Duma drafts bill defending victims of Ukrainian political repressions

Sevastopol, Crimean Federal District, Russia © Evgeny Biyatov
Russian State Duma MPs have drafted a bill offering amnesty to all residents of Crimea who were subjected to criminal prosecution by pro-Kiev authorities over their support of the republic’s independence from Ukraine.

The sponsors of the initiative - backed by all four parliamentary parties - present it as a derivative of the statement issued by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in mid-2015. The decree recognized the 1954 decision of the Soviet parliament to transfer the Crimea from Russia to Ukraine as unconstitutional and having no power (Russia and Ukraine were both parts of the USSR at the time when this decision was made).

With this in mind, the lawmakers believe it is necessary for Russia officially to amnesty all its citizens who were convicted by Ukrainian courts because of their support of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

READ MORE: 2 years on almost all Russians support reunification with Crimea

In press comments, MPs named at least two people who could potentially benefit from the adoption of the bill. These are Valery Podyachy and Semyon Klyuyev, who were sentenced to three years behind bars in Ukraine in 2011 for demanding that the Crimean Republic be returned to Russian jurisdiction. Podyachy cannot resume his work as a professor in one of Crimea’s universities because of his lingering criminal record.

One of the key sponsors of the motion, Ivan Nikitchuk (Communist Party), said in comments with Kommersant Daily newspaper that the bill was prepared specially to tackle with such situations. He added that the number of people who had been subjected to repressions in Ukraine over their position on Crimea was several dozen.

They actively supported Crimea’s reunification with Russia even before 2014 and now we simply have to help them,” he noted.

Another MP who backed the proposal, Oleg Nilov of the center-left party Fair Russia, told reporters that the number of people who would benefit from the amnesty could be much more as presently a lot of Crimean residents prefer not to disclose their past conflicts with Ukrainian law enforcers.

However, the Russian government has already refused to support the bill, saying that it contradicted the concept of the existing law on rehabilitation that offered this procedure only to people who suffered from repressions during the Soviet period.

One of Russia’s oldest Human Rights groups, the Memorial NGO, also criticized the bill, saying that the law on amnesty for victims of repression was passed in 1991 with the sole purpose to protect those who were prosecuted for their political position in the Soviet Union.

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The sponsors of the bill noted in comments that they welcomed any suggestions to improve it from the government or rights activists, but wanted to put the draft on vote anyway because the very idea of such a motion was very important.

In mid-2015, the legislature of the Crimean Republic attempted to draft amendments to the law on rehabilitation of repressions victims that would offer protection to people who suffered from the actions of Ukrainian law enforcers and courts, but this bill was rejected for technical reasons.