The secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has published the international organisation’s first report investigating human rights abuses in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied region of Crimea.
According to the report, major violations have occurred in the five years since Russia invaded the region, affecting the basic human, political, civic and religious rights of Crimea’s citizens.
The United Nations claims that a number of events which had been planned to be held in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine were prevented or prohibited “in ways that might potentially undermine the exercise of the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.”
UN officials also received information from local journalists that law enforcement authorities from Russia interfered in their activities, leading to self censorship to avoid potential repercussions and entry bans issued by the Russian foreign intelligence service, the FSB, against journalists who perceived Russia’s annexation of Crimea as occupation.
The report also noted that some Ukrainian churches with strong connections to Ukraine, including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, faced difficulties with registration.
Since 2014, the UN has identified 42 victims of “enforced disappearance” in Crimea, of whom just 28 have been released after being abducted or detained illegally, with many of them being Ukrainian journalists, civil rights activists or affiliates of the Crimean Tatar community.
“Lawyers who defend cases of alleged extremism and terrorism in Crimea, human rights defenders and civic activists face the risk of deliberate hindrance, disbarment, harassment by the authorities of the Russian Federation in Crimea and, in some cases, detention,” the report claims.
While Russia automatically granted citizenship to residents in the occupied areas, those citizens having legal connections to Ukraine were often denied Russian citizenship, weakening their access to social security, healthcare and pensions, UN officials added.
The report will be formally presented at the UN General Assembly on September 17, in New York.