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Russia holds 133 Ukrainians on politically motivated charges, Ukrainian Ombudswoman says

Lyudmyla Denisova (ВО Свобода/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova says Russia is currently holding 133 Ukrainian citizens on politically motivated charges, including 97 Crimean Tatars.

In an August 10 post on Telegram, Denisova said 112 Ukrainian citizens “are being illegally held on the territory of the Russian Federation and temporarily occupied Crimea, while restriction of movement has been imposed on the rest, and they have to permanently stay in the places of their residence.”

Denisova also said 62 wives of the jailed men remain in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. She said they need Ukraine’s support for their children to receive an education in their native languages. She also said 11 children urgently required medical assistance.

“I call on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to do everything possible to [secure the] release [of] Ukrainian political prisoners [in Russian custody] and ask the Ukrainian government to secure proper social protection for their families,” Denisova wrote.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Moscow-imposed authorities in Crimea.

The Russian-installed officials have been targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar community and others who have spoken out against Russia’s military occupation and illegal annexation of the region.

In its annual report on religious freedom worldwide, released in April 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Russian-installed authorities in the occupied region “continued to kidnap, torture, and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims at will.”

Russia seized control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, capturing key facilities, and hastily staging a referendum that has been dismissed by more than 100 countries as bogus and illegal.

Moscow also supports pro-Russian separatists in a war against Ukrainian government forces that has killed some 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.