Review of human rights violations in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions | March 2020

In March 2020, new human rights violations were detected in the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions controlled by the occupation administration of the Russian Federation. These include illegal detentions and restrictions on the freedom of movement of civilians, creation of a parallel legal system, the involvement of minors in propaganda, violations of property rights. We have to note that all of these human rights violations have unfortunately become the “norm” for the residents of the so-called “people’s republics”.

Illegal arrests, detentions, and restrictions on freedom of movement

In February, the so-called “DPR” refused to add Natalya Zelenina, social worker of the charity fund “Svitanok Club”, to the prisoner exchange list. For 28 months now, the woman has been detained in a pre-trial detention center in Donetsk. A colleague of Natalya reported that “a drug of substitution maintenance therapy buprenorphine, legally obtained in the Vinnitsa regional narcotics dispensary, was found by Natalya”. In December 2019, Natalya was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “drug smuggling”.

This message appeared on Facebook on March 1, 2020 on the page of the chairman of the board of the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS Svetlana Moroz.

Alexander Nikolayevich Otvertkin, a resident of Mariupol, born in 1975, was detained by officers of the so-called “MGB DPR” on suspicion of “working for the Security Service of Ukraine”. The report also says that Alexander allegedly “made attempts to determine the location, and also collected information regarding Klypa Eduard Viktorovich with an aim to eliminate him.”

The report on the detention of Alexander Otvertkin appeared in the so-called “DPR media” on March 2, but the text says that the man was detained in July 2019.

Popov Alevtina Anatolyevna was found guilty by the so-called “court of the LPR” of an offense under Article No. 335 “CC LPR” and sentenced to 12 years in prison for “high treason”.

In the report it is stated that for the SBU Popova Alevtina allegedly collected “information regarding the current and former military personnel of the ´People’s Police´ as well as information about other law enforcement agencies and public servants.”

A resident of Shakhtersk “P” was sentenced by the “DPR court” for 12 years with serving a sentence in a maximum-security penal colony for “committing a crime under Article No. 321 of the DPR Criminal Code”.

Allegedly, on the instructions of the SBU, the man “carried out espionage activities on the territory of the DPR from August to November 2016 and performed tasks directed at causing damage to the public safety of the DPR”.

Creation of a parallel legal system, bar, notaries, and courts

In the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the Russia-backed occupation administrations and the media under their control continue to inform local residents and the world about the activities of their “state bodies”. We note that these activities have no legal effect and are aimed only at demonstrating the so-called “statehood” in the “republics”.

The so-called “DPR” People’s Council deprived the Ukrainian language of its “state status” in the territory controlled by the militants. The corresponding amendment to the “Constitution of the DPR” was adopted on March 6, 2020.

On March 12, 2020 during the plenary session “deputies” of the so-called “People’s Council of the LPR” considered in the first and second reading and adopted the law “On Amendments to Article No. 54 of the Family Code of the Lugansk People’s Republic and Article No. 66 of the Law of the Lugansk People’s Republic ´On Education´”; the law “On Amendments to the Code of Administrative Procedure of the Lugansk People’s Republic”; Law “On Amending Article No. 148 of the Criminal Code of the Luhansk People’s Republic”. And also, the law “On Amendments to the Labor Code of the Luhansk People’s Republic”.

Compulsory membership in “social” organizations and participation in “patriotic” and “social” actions of the “LPR” and “DPR”. Involvement of children in propaganda.

In the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, controlled by the occupation administration of the Russian Federation, anti-Ukrainian propaganda is being conducted under the cover of the “military-patriotic upbringing”, among children, adolescents and young people, with their involvement as members of “social” organizations. 

Employees of state-financed enterprises with the so-called “external administration” have no opportunity to refuse to participate in the activities of “social” organizations, as they risk being subjected to serious pressure and persecution. These actions by the representatives of the occupation administrations are qualified as violations of “freedom of association”.

on March 13, 2020 in Makeevka, the so-called “public organization” “Young Republic” organized a free screening of the documentary “Callsign ´Donetsk´: the story of one airport.”

In Lugansk, about 400 young people became participants in the “Russian Run”, dedicated to the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the “Russian Spring”.

Violation of property rights

In March 2020, the process of so-called “nationalization” of enterprises that previously operated under Ukrainian jurisdiction or belonged to Ukrainian citizens residing since the beginning of the conflict in the Ukrainian-controlled territories continued in Luhansk and Donetsk regions under the control of the occupation administration of the Russian Federation. In our opinion, the following facts should be qualified as violations of property rights. It should be noted that these violations are systematic and widespread in the occupied regions of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Among the property declared vacant are:

  • property of legal entities: industrial buildings, a boiler room,  trade pavilions, a flyover, a checkpoint building, a shopping center building, non-residential buildings, advertising metal structures, equipment for mobile communication stations, a passenger car, communication equipment, ATMs and cash cartridges, system blocks, routers, crane loader, office furniture, safes, court equipment, office equipment, banking equipment, ethyl alcohol;
  • property of individuals: carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, money, passenger cars, ethyl alcohol. 

Coronavirus in temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine

At a briefing on March 18, 2020, the “Minister of Health” of the so-called “LPR” Natalia Pashchenko said that “there are currently no preconditions for implementation of quarantine measures in schools in the Republic due to the threat of the spread of the new type of coronavirus.” However, on March 23, spring break began in schools. Students continue to attend their classes.

Natalia Pashchenko also did not report the exact number of tests which can be conducted in order to detect coronavirus. There were only indefinite statements such as “the LPR has enough rapid tests to detect the new type of coronavirus.”

