Crimea: Update on Events, 18 March 2014

The situation in the Crimea has entered a new and bloody phase. A Ukrainian soldier has been killed. Violent attacks on journalists haven’t ceased. 12 people are still missing. The following is a description of the major events in the Crimea on March 18, 2014, according to the public initiative ‪Euromaydan SOS.

The clear signal that sounded in Vladimir Putin's speech ("Crimea will never follow in Bandera’s footsteps"), marked the beginning of bloodshed. Followers of the Kremlin in Crimea took these words as a signal authorizing the use of force against Ukrainian troops. According to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Warrant Officer Sergiy Kokurin, of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was killed during an assault by Russian troops on the Photogrammetric Control Center of the Central Military Topographic and Navigation Main Operations Unit. Ukrainian officer, Captain Fedun, was also injured. Several other Ukrainian servicemen suffered injuries to their heads and limbs from bats, sticks and other objects. The wounded were denied first aid for several hours. According to the "Information Basis" Russian snipers could be seen “working” in the windows of nearby buildings.

Over the course of 18 March, simultaneous assaults were launched against three military units in Fiolente and Yalta, as well as the naval base in Novoozernoe. In the first two instances, the Ukrainian military issued an ultimatum. In Fiolente, "self-defense” units temporarily receded.

18 March also marked the funeral of Reshat Akhmetov, Crimean Tatar who was kidnapped during a rally in Simferopol on 3 March by three unidentified people. His body was found with signs of torture on 15 March near the village of Zemlyanichnoe in the Belogorsky region. Human Rights Watch called on the Crimean government to immediately conduct a detailed investigation into the abduction, torture and murder of Reshat Akhmetov and bring his torturers to justice.

Having been kidnapped in Crimea, Foreign Intelligence Colonel Igor Losnikova, was released according to the press unit of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine. "As a result of the prompt adoption of urgent steps by the Foreign Intelligence Service, including contact with officials of the Russian Special Intelligence unit, Military Unit Commander Colonel Losnikov, seized on Tuesday at 17.00 in Yalta, has been released ," the statement said.

In Yalta, unknown assailants beat Dmitry Bunetskovo, a special correspondent for the newspaper "Today”, and photographer named Sergei Nikolayev. The journalists suffered severe injuries, including blows to the face and their teeth were knocked out. The unknown assailants also seized the journalist’s phones, passports and money. At the same time, at the seized dealership "Bogdan-Auto" in Simferopol, journalist Ibrahim Umerov, and his colleague who works for the Crimean Tatar channel ATR, were abducted. They sustained injuries, but were eventually released. In total, the Institute of Mass Information noted 88 cases of attacks on journalists and incidents obstructing their ability to carry out their professional duties.

In Simferopol, near the Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry, a demonstration was held in protest of the forced disappearances. At the moment, 12 people remain unaccounted for:

  1. Jaroslav Pilunsky, videographer
  2. Sergei Gruzinski, videographer
  3. Andrei Schekun, Ukrainian activist
  4. Anatoly Kowalski, Ukrainian activist
  5. Michael Vdovchenko, Ukrainian activist
  6. Alexey Gritsenko, activist Kiev Automaydan
  7. Sergey Suprun activist Kiev Automaydan
  8. Natalia Lukyanenko, activist Kiev Automaydan
  9. Vladislav Polishchuk, activist
  10. Ivan Bondarec, activist (Rivne)
  11. Valery Vashuk, activist (Rivne)
  12. Anatoly Kalyan, Colonel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The police have not taken any action to trace these individuals. A Mobile Group from Euromaydan SOS visited the aviation guidance center, stationed in the village of Plodovoe near Sevastopol, where Lieutenant-Colonel Kalyan was kidnapped. At the moment, about ten armed people from the "Crimea self-defense" forces are blocking the bases, denying allegations of kidnapping and forbidding access to the checkpoints of “unauthorized” outsiders.

In the meantime, we have learned of the whereabouts of Abu Yusuf (Sergei Selentsova) who had been abducted earlier - he was detained and allowed access to an attorney. More details to follow tomorrow.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

In the morning we need journalists to go Evpatoria and Novoozernoe! On Tuesday the 55th Missile Air Defense unit in Evpatoria, Marine units in Novoozernoe and the 5th Naval Brigade, called on representatives of the Crimean authorities with a demand to lay down their arms before the 10:0 am on the grounds that they allegedly belong to the Russian Federation. To avoid capture, the ships of the 5th Brigade have gathered in the center of the Lake.

A hearing is to take place in the European Parliament on the situation of human rights in Ukraine. Among the speakers: Alexander Novichkova (Centre for civil liberties/Euromajdan SOS), Tanya Mazur (Director of Amnesty International in Ukraine), Veronique Šente-Goldston (Human Rights Watch), Sergtj Voropaev (National Union of journalists), Marina Tsapok (HAS). The broadcast begins at 4 p.m. in Kiev. Online broadcast can be viewed here.