Russia: "Do Not Terrorize My People, My Family with Machine Guns!"
So if the Crimean Blockade is ‘meaningless’ and ineffectual, why the armed searches and repressive measures against yet another of its organizers, his family and colleagues? If only isolated ‘radicals’ support the blockade, and other Crimean Tatars are happy under Russian occupation, why did FSB men in masks, brandishing machine guns, turn up at the home of Lilya Budzhurova, former director of the silenced Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR, terrifying her 83-year-old mother and 8-year-old granddaughter? “Why have the men got rifles? Are they going to shoot at us?”, ” the little girl asked, trying to act brave and telling her grandmother she wasn’t frightened, as she shook with terror*. Nor is she the only small child to have been terrorized in this way since Russia annexed Crimea and such armed searches became common.
The searches began at around 7 a.m. on Nov 2, at the homes of Elzara Islyamova, General Director of Quin Media, a branch of ATR, and of Lilya Budzhurova, who is now Quin Media’s Deputy Director. Budhurova’s lawyer was not allowed to be present, and computers and other equipment were taken away. The FSB also searched the home of Lenur Islyamov’s 82-year-old father and businesses which Lenur Islyamov owns. ATR had faced aggressive searches before it was finally silenced in Russian-occupied Crimea at the end of March, however the target this time was clearly Islyamov, who is one of the initiators of the Crimean blockade.
Since the Crimean Tatar-initiated Crimea Blockade began on Sept 20, Russia and its puppet regime in Crimea have been insisting that it is having no effect. Such denials are rendered especially unconvincing by the ever-intensifying attack and smear campaign against the blockade’s initiators. The first targets were veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, the Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or representative assembly. Russia has also made ominous threats to ban the Mejlis as an ‘extremist organization’.
Neither Sergei Aksyonov, installed as leader when Russian soldiers seized control, nor the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti have even tried to pretend that the enforcement bodies’ heavy-handed measures on Nov 2 are not linked with Islyamov’s role in initiating the blockade. Aksyonov was entirely open about the reasons – Islyamov is suspected of what he termed “financing anti-Russian activities”. He threatens that there will be “many more questions both with regard to the running of his business, and to his financing through this business various operations against the Russian Federation.”
Islyamov himself reports that a search was also carried out of his home in Moscow where his son is living while completing studies. Russia’s Central Bank has also stripped Islyamov’s Just Bank of its licence. Judging by sites loyal to the occupation regime, a smear campaign is also underway.
RIA Novosti reports that the FSB in Crimea has initiated criminal proceedings against one of the initiators of the blockade and quotes Natalya Poklonskaya, de facto Crimean prosecutor, as threatening that Islyamov will “answer before the law for his actions against the peninsula”.
The blockade initially prevented only trucks from bringing goods to Crimea, however there are now moves to extend the blockade to electricity.
Without goods, water and electricity from mainland Ukraine, Crimea cannot function. This clashes badly with Russia’s ‘Crimea is ours and always was’ narrative, but is the brutal truth. Typically, Russia and its proxies in Crimea are continuing to deny the effect that the blockade is having, while resorting to standard repression and threats against those who are so glaringly exposing their lie.
* Lilya Budzhurova wrote on Facebook after the search, explaining that she could not respond to people since she had even been deprived of the technical means to do so. She says that she does not want to comment on the search, or the supposed ‘grounds’ for it.
“What can you do, it’s that kind of work. What can you do? Crimea has become like this now. What hurts unbearably is one thing – how was my 83-year-old mother, whom I took to the toilet through a row of men in masks with machine guns, and filled with ‘heart’ tablets, to blame? How was my 8-year-old granddaughter, still warm from her sleep and awoken by the words “don’t be frightened, just don’t be frightened”, to blame? She was still terrified. And although, looking at me with her black eyes, she repeated “I’m not frightened”, she asked: “Why have the men got rifles? Are they going to shoot at us?” and her little legs were shaking under my arms.”
I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS.
They seemed to be ashamed, they moved back from the door, when I asked them to put their machine guns away and not frighten my Eva.
6 months ago, I experienced the same shock. No, not the same, even worse. I was then standing in the corridor of the children’s hospital and waiting for the results of the operation that my grandson Rushen had just had. The 12-year-old was beaten up by former classmates, who called him a traitor. His fault was that he, a student of the (once) Ukrainian lyceum, had wanted to continue studying in a Ukrainian class and they’d transferred to Russian. They damaged his testicles and an operation was needed. His parents tried to report it to the prosecutor’s office, but they didn’t find grounds to initiate an investigation. It ended with me making a scene to the entire lyceum, no more. ATR was then still working in Crimea, but I refused to use my position to publicize the case. Even after that my grandson refused to move to a different school, but the teachers and head seem to be a bit more aware of their duties.
BUT I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS.
I turned 57 yesterday. That’s the age for established priorities. I have two – my Homeland (and that is not simply Crimea, but my entire people) and my Family.
DO NOT TERRORIZE THEM WITH MACHINE GUNS!!!