One year ago, on March 16, Russia orchestrated an illegal referendum in Crimea that violated the Ukrainian constitution and was condemned by the international community. This is the second of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea. The first is titled Costs to Crimea, one year after Russia’s occupation.

In March 2 remarks to the Human Rights Council, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that in Crimea there are disappearances, killings and torture, and that people are prosecuted and persecuted because of who they are and where they worship.

He was talking about people like Reshat Ametov, a 38-year-old construction worker, a husband and father of three, a Crimean Tatar and an outspoken opponent of Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

Ametov’s relatives said that he was last seen on March 3, 2014, at a protest in the center of Simferopol, Crimea’s main city. There, three unidentified men in military-style clothing abducted him. Several weeks later Ametov was found dead, his body showing signs of torture.

A Disturbing Pattern

Since the start of Russia’s occupation of Crimea in March 2014, the Kremlin and its proxies have subjected members of Crimea’s ethnic minorities — in particular Crimean Tatars — human rights activists and those who opposed Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea to systematic human rights abuses.

  • Several Crimean Tatars who had protested against Russia’s occupation prior to its attempted annexation were arrested and charged with violating Russian law even though the law in question had not been in effect at the time of the protest.
  • Journalists and bloggers have been “threatened, assaulted, physically attacked, banned from entry, interrogated and kidnapped; their equipment confiscated or damaged,” according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which reports that media freedom in Crimea at an “all-time low.”
  • Homes, schools and other buildings of Crimean Tatars are routinely searched, according to media reports, all under the pretext of searching for weapons, drugs or banned literature.

Such human rights abuses have led to the exodus of around 10,000 people — including Catholic, Evangelical and other Christians, as well as Jews and Tatars — from Crimea to elsewhere in Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine.