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Read a Section: Russia-Occupied Areas


In February 2014, Russia’s forces entered and occupied Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. In March 2014, Russia claimed that the peninsula had become part of the Russian Federation following a sham referendum that violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law. The same year Russia’s proxies set up so-called independent republics in Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

On February 24, following the “recognition of the independence” of these so-called republics, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine under spurious pretenses. Russia again conducted sham referenda in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson Oblasts on September 24 that violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law. On September 30, Russia’s President Putin signed the accession paperwork that purported to recognize the four additional territories as part of Russia.

UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 on the Territorial Integrity of Ukraine of March 27, 2014; Resolution 76/179 on the Situation of Human Rights in the Temporarily Occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, of December 16, 2021; and Resolution 76/70 on the Problem of the Militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as Well as Parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov of December 9, 2021, called on states and international organizations not to recognize any change in Crimea’s status and affirmed the commitment of the United Nations to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine. In 2014, parliament adopted a law attributing responsibility for human rights violations in Crimea to the Russian Federation as the occupying state. In August, 58 countries adhered to the Joint Statement of the International Crimea Platform Participants, declaring their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. They resolved to maintain pressure on Russia to end the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol without delay to restore Ukraine’s control over its territory. Occupying authorities have applied Russian law in Crimea since the Russian occupation and purported “annexation” of the peninsula; however, the United States, EU, and UN General Assembly have all adopted a policy of nonrecognition of Russia’s claims.

On February 27, the UN Security Council held an emergency UN General Assembly session on Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion. On March 4, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 49/1. It decided to urgently establish an Independent International Commission of Inquiry, comprising three human rights experts, to be appointed by the president of the Human Rights Council for one year. The Commission of Inquiry was mandated to complement, consolidate and build upon the work of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission Ukraine and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. On October 12, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the Russian Federation’s attempted illegal annexation of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts of Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of its military forces from Ukrainian territory.

For detailed information on the laws and practices of the Russian Federation, see the Country Report on Human Rights for Russia. As a description of Russia’s forces abuses in Ukrainian territory liberated from Russian control during the reporting period is offered in the main body of the Ukraine country report, it is not duplicated here.


After Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea in 2014, a local occupation authority installed by the Russian government administers occupied Crimea.  This authority is led by Sergey Aksyonov as “prime minister” of the “state council of the Republic of Crimea.”  The “state council” is responsible for day-to-day administration and other functions of governing.  Russia’s September 2021 nationwide Duma elections included seats allocated for purportedly annexed Crimea, a move widely condemned by the international community and that contravened the Ukrainian constitution.

Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Service, Federal Investigative Committee, and Office of the Prosecutor General, applied and enforced Russian law in Crimea as if it were a part of the Russian Federation.  The Federal Security Service also conducted security, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism activities and combated organized crime and corruption.  A “national police force” operated under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.  Russian authorities maintained control over Russian military and security forces deployed in Crimea.  There were reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

The Russian Federation adopted legal acts purporting to formally extend the application of Russian legislation to the territory of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts on September 30.  This action mandated that, as a matter of Russian law, all Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in these regions would be recognized as citizens of the Russian Federation, excluding those who refused.  Residents who did not take Russian citizenship may be excluded from pensions, social security, and health insurance.  On October 19, President Putin signed decree No. 756 that imposed martial law in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya oblasts.  While the exact scope of martial law was not be determined as of year’s end, the decree provides for a wide range of measures that may be implemented “if required,” including curfews, property seizures, internment, and restrictions on freedom of movement, freedom of association, and activities of political parties and other public associations.

Significant human rights issues in the occupied areas included credible reports of egregious cases of:  crimes against humanity; war crimes; unlawful and mass killings, including by Russia’s forces or Russia-led proxies; enforced disappearances by Russia’s forces or Russia-led proxies; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by Russia’s forces or Russia-led proxies, including punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions and transfer of prisoners to Russia; unjust detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the occupation judiciary; unjust interference with privacy; serious abuses in a conflict, including attacks on civilian infrastructure and cities, resulting in widespread civilian death, torture, or physical abuse; serious restrictions on freedom of expression, including for members of the media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; severe restrictions of religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to vote in free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation, including unelected authorities and elections that were not genuine, free, or fair; serious acts of corruption; serious restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups or Indigenous persons, including Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous, documented reports of Russia’s forces or their proxies committing arbitrary or unlawful killings in Crimea after Russia purported to annex it in 2014, by Russia-led proxy forces in Donetsk and Luhansk after 2014, and in newly occupied areas after Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24. In its February 1-July 31 report, the OHCHR documented that civilians in Russia-occupied areas after the invasion were shot while fleeing in vehicles, while crossing the road on foot, or while gathering basic foodstuffs. Most victims were men, but many women and children were also killed, often while in search of either supplies or opportunities to evacuate.