The Sanitary and Epidemiological Service of the so-called “LPR” continues to assure that in the uncontrolled territory of Ukraine of the Lugansk Region doctors did not reveal a single case of COVID-19 infection. “Also, in the medical institutions of the LPR there is not a single patient with suspected COVID-19. Under effective supervisions conducted by our doctors, 22 patients with a cold are quarantined at home.”

On March 20, 2020 the Sanitary and Epidemiological Service of the so-called “LPR” reported that in order to prevent spread of the COVID-19 infection, starting with March 23, 2020, quarantine measures will apply for Lugansk institutions with the exception of schools. 

On the territory of the so-called “LPR” the quarantine measures are not respected and mass events are still taking place. On March 25, 2020 in the assembly hall of the Anthracite Museum the Day of the cultural worker was celebrated. Based on the photo, about 40 people gathered in a closed and rather small room. People were sitting quite tight and between the participants there was definitely no distance of one and a half or two meters. 

In Rovenki, on the same day, the head of the executive committee of the territorial department of the social movement “Peace Lugansk” Anatoly Pigida met with the team workers from the cultural section.

On March 25, 2020 the so-called social movement ´Peace for Lugansk Region´ organized event “Stop the drugs”, during which there were gatherings of people in small rooms and the distribution of leaflets by “activists” without wearing any protective masks or gloves.  

On March 24, a campaign “Romashka” was organized in Krasniy Luch, during which young people distributed white daisies and brochures to residents of the city with information about symptoms of tuberculosis as well as preventive measures.

According to WHO, “representatives of all age categories can become infected with the new coronavirus “2019-nCoV”. Accordingly, older people and people with certain diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and heart diseases are at an increased risk of developing severe forms of coronavirus infection. Therefore, the most vulnerable categories of people need to limit contact with the outside world.

The whole civilized world believes in this, except for the so-called social movement “Peace for Lugansk Region”.

On March 25, Lyudmila Gerasimova, chairwoman of the Bryankov city organization of veterans, congratulated Ivan Vinokurov for his 90th birthday within the project “Caring for Veterans”.

In the photo we can see that Ivan Vinokurov has a wife of about the same age as him and representatives of the organization of veterans are also not much younger.

On March 24, 2020, a meeting of the Presidium of the Council of Veterans was held in Rovenki in the city Council of Veterans.

On March 23, 2020, a meeting of the Council of the Public Organization “Slavianoserb Organization of Veterans” was held in Slavyanoserbsk.

Only on March 27 in the so-called “LPR Media” a message appeared that from March 30 to April 12, after the spring break, distance learning will be organized in education institutions. Distance learning will affect general educational institutions, secondary educational institutions, as well as higher professional educational institutions. Preschools will continue to operate normally.

The so-called “DPR” has a slightly different approach: since March 19, all schools and universities have embraced distance learning because of the coronavirus.

The day before, in the Donetsk library for children named after S. M. Kirov, the opening of the literary marathon “Republican week of children’s and youth books”. The festive marathon will last until March 31.

On March 16, the “Minister of Health of the DPR,” Olga Dolgoshapko, reported that: “the Republic has already received tests identifying COVID-19 ,” but did not specify from where.

On March 19, a reportage came out about a laboratory treating especially dangerous infections in Donetsk. The head of the laboratory Lyudmila Akimova showed the tests that they have received from the Russian Federation. On the title page of the manual, it can be seen that the test was developed and produced by the Russian State Scientific Center for Virology and Biotechnology “Vector”. Most of the so-called “DPR media” do not focus on where the tests came from.

The Rospotrebnadzor website recently reported that Russia transferred its test systems “to 13 states, including member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Iran, Mongolia, and DPRK. Delivery is also expected to Egypt, Serbia and Venezuela.” The website is modestly silent about the self-proclaimed republics.

On March 19, 2020, the “head of the DPR,” Denis Pushilin, in connection with the threat of COVID-19 infection, forbade the heads of government bodies at various levels to leave the Republic.

On March 21, 2020, the movement of people through the contact line from the so-called “DPR” was suspended.

On March 24, 2020, the so-called “Minister of Health of the DPR” Olga Dolgoshapko reported that “there is not a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in the DPR. There are 71 people under supervision, including four children. These are tourists who have returned from Italy, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine, who may have been in contact with people infected with COVID-19. Fifteen of them were hospitalized with suspicion of COVID-19.”

On March 26, 9am, according to the statements of Olga Dolgoshapko: “there are no cases of COVID-19 in the territory of the DPR. In total, 589 people are under observation. Of these, 87 people in hospital units, 502 people in self-isolation at home.”

On March 27, Telegram channel “Dontel”, citing a source from the “Ministry of Internal Affairs of the DPR”, wrote that “an internal order has been issued that temporarily prohibits the departure of citizens who have a Ukrainian passport or a DPR ID card with a residency in the DPR or a passport of the Russian Federation without permanent residency in the Russian Federation”.

According to the plan of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the border for local residents will be closed completely, but citizens with a permanent residency in the Russian Federation will be let through.

A photo of letterhead explanatory notes addressed to the head of the “Organized Crime Control Department of the DPR” Sheptury Alexander Viktorovich appeared on the “Donetsk Aboriginal” Telegram channel.

The occupation authority does not inform the residents of the temporarily occupied and uncontrolled territories of Ukraine on how to act in case of symptoms of acute respiratory viral infections or influenza, which may be also the symptoms of coronavirus. The authorities also do not share the number of sick people tested, the number of places in hospitals, protective suits, and ventilation devices. The lack of this information may subsequently lead to panic among residents of self-proclaimed republics.

A review of human rights violations in the temporarily occupied parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions is carried out with the aim of preserving democratic rights and freedoms on the territory of Ukraine.

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