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Ukraine

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape but does not explicitly address spousal rape. The courts may use a law against “forced sex with a materially dependent person” as grounds to prosecute spousal rape. Under the law authorities can detain a person for up to five days for offenses related to domestic violence and spousal abuse.

Sexual assault and rape continued to be significant but underreported problems. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, through September there were 355 registered reports of rape or attempted rape of which authorities brought 47 to court.

Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. Spousal abuse was common. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, 922 cases of domestic violence were registered during the first nine months of the year, and 833 cases were brought to court. Advocacy groups asserted the percentage of women subjected to physical violence or psychological abuse at home remained high. Human rights groups noted the ability of agencies to detect and report cases of domestic violence was limited, and preventive services remained underfunded and underdeveloped. Additionally, human rights groups stated that law enforcement authorities did not consider domestic violence to be a serious crime but rather a private matter to be settled between spouses.

According to the Kyiv-based international women’s rights center, La Strada, Russian aggression in the Donbas region led to a dramatic surge in violence against women across the country. Human rights groups attributed the increase in violence to post-traumatic stress experienced by IDPs fleeing the conflict and by soldiers returning from combat. IDPs reported instances of rape and sexual abuse; many claimed to have fled because they feared sexual abuse. There were no special social services available to women IDPs. According to the Ministry for Social Policy, police issued approximately 38,000 domestic violence warnings and protection orders during a six-month period. According to the ministry, approximately 65,000 persons were under police monitoring in connection with domestic violence. Punishment included fines, administrative arrest, and community service.

La Strada operated a national hotline for victims of violence and sexual harassment. Through September more than 24,000 individuals called the hotline for assistance, and 35 percent of the calls related to domestic or sexual violence. According to La Strada, more than 49 percent of calls related to psychological violence. The NGO reported that expanded public awareness campaigns increased the number of requests for assistance it received each year.

Although the law requires the government to operate a shelter in every major city, it did not do so, in part due to lack of municipal funding. During the year officials identified 19 centers for social and psychological help and nine centers for psychological and legal help for women who suffered from domestic violence.

According to the Ministry of Social Policy, as of July 1, government centers provided domestic violence-related services, in the form of sociopsychological assistance, to 423 families with children and 3,934 individuals. Social services centers monitored families in matters related to domestic violence and child abuse. NGOs operated additional centers for victims of domestic violence in several regions, but women’s rights groups noted that many nongovernment shelters closed due to lack of funding.

According to women’s advocacy groups, municipal and privately funded shelters were not always accessible. Shelters were frequently full, and resources were limited. Some shelters did not function throughout the year, and administrative restrictions prevented women and families from accessing services. For example, some shelters would only accept children of certain ages, while others did not admit women not registered as local residents. Government centers offered only limited legal, psychological, and economic assistance to survivors of domestic violence. Each center could accommodate approximately 30 women and children, which was often inadequate.

Sexual Harassment: The law puts sexual harassment in the same category as discrimination, but women’s rights groups asserted there was no effective mechanism to protect against sexual harassment. They reported continuing and widespread sexual harassment, including coerced sex, in the workplace. Women rarely sought legal recourse because courts declined to hear their cases and rarely convicted perpetrators. Women’s groups also cited a persistent culture of sexism and harassment.

While the law prohibits coercing a “materially dependent person” to have sexual intercourse, legal experts stated that safeguards against harassment were inadequate.

Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

Discrimination: The law provides that women enjoy the same rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws, and are entitled to receive equal pay for equal work. In practice women received lower salaries than men (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Either birthplace or parentage determines citizenship. A child born to stateless parents residing permanently in the country is a citizen. The law requires that parents register a child within a month of birth.

Registration of children born in Crimea or areas in the east controlled by Russian-backed separatists remained difficult. Authorities required hospital paperwork to register births. Russian-backed separatist “authorities” routinely kept such paperwork if parents registered children in territories under their control, making it difficult for the child to obtain a Ukrainian birth certificate. Additionally, authorities do not recognize documents issued by Russian-occupied Crimean or Russian-backed separatist entities and sometimes refused to issue birth certificates to children born in those areas.

Child Abuse: As of September 30, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported 4,817 crimes against children. Human rights groups noted that authorities lacked the capability to detect violence against children and refer victims for assistance. Preventive services remained underfunded and underdeveloped. There were also instances of forced labor involving children (see section 7.c.).