Impunity for Russia’s forces’ past killings in Crimea remained a serious problem. The Russian government tasked the Russian Investigative Committee with investigating whether security force killings in occupied Crimea were justifiable and whether to pursue prosecutions. The HRMMU reported the Russian Investigative Committee failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. The Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea also investigated security force killings from its headquarters in Kyiv, but de facto restrictions on access to occupied Crimea limited its effectiveness. Human rights observers reported that families frequently did not challenge findings in such cases due to fear of retaliation.

On September 6, human rights groups reported two men killed a local resident in Yalta. The perpetrators attacked the victim and continued beating him after he fell on the ground. They stabbed him 30 times and then loaded his lifeless body into the trunk of their car on which a “Z” symbol was painted. The letters “Z,” “V,” and “O” are painted on Russia’s military vehicles and equipment involved in the invasion of Ukraine and quickly became a sign of support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. One of the suspects reportedly was a member of Russia’s armed services and the other was a member of the local “militia,” who was immediately released by the occupation police.

On December 4, activist and lawyer Serhiy Sternenko said Russia’s forces were executing civilians in the Luhansk region and posted photos of the bodies on his Telegram channel. He said, “It is significant for everyone to see it. And the world needs to see that. A real vile Russian face of [inhumans] flaunting their atrocities.” The photos showed bodies, heads covered with bags labeled “traitors of the Lugansk people,” hanging from the rafters of a destroyed building.

b. Disappearance

There were reports that Russia and Russia-led occupation authorities abducted and disappeared residents in Crimea and territories Russia purportedly annexed. Occupation authorities denied international monitors, including the OHCHR and the OSCE, access to the occupied areas, which made it impossible for monitors to investigate disappearances properly. Human rights groups reported that police often refused to register reports of disappearances and intimidated and threatened with detention those who tried to report it. The Ukrainian government and human rights groups believed Russian security forces kidnapped individuals for opposing Russia’s occupation to instill fear in the population and prevent dissent.

The OHCHR reported occupation authorities had not prosecuted anyone in relation to the forced disappearances from Crimea since 2014. NGO and press reports indicated occupation authorities were responsible for the disappearances. For example, in 2014 Revolution of Dignity activists Ivan Bondarets and Valeriy Vashchuk telephoned relatives to report police in Simferopol, Crimea, had detained them at a railway station for displaying a Ukrainian flag. Relatives had no communication with them since, and the whereabouts of the two men remained unknown.

The Yale School of Public Health Humanitarian Research Lab’s (HRL) November report documented allegations of Russia’s detention and disappearance of 226 residents from Kherson Oblast. It found Russia’s actions consistent with an intentional and targeted campaign. The report noted of the 226 residents detained, 32 were Crimean Tatars and of those, more than 10 were accused of membership in the Noman Çelebichian Battalion, a Crimean Tatar group Russia declared as a terrorist organization during the year. The HRL noted that while no definitive number of detained or disappeared persons could be established, human rights organizations asserted that hundreds of individuals have disappeared from Kherson since the full-scale invasion began.

The HRL noted the disappearances and detentions in Kherson Oblast were distinct from the filtration system used in Donetsk Oblast. In Donetsk the system appeared intended to process the entire population, whereas in Kherson Russia and Russia-led forces appeared to target specific individuals based on their perceived identity, social role, or activity.

According to the Human Rights Center Zmina, as of June 12, there were 300 cases of forced disappearances of civilians by Russia’s forces from Zaporizhzhya Oblast since February 24. On June 7, Oleksandr Olenchenko disappeared from Orlyanske village, Zaporizhzhya Oblast. On June 8, Russia’s forces kidnapped Halyna Prystenska at the Vasylivka checkpoint, Zaporizhzhya Oblast. On June 10, Russia’s military kidnapped Yergeshova Svitlana from Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhya Oblast. There was no information concerning the whereabouts and condition of the abductees. According to Zmina, Zaporizhzhya Oblast is one of the regions where Russian kidnappings of civilians was the highest.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Other Related Abuses

There were numerous reports of Russia’s forces’ and Russia-led forces’ inhuman and degrading treatment of those they detained.  Human rights NGOs and UN reports noted that Russia’s forces tortured and committed other physical abuses, including degrading treatment, against detainees in Crimea, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts (see section 1.g.).  Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities also threatened individuals with violence or imprisonment if they did not testify in court against individuals whom authorities believed were opposed to the occupation.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, “The use of torture by the FSB [Federal Security Service] and the Russia-led forces against Ukrainian citizens became a systematic and unpunished phenomenon after Russia’s occupation of Crimea.”  Human rights monitors reported that Russia’s occupation authorities particularly subjected Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians to physical abuse.  For example, FSB officers reportedly beat Crimean Tatar Enver Krosh for an hour and a half when he refused to unlock his telephone after his arrest on August 11.

On March 27, Russia’s forces reportedly captured and tortured three members of the Kherson territorial defense unit.  Denys Myronov reportedly died from injuries suffered during beatings in detention.  The body of Vitaliy Lapchuk was reportedly found on May 22 in the Bay of Kherson with his arms tied and a weight attached to his legs.  The third person was freed through a prisoner swap on April 28.

