Moscow court detained Crimean Tatar Leniie Umerova, who traveled to her cancer-stricken father in the temporarily occupied Crimea, on ‘espionage’ charges.
On May 5, 2023, the judge of the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow, Sergei Riabtsev, has arrested 25-year-old Leniie Umerova, the SMM manager of the VOVK brand’s women’s clothing, on charges of alleged ‘espionage’ (under article 276 of the Criminal Code of the RF).
Since December of last year, 25-year-old Ms. Leniie Umerova has been unable to visit her sick father in the temporarily occupied Crimea, as new protocols are immediately drawn up against her by Russian police upon her release. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, on December 4, 2022, she traveled from Kyiv to the temporarily occupied Crimea, as her father, who is suffering from cancer, needed her support. Upon crossing the Georgian-Russian border, Russian security forces detained her, alleging that she violated the security zone regulations. Additionally, her documents were later seized by the FSB.
The Crimean Tatar Resource Center has accused Russia of holding Ms. Umerova, a Ukrainian citizen and a member of the Crimean Tatar community, as a hostage for over 4 months.
“During these nine years, I have had to deal with very controversial materials in criminal cases. In some cases, my mind was confused from the first pages of the indictment. But the suspicion of 25-year-old Leniie Umerova, who was going to Crimea to visit her father, who was suffering from cancer, is an extraordinary event. Just now, the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow arrested her for two months,” commented Lutfiye Zudiyeva on the court’s ruling.
The decision to arrest was announced by Sergei Riabtsev, the judge of the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow. According to Zudiyeva, in July 2020, he arrested Ivan Safronov, the former Kommersant and Vedomosti media journalist.
According to the Mission of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the girl did not even have time to finish her previous administrative detention, when she was abducted by the FSB and taken to Moscow, to the Lefortovo detention center.
The Mission has condemned the recent “decision” made by the court of the occupying country. Оfficial body demanded the immediate release of the Ukrainian citizen, who is a representative of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people.
“We are drawing the attention of law enforcement agencies to yet another violation of the fundamental human rights of a Ukrainian citizen, and we are calling on our international partners to respond and exert ongoing political and diplomatic pressure on Russia. The presence of occupiers has no place on the Ukrainian peninsula, and only the de-occupation of Crimea will prevent such abuses against our citizens,” stated the mission in its official statement.
Her brother Aziz Umerov commented the only “crime” she committed was not getting a Russian passport, being a native of Crimea.
“Violating the norms of international law, the terrorist country is holding an innocent person, a 25-year-old girl, a citizen of Ukraine, hostage. I am calling on all concerned public activists, human rights organizations, and governmental authorities to contribute to releasing Leniie from captivity,” addressed Aziz Umerov to the public.
The Russian authorities didn’t comment on the detention of Ms. Umerova and the ruling of the Lefortovo District Court.
As reported by the CHRG, on December 4, 2022, Ms. Leniie Umerova, aged 25, had to leave Kyiv for the temporarily occupied Crimea because the health condition of her father suffering from cancer had worsened.
She was detained by Russian security forces once she crossed the Georgian-Russian border, as it was said “for violating the rules of the regime zone”. Until March 16, Leniie was held in the Center for Temporary Detention of Foreign Citizens near Vladikavkaz. The Prigorodnyi District Court in that city found the young woman culpable of ‘violating the state border regime’ (under Article 18.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation) and imposed a fine of RUR 2,000.
On the night of March 16, Leniie was released from the Detention Center for Foreign Citizens. However, as the girl told later, a car with four men inside was waiting for her at the gate. They swiftly approached her, forcefully placed a bag over her head, and forcibly transported her to an unfamiliar area in Vladikavkaz, where they left her. Almost immediately, she was apprehended by a police patrol. When she inquired about the reasons for her detention, the officers filed a report against her for disobedience to law enforcement. Subsequently, the Leninskiy District Court of Vladikavkaz sentenced her to 15 days of administrative arrest.
While she was held in the temporary holding facility, another report, similar to the previous one, was filed against her. It alleged that she had refused to hand over her mobile phone to the police. On March 27, the same court sentenced her to an additional 15 days of arrest. Subsequently, Leniie was transferred to the temporary holding facility in Beslan City.
On April 9, she faced another report of disobedience to the police, resulting in subsequent sentencing on April 11 by the Sovietskiy Court of Vladikavkaz. Once again, she was sentenced to 15 days of arrest.
According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, the 25-year-old woman has been subjected to psychological and moral torture by the Russian authorities. The motives behind her detention have remained unknown for the past four months, and the objective reasons for her arrest are unclear. It was believed that the case against her, as well as the evidence, have been continuously falsified, enabling the Russian security forces to initiate a criminal case against her.
“These administrative arrests serve no purpose other than to keep the girl in custody. They represent blatant violations that clearly illustrate the politically motivated persecution and manipulation of administrative cases. I am afraid that with these administrative arrests, the girl is actually being held in captivity for the purpose of fabricating a criminal case,” said Mrs. Olha Skrypnyk, Head of the Crimean Human Rights Group Board on April 14, 2023.
On April 26, 2023, for the fourth time, a Russian court illegally sentenced Leniie Umerova to 15 days of administrative arrest for allegedly “disobeying the police”.
Several Ukrainian NGOs stated on April 18 that representatives of the Russian authorities have unlawfully deprived Ms. Umerova of her freedom for approximately four and a half months. They used falsified and groundless accusations, as well as the police, governmental bodies and courts controlled by them. The testimony of Ms. Umerova and her lawyer has not been taken into account.
These human rights organizations also pointed out Article 8 of the ICC Rome Statute that classifies the intentional deprivation of a person protected under the Convention of their rights to a fair and regular trial, as well as unlawful confinement, as “war crimes.”
According to the latest data from Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets, Russia is illegally holding 180 Crimean political prisoners, 116 of whom are Crimean Tatars.
As a reminder, in April 2023, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović, published a report titled “Crimean Tatars’ Struggle for Human Rights”. In it, she noted that Crimean Tatars in Crimea, especially those who oppose the illegal annexation of Crimea or express dissent on other issues, face numerous serious human rights violations, persecution, discrimination, and stigmatization by the Russian occupying authorities.
The human rights community in Ukraine believes that the de-occupation of Crimea is necessary to stop the systematic and gross violations of human rights committed by the Russian Federation on the peninsula. They are urging other countries to support Ukraine with timely and sufficient supplies of weapons and military equipment.
On April 17, 2022, in his evening video speech, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian soldiers are paying with their lives for the time they wait for weapons to be delivered. This happens every time Ukraine’s partners delay or hesitate about the range or other characteristics of weapons.