There are currently 180 political prisoners, including 116 Crimean Tatars, illegally held in Russian-occupied Crimea, Ukraine's human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets reported on Feb. 26, which marks the ninth anniversary of the start of the Russian occupation of the peninsula.
“Due to the constant fear of Ukrainian resistance, Russia does not stop the harsh repression and persecution of our citizens in the temporarily occupied Crimea: Illegal searches, fabricated criminal cases, fabricated sentences, including those against representatives of the indigenous people of the peninsula — the Crimean Tatars,” Lubinets wrote on Telegram.
Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 following Ukraine's EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. The peninsula is currently home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
According to the ombudsman, among the recent cases of Russia’s “flagrant violations” of fundamental human rights and norms of international law in Crimea is the death of two tortured political prisoners — Kostiantyn Shyrinh and Dzhemil Hafarov.
Sentenced to 13 years in prison, 60-year-old Crimean Tatar Hafarov died in a Russian pre-trial detention center on Feb. 10, Ukrinform reported.
Shyrinh, 61, was sentenced to 12 years on the charge of “espionage.” According to the media, he died in a penal colony in the remote Russian town of Novotroitsk earlier in February.
“They were not provided with the necessary medical care,” Lubinets said. “But even such a high price for the right to live in a free, independent, and sovereign country will not stop the Ukrainian people."
Earlier in the day, President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the nine-year anniversary of the start of the Russian occupation in Crimea, stating that "by returning Crimea, we will restore peace."
"This is our land. Our people. Our history. We will return the Ukrainian flag to every corner of Ukraine," he said.