Authorities did not take effective measures at the national level to protect children from abuse and violence and to prevent such problems. Parliament’s ombudsman for human rights noted the imperfection of mechanisms to protect children who survived violence or witnessed violence, in particular violence committed by their parents. According to the law parents were legal representatives of children, even if they perpetrated violence against them. There is no procedure for appointing a temporary legal representative of a child during the investigation of a case of parental violence.

The Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Human Rights includes a representative for children’s rights, nondiscrimination, and gender equality. As of August 31, the office had received 552 complaints regarding children’s rights.

A major consequence of Russian aggression in the Donbas was its effect on children. In January the law On Protection of Childhood was amended to include a provision supporting children affected by the armed conflict. In August the Ukrainian Institute of Extremism Research reported that fighting killed 166 children since the conflict started in 2014. According to UNICEF the conflict has affected 1.7 million children, including approximately 230,000 forced from their homes. Children living in areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists did not receive nutritional and shelter assistance. Human rights groups reported that children who experienced the conflict or fled from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists suffered psychological trauma. UNICEF reported that 200,000 children in the Donbas needed psychological rehabilitation, and approximately 580,000 urgently needed aid.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. If it finds marriage to be in the child’s interest, a court may grant a child as young as 16 permission to marry. Romani rights groups reported early marriages involving girls under the age of 18 were common in the Romani community.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. The minimum prison sentence for child rape is 10 years. Molesting children under the age of 16 is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. The same offense committed against a child under the age of 14 is punishable by imprisonment for five to eight years. The age of consent is 16.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs recorded 274 sexual crimes against children during the year. Sexual exploitation of children, however, remained significantly underreported. Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem.

Domestic and foreign law enforcement officials reported that a significant amount of child pornography on the internet continued to originate in the country. The International Organization for Migration reported that children from socially disadvantaged families and those in state custody continued to be at high risk of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and the production of pornography. Courts may limit access to websites that disseminate child pornography and impose financial penalties and prison sentences on those operating the websites.

Child Soldiers: There were reports that Russian-backed separatists used child soldiers in the conflict in the east of the country (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Social Policy, authorities registered more than 235,700 children as IDPs. Human rights groups believed this number was low, as children who fled without their parents cannot register as IDPs unless another relative officially files for custody, which can be a lengthy process. The majority of IDP children were from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.

Institutionalized Children: The child welfare system continued to rely on long-term residential care for children at social risk or without parental care, although the number of residential care institutions continued to drop. During the year some 100,000 orphans and other children deprived of parental care lived and studied in various types of boarding schools. Approximately 90 percent of such children ended in the schools because of their parents’ poverty, their inability to raise children, or the child’s developmental disorders.

In recent years the government implemented policies to address the abandonment of children and their reintegration with their biological families. Consequently, the number of children deprived of parental care decreased. Human rights groups and media reported unsafe, inhuman, and sometimes life-threatening conditions in some institutions. Children institutionalized in state-run orphanages were at times vulnerable to trafficking. Officials of several state-run institutions and orphanages were allegedly complicit or willfully negligent in the sex and labor trafficking of girls and boys under their care.

Observers noted the judicial system lacked the expertise to work effectively with minors, and the legal process for juveniles emphasized punishment over rehabilitation. Supportive social services were often lacking, and children in custody or under supervision faced bureaucratic and social barriers to reintegration. Authorities viewed imprisonment as a form of supervision and punishment rather than correction and education.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to census data and international Jewish groups, an estimated 103,600 Jews lived in the country, constituting approximately 0.2 percent of the population. According to the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (VAAD), there were approximately 300,000 persons of Jewish ancestry in the country, although the number may be higher. Before Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, according to VAAD approximately 30,000 Jewish persons lived in the Donbas. Jewish groups estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 Jewish residents lived in Crimea before Russia’s attempted annexation.

Jewish community leaders reported that societal anti-Semitism was low, and authorities took steps to address problems of anti-Semitism when they arose. Institutional anti-Semitism was rare, and VAAD stated that attacks were isolated and carried out by individuals rather than organized groups. VAAD claimed that negative attitudes towards Jews and Judaism continued to be low, although some individuals espoused anti-Semitic beliefs. VAAD believed that some attacks were provocations meant to discredit the government. In September the Jewish pilgrimage to the Uman burial site of Rabbi Nachman took place without significant incidents. On December 21, however, unknown individuals vandalized the site with a pig’s head and blood. Authorities opened an investigation into the incident and immediately condemned it.

