One year ago, on March 16, Russia orchestrated a referendum in Crimea that violated the Ukrainian constitution and was condemned by the international community. This is the last of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea. The first sums up the situation one year after Russia’s occupation. The second focuses on forced disappearances. The third, on economic hardship, is titled “Tourism falls, inflation rises.” The fourth is on coerced citizenship.

Russia’s repressive laws

Since Russia’s occupation of Crimea in March 2014, Russian authorities have imposed repressive Russian laws on individuals living in Crimea. Among these laws is Russia’s overly broad extremism law, which has long been criticized by human rights groups.

Russia’s extremism statute bans those who promote “exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens” based on religion and is frequently used to prosecute members of civil society groups and independent media to justify seizing religious literature and property, as well as to impede the right of peaceful assembly. Harassment, detentions and raids on such individuals have often been carried out under this law.

Russian authorities have used this extremism law to oppress Crimean Tatars, a Muslim ethnic population in Crimea that openly opposes Russia’s occupation. Since the occupation, Crimean Tatar demonstrations have been banned and Tatar homes, mosques, businesses and schools have been aggressively searched.

Other religious groups targeted

Crimean Tatars have not been the only targets of official harassment. Jews, Catholics, and Greek and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful have also faced harassment and the confiscation of property. Refusal to renew religious leaders’ visas, requirements to re-register established religious groups without reasonable instruction on how to do so, and rent increases on churches have been among the legal and administrative burdens imposed by Russian authorities.

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