Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 24.11.2017
Russia at war has caused another death of an innocent. On November 23, the Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine conducted a series of violent raids on the homes and businesses of Crimean Tatars. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers burst into a restaurant, and seized 83-year-old Vedzhie Kashka. She had been suffering from heart problems, and she died under the stress of the arrest.
Vedzhie Kashka was a victim of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944, inflicted upon Ukrainians of Tatar heritage by Stalin and the Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine of that era. She was a life-long campaigner for the self-determination of her people, the Crimean Tatars, and of their right of return to their home on the southern peninsula of Ukraine. Her struggle was always one of peaceful, non-violent resistance and advocacy. This frail, elderly woman was beloved by her community. She was also hated and feared by Putin and his regime. She had been arrested and harassed by the Russians from the time of their invasion of Europe in Ukraine in February 2014. Now she is dead.
The Russians tried to put a veneer of lawfulness on the raids which they conducted across temporarily occupied Crimea. They said that they were targeting the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, which they have banned as a “terrorist organization.” But this a propaganda lie, bereft of meaning. The Mejlis is and always has been a mechanism for the self-determination of the Crimean Tatars. It has always advocated and practiced peaceful and non-violent resistance and advocacy – even when foreign Russian invaders occupied their homeland and acted violently against them. The United Nations, the Ukrainian government, and most other governments in the world recognize the Mejlis as the representative body of the Crimean Tatars. The United Nations further has condemned Russia’s ban of the Mejlis, and demanded in its resolutions that Russia restore the self-governing body of the autochthonous people of Crimea to its rightful place. The International Court of Justice in the Hague has ordered Russia to revoke its ban on the Mejlis. In response, Russia ignores international human rights law, violates it repeatedly, and increases the violence of its criminality.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report excoriating Russia for its grave violations of human rights and complete failure to fulfil its responsibilities as the de facto occupying power in Crimea. Included in the report were numerous accounts of the Putin regime’s brutality against the leadership of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. When leaders, including Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, said that Russia should respect resolutions of the United Nations, and when they advocated diplomatic means for the return of Crimea to Ukraine, they were arrested and tortured by the occupation regime. Far from respecting its obligations under international human rights law, Russia has increased its assaults against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian patriots in temporarily occupied Crimea. Vedzhie Kashka was caught up in Putin’s reign of terror, and died. The international community can ignore her death and the circumstances of it, and Putin will increase his aggression. Or the world can call Russia to account, increase sanctions against the Putin regime, and stand true the highest principles of respect for the dignity and worth of the human person. Russia cannot get away with its deliberate failure in its duty of care.