In July authorities named a street in Kyiv after former Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) leader, Stepan Bandera. In response according to press reports, more than 20 Ukrainian Jewish groups published a statement condemning, as a form of Holocaust denial, the naming of streets for leaders of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA),. Some international scholars also objected. At the same time, authorities also named a street in Kyiv in honor of Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish writer who had died in Auschwitz.

According to the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group (NMRMG) supported by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and VAAD, one case of suspected anti-Semitic violence was recorded during the year, compared to one case of anti-Semitic violence in 2015, four such cases in 2014, and four in 2013. The NMRMG identified 18 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism during the year, as compared to 22 in 2015 and 23 in 2014. Graffiti swastikas continued to appear in Kyiv and other cities. On January 13, arsonists damaged a Jewish cemetery in Kolomiya, following similar attacks in 2015. On March 4, unknown persons set fire to a wreath left by the Israeli minister of justice at the Babyn Yar memorial. On April 15, vandals defaced a monument to the Holocaust in Cherkasy. In May, on Israel’s national memorial day for the Holocaust, an unknown group of persons burned an Israeli flag at the Babyn Yar memorial. There were reportedly several anti-Semitic incidents targeting the memorial during the year.

Senior government officials and politicians from various political parties continued efforts to combat anti-Semitism by speaking out against extremism and social intolerance and criticizing anti-Semitic acts. On September 29, the government held a commemoration ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre, during which 33,771 Jews were killed in two days during the Nazi German occupation.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other state services. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

The law requires the government to provide access to public venues and opportunities for involvement in public, educational, cultural, and sporting activities for persons with disabilities. The law also requires employers to take into account the individual needs of employees with disabilities. The government generally did not enforce these laws. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, approximately 25 percent of persons with disabilities were employed.

Advocacy groups maintained that, despite the legal requirements, most public buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities, restricting the ability of such persons to participate in society. Access to employment, education, health care, transportation, and financial services remained difficult (see section 7.d.).

There were reports of societal discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodation. For example, February media reports described how a young man in Lviv, who used a wheelchair, had been repeatedly denied membership in a fitness club since 2014. The club’s management gave several reasons for its refusal, including that his wheelchair could spread disease in the facility and that the man’s disability could scare off other patrons.

Inclusive education remained problematic. Authorities often did not integrate students with disabilities into the general student population. Only secondary schools offered classes for students with disabilities. State employment centers lacked resources to place students with disabilities in appropriate jobs.

NGOs noted the government was unable to provide outpatient care to persons with disabilities, thus putting the main burden on their families and forcing them to place children and sometimes adults with disabilities in state institutions.

Government policy favored institutionalization of children with disabilities over placement with their families. The state cared for more than 70,000 of the country’s estimated 150,000 children with disabilities, but lacked the legal framework and funds to deinstitutionalize them. Programs to provide for the basic needs of children with disabilities and inpatient and outpatient therapy programs were underfunded and understaffed. The inadequate number of educational and training programs for children with disabilities left many isolated and limited their professional opportunities in adulthood. Persons with disabilities in areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country suffered from a lack of appropriate care.

Patients in mental health facilities remained at risk of abuse, and many psychiatric hospitals continued to use outdated methods and medicines. According to the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association, insufficient funding, patients’ lack of access to legal counsel, and poor enforcement of legal protections deprived patients with disabilities of their right to adequate medical care.

Government monitors observed incidents of involuntary seclusion and application of physical restraints to persons with mental disabilities at psychiatric and neuropsychiatric institutions of the Ministry of Social Policy. Health-care authorities placed patients in isolated and unequipped premises or even metal cages, where authorities held them for long periods without proper access to sanitation.

By law employers must set aside 4 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. NGOs noted that many of those employed to satisfy the requirement received nominal salaries but did not actually work at their companies.

On September 7, parliament adopted legislation to harmonize the country’s law with international standards with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Mistreatment of minority groups and harassment of foreigners of non-Slavic appearance remained problems. NGOs dedicated to combating racism and hate crimes observed that overall xenophobic incidents declined slightly during the year.

The law criminalizes deliberate actions to incite hatred or discrimination based on nationality, race, or religion, including insulting the national honor or dignity of citizens in connection with their religious and political beliefs, race, or skin color. The law imposes increased penalties for hate crimes; premeditated killing on grounds of racial, ethnic, or religious hatred carries a 10- to 15-year prison sentence. Penalties for other hate crimes include fines of 3,400 to 8,500 hryvnias ($126 to $315) or imprisonment for up to five years.

