and distributing such reports.
In her efforts to dismiss the issue of disappearances among the Crimean Tatars, however, Lubina in fact provided information showing that that problem is even greater than HRW and other monitors have said. “Only 18” of the “more than 800” missing in Ukraine are Crimean Tatars, she said.
While that means that the Crimean Tatars are suffering this crime at a rate somewhat less than their share in the population, Lubin’s figures also mean that others, presumably ethnic Ukrainians or members of other minorities, are suffering disproportionately and at relatively high levels.