Human rights organizations stated that the requirement to prove actual intent, including proof of premeditation, to secure a conviction made application of the law difficult. Authorities did not prosecute any of the criminal proceedings under the laws on racial, national, or religious offenses. Police and prosecutors continued to prosecute racially motivated crimes under laws against hooliganism or related offenses.

According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, authorities registered 58 criminal investigations involving racial, national, or religious hatred during the first nine months of the year. Of these cases 13 were closed and 15 were forwarded to court. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), reported as of October 31, 10 documented cases of violence against racial or ethnic minorities that involved 17 victims. Victims of the attacks were from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Jordan, Nigeria, and Syria, as well as citizens of Tajik, Jewish, and Muslim descent. Most of the incidents occurred in Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa. There were cases of vandalism, including arson, targeting Jewish and Romani property in the Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkasy, and Zakarpattya Oblasts and in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, and Mykolaev.

On January 4, the Pechersk District Court in Kyiv sentenced a participant in a racist attack at a Dynamo Kyiv football match to two years in prison. Investigations into other persons involved remained open.

Roma continued to face governmental and societal discrimination. Romani rights groups estimated the Romani population at between 200,000 and 400,000. Official census data placed the number at 47,600. The discrepancy in population estimates was due in part to a lack of legal documentation for many Roma. According to experts there were more than 100 Romani NGOs, but most lacked capacity to act as effective advocates or service providers for the Romani community. Romani settlements were mainly located in the Zakarpattya, Poltava, Cherkasy, Volyn, Dnipropetrovsk, and Odesa Oblasts. Roma experienced significant barriers accessing education, health care, social services, and employment due in part to discriminatory attitudes against them.

There were reports of societal violence against Roma during the year, including cases in which police declined to intervene to stop the violence. On August 27, police failed to stop a mob from attacking a Romani settlement near Loshchynivka, Odesa Oblast, and watched while the mob vandalized Romani homes and set at least one on fire. The mob formed in reaction to the news that police arrested a man of Romani heritage in connection with the killing and rape of a local nine-year-old girl. In subsequent days local authorities announced a plan to evict Roma from their homes forcibly but cancelled the plans after the majority of recently arrived Roma fled of their own accord. Odesa’s regional governor, Mikhail Saakashvili, appeared to condone the evictions, stating, “I fully share the outrage of the residents of Loshchynivka…there is massive drug-dealing in which the antisocial elements that live there are engaged. We should have fundamentally dealt with this problem earlier–and now it’s simply obligatory.”

There were several reports during the year that police arbitrarily detained Romani individuals, at times beating or mistreating them.

While the government in 2013 adopted a seven-year action plan to implement a strategy for protecting and integrating Roma into society, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported that it had not led to significant improvements for Roma. The ERRC monitored the plan in collaboration with the International Renaissance Foundation. According to human rights groups, the government did not allocate funds for the plan’s implementation.

According to parliament’s ombudsman for human rights, 24 percent of Roma have never had any schooling, and only 1 percent of the Romani population had a university degree. Approximately 31 percent of Romani children did not attend school. According to the ERRC, more than 60 percent of Roma were unemployed, creating a vicious cycle leading to social exclusion and marginalization. According to the ombudsman, securing employment was the main problem for the Romani minority. Approximately 49 percent of Roma named it as their most significant challenge.

According to the Romani women’s foundation, Chiricli, local authorities erected a number of barriers to prevent issuing passports to Roma. Authorities hampered access to education for persons who lacked documents and segregated Romani children into special schools or lower-quality classrooms.

During the year many Roma fled settlements in areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists and moved elsewhere in the country. According to Chiricli approximately 10,000 Roma were among the most vulnerable members of the country’s IDP community. Because many Roma lacked documents, obtaining IDP assistance, medical care, and education was especially difficult.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The labor code prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No law, however, prohibits such discrimination in other areas. LGBTI groups, along with international and domestic human rights organizations, criticized the lack of such language in the National Human Rights Strategy, although the action plan for implementation included provisions for incorporating LGBTI rights.

There was sporadic violence against LGBTI persons. For example, on February 28, hooligans assaulted two persons in Odesa after calling them a derogatory slur. While homophobic threats from right-wing nationalist groups continued, their presence at festivals and marches was often limited to several dozen counterprotesters. Although leading politicians and ministers condemned attacks on LGBTI gatherings and individuals, local officials sometimes voiced opposition to LGBTI rights and failed to protect LGBTI persons.

Overall, LGBTI groups enjoyed greater freedom to assemble than in past years. In most cases security forces and local officials deployed adequate security forces to prevent violence and protect conferences and marches. For example, security forces provided protection to an equality march in Kyiv on June 6 and a pride march in Odesa on August 11. In the case of the equality march, authorities deployed more than 6,000 security personnel, protecting more than 2,000 marchers including members of parliament. Police also adequately protected the equality festivals in Kyiv in May, in Dnipro in July, and in Zaporizhzhya in September. During an equality festival in Kyiv, right-wing groups telephoned a bomb threat. Instead of cancelling the event, security forces cleared the building, allowing the event to continue.

One notable exception was the Lviv equality festival on March 19. Hotels and conference spaces refused to honor reservations made by the festival, allegedly under pressure from city officials, who then banned all public gatherings. After the festival relocated to another hotel, security officials allowed right-wing radicals to threaten participants. After a bomb threat cancelled the conference, security forces evacuated participants on buses and took no action to prevent attacks from radicals, who threw rocks and firecrackers. Security forces failed to take action against right-wing groups that “went on safari,” seeking persons suspected of being LGBTI for attack throughout the next day. According to civil society groups, assailants injured five persons after the festival.

Nash Mir LGBT Human Rights Center reported 215 instances in which persons allegedly violated the rights of LGBTI persons in the country between January and September, including 133 instances of threats and 79 instances of violence, many related to attacks in and around the Lviv equality festival. Nash Mir stated that while the number of incidents increased, there were no reports of murder or grievous harm done to LGBTI persons in the first half of the year. Crimes and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained underreported, however; and law enforcement authorities only opened 17 cases related to such acts. Nash Mir stated that extortion remained a problem and anti-LGBTI groups employed social media to entrap LGBTI persons.

Transgender persons continued to face discrimination and stereotyping in media. Medical policies towards transgendered persons improved somewhat, as, individuals no longer had to undergo sex reassignment surgery to change their names and genders officially and could do so with counseling and hormone therapy. This procedure was approved by the Ministry of Health and registered with the Ministry of Justice during the year. Regulations still prevent reassignment for married individuals and those with minor children. Transgender persons claimed to have difficulty obtaining official documents reflecting their gender.

According to Nash Mir, the situation of LGBTI persons in Russian-occupied Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts under the control of Russian-backed separatists was very poor. Most LGBTI persons either fled or have hidden their gender identity. According to a report published by the Center for Civil Liberties and Memorial’s Antidiscrimination Center in Saint Petersburg, violence and intimidation against LGBTI persons in territories controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts was widespread and encouraged by Russian and Russian-backed authorities. According to the report, the Occupy Pedophilia movement was active and tolerated by local and Russian authorities. The group used social media to identify LGBTI persons and then abused them physically and verbally. According to the report, a foreign victim was beaten and forced to perform degrading acts. The report also claimed that Russian-backed separatists forced suspected LGBTI persons to dig trenches for military fortifications if ransoms were not paid.

There was overall improvement during the year in social attitudes towards homosexuality and a decline in homophobic rhetoric from churches and leading political figures, and increasing numbers of Verkhovna Rada members voiced support for LGBTI rights. Seven Verkhovna Rada members participated in the June equality march in Kyiv.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

UNICEF reported that children with HIV/AIDS were at high risk of abandonment, social stigma, and discrimination. Authorities prevented many children infected with HIV/AIDS from attending kindergartens or schools. They were subjected to neglect and isolated from other children. The most at-risk adolescents faced higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDs as well as additional barriers to accessing information and services for its prevention and treatment. Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and, at times, lacked access to treatment.

Ukraine (Crimea)

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Children

Birth Registration: Under both Ukrainian law and laws imposed by Russian occupation authorities, either birthplace or parentage determines citizenship. Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea complicated the question of citizenship for children born after February 2014, since it was difficult for parents to register a child as a citizen with Ukrainian authorities. Registration in Ukraine requires a hospital certificate, which is retained when a birth certificate is issued. Under the occupation regime, new parents could only obtain a Russian birth certificate and did not have access to a hospital certificate. During the year Ukrainian government instituted a process whereby births in Crimea could be recognized with documents issued by occupation authorities.

Institutionalized Children: There were reports that Russian authorities continued to permit kidnapping of orphans in Crimea and transporting them across the border into Russia for adoption. Ukraine’s government did not know the whereabouts of the children.

Anti-Semitism

According to Jewish groups, an estimated 10-15,000 Jews lived in Crimea, primarily in Simferopol. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Since the beginning of Russia’s occupation, authorities singled out Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians for discrimination, abuse, deprivation of religious and economic rights, and violence, including killings and abductions (see sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., 1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 2.b., and 2.d.).

Crimean Tatars are an ethnic group native to Crimea, dating most recently to the Crimean Khanate of the 15th century. In 1944 Soviet authorities forcibly deported more than 230,000 Crimean Tatars to the Soviet Far East for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis during World War II. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many surviving Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea. Prior to the Russian occupation, there were approximately 300,000 Crimean Tatars living in Crimea.

There were reports that government officials openly advocated discrimination and violence against Crimean Tatars. For example, during a public online discussion on December 13, Natalya Kryzhko, a member of the “parliament,” threatened to “load [Crimean Tatars] on barges and drown them in the Black Sea” in reaction to requests by two Crimean Tatar villages to restore their historic Crimean Tatar place names.

Occupation authorities harassed Crimean Tatars for speaking their language in public and forbade speaking it in the workplace. There were reports that teachers prohibited schoolchildren from speaking Crimean Tatar to one another.

Occupation authorities placed restrictions on the Spiritual Administration of Crimean Muslims, which is closely associated with Crimean Tatars. According to human rights groups, Russian security services routinely monitored prayers at mosques for any mention that Crimea remains part of Ukraine. Russian security forces also monitored mosques for anti-Russian sentiment and as a means of recruiting police informants.

Laws forbid religious gatherings outside established institutions. Crimean Tatars reported that Russian occupation authorities threatened the custom of home funeral services and have compiled lists of gravediggers and Muslim leaders.

Russian occupation authorities also targeted ethnic Ukrainians. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, on June 10, a court convicted Vladimir Baluch of insulting an official during an investigation into a stolen automobile. Baluch maintained the charges were in retaliation for his displays of Ukrainian ethnic symbols and opposition to the occupation. On December 8, the FSB raided Baluch’s home after he posted a sign “renaming” his street in honor of the “heavenly hundred” protesters who died during the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv. During the raid the FSB claimed to have found explosives, which Baluch insists its agents planted, and arrested Baluch. He faced weapons charges carrying a prison term of four years. On December 27, a court extended his detention until February 2017. In 2015 security forces detained and beat Baluch for flying a Ukrainian flag at his home.

Occupation authorities have not permitted churches linked to ethnic Ukrainians, in particular the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to register under Russian law. Occupation authorities harassed and intimidated members of the churches and used court proceedings to force the UOC-KP in particular to leave properties it had rented for years. According to a January 16 court decision, the UOC-KP was compelled to vacate part of the St. Vladimir and Olga church in Sevastopol after its lease expired and was required to pay an administrative fine of nearly 600,000 rubles ($9,800). Church officials reported regular and systematic surveillance of UOC-KP churches and parishioners.

Russian occupation authorities targeted businesses and properties belonging to ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars for expropriation and seizure. Particularly, they prohibited Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Mejlis from registering businesses or properties.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Human rights groups and local gay rights activists reported that much of the LGBTI community fled Crimea after the Russian occupation began. Those who remained live in fear of verbal and physical abuse due to their sexual orientation. According to a report commissioned by the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and Memorial’s Antidiscrimination Center in Saint Petersburg, the Russian group Occupy Pedophilia is active in Crimea. The group used social media to lure suspected LGBTI persons to locations where they are humiliated, filmed, and beaten. According to one report, a group of six men patrolling a park beat two individuals in Simferopol. The victims did not file a complaint with police for fear of retaliation. Individuals were accosted and abused for wearing nonconformist clothing, on the assumption that they must be LGBTI persons. Human rights groups stated that these groups operated with the tacit support of local authorities, who did not investigate such crimes.

Russian occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTI groups from holding public events in Crimea. On April 25, an LGBTI activist in Sevastopol announced plans to hold a peaceful protest. In response Sergei Aksyonov, the head of the occupation authorities in Crimea, stated that authorities would prevent any such assembly. Subsequently, “self-defense” forces threatened to expel LGBTI individuals from Crimea forcibly. LGBTI individuals faced increasing restrictions on their right to assemble peacefully, as occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors (see section 6 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future