According to Ukrainian news sources, Russia’s forces abducted individuals from Zaporizhzhya Oblast who did not support occupying forces and interrogated and tortured them in the basement of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.  According to these reports, Russia’s forces poured a chlorine solution on victims’ feet in a closed cell, tortured them with electric current, and suffocated them with plastic bags.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions in Crimea, and in Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts reportedly remained harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, poor conditions, lack of heating and medical care, poor food quality, and insufficient potable water.

Abusive Physical Conditions:  According to the Media Initiative for Human Rights, there was an extensive network of unofficial detention centers in the Russia-occupied areas located in basements, sewage wells, garages, and industrial enterprises.  According to Human Rights Watch, women detainees were denied medical care, including sexual and reproductive health care.

According to a June report by the UN secretary-general on the situation in Crimea, “Detainees face cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and intimidation from prison staff or law enforcement officers.”  According to the report, detainees complained of systematic beatings and humiliating strip searches by prison guards.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, detainees held in the Simferopol, Crimea, pretrial detention center diagnosed with HIV as well as with tuberculosis and other communicable diseases were kept together in a single cell.  There were reports detainees were denied medical treatment, even for serious health conditions.

Prison authorities reportedly retaliated against detainees who refused Russian Federation citizenship by placing them in smaller cells or in solitary confinement.

Administration:  Authorities generally did not investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment.  Authorities sometimes did not allow prisoners and detainees access to visitors or religious observance.  According to defense lawyers, prisoners considered Russian citizens by the Russian Federation were denied Ukrainian consular visits, and some Crimean residents were transferred to prison facilities in Russia without Ukrainian passports.

Independent Monitoring:  Occupation authorities did not permit independent nongovernmental observers or international organizations to monitor prison or detention center conditions.  Occupation authorities appointed a proxy “ombudsperson,” Lyudmyla Lubina, and permitted her access to prisoners in Crimea.  Human rights activists regarded Lubina as representing the interests of Russia’s occupation authorities and did not view her as credible.  The HRMMU and OHCHR continued to be denied access to detainees in Crimea or those held by Russia-led forces in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya, preventing investigations of what these organizations described as credible claims of torture and abuse in detention centers with conditions that did not meet international human rights standards.

d. Unjust Detention

Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in Crimea and the occupied parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts.

Unjust Detention:  Unjust detention of civilians was endemic in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine.  According to the OHCHR, victims of unjust detentions by Russia and its proxies after Russia’s full-scale invasion were held incommunicado in unofficial places of detention, including warehouses and barns, without access to relatives and lawyers.  Some of these individuals were later transferred to Russian territory.  Observers described unjust detention as a policy tool to instill fear, stifle opposition, and inflict punishment on those who opposed the occupation.  According to the HRMMU, Russia’s forces focused on members of the Crimean Tatar community and raided homes of adherents of the Jehovah’s Witness community.

From February 24 until early September, the HRMMU documented that Russia’s forces or Russia affiliated armed groups were responsible for 416 unjust detentions or disappearances of Ukrainians within occupied territories.  Of those unjustly detained or disappeared, 16 were found dead and 166 were released.

On August 11, the FSB conducted mass searches of homes of Crimean Tatar activists in Dzhankoy district, Crimea.  Human rights groups reported occupation authorities prevented those detained and their family members from calling lawyers during the raids.  Occupation authorities detained six men on charges of participating in Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia as a “terrorist” group but is legal in Ukraine.  The occupation authorities failed to properly identify themselves and refused to inform family members where the men were being taken.  Ukrainian government officials rejected the charges against the men as politically motivated.  The HRMMU noted that justifications underpinning the detention of alleged members of “terrorist” or “extremist” groups often provided little to no evidence that the suspect posed an actual threat to society by planning or undertaking concrete actions.

Failure to submit to conscription into Russia’s armed forces was also used as a basis for unjust detentions.  Since 2015 Russia conducted annual spring and fall conscriptions in Crimea, and failure to comply is punishable by criminal penalty.  As of September 30, Crimean Platform estimated more than 36,000 persons had been conscripted to service in Russia’s forces since the beginning of 2014, and up to 5,000 of those were likely Crimean Tatars.  As of mid-September, the Crimean Human Rights Group documented 397 criminal cases brought against Crimean residents for evading military service in Russia’s armed forces.  Crimea SOS noted in its November situation report that Russia planned a new wave of mobilizations on December 10, due to “unsatisfactory results” of earlier official mobilizations.

On May 13, unknown men in balaclavas abducted Iryna Horobtsova, a pro-Ukrainian activist from Kherson.  A few months later her parents discovered she was kept in a Simferopol, Crimea, remand facility.  Occupation authorities reportedly denied Horobtsova access to a lawyer until late June.  According to the ombudsperson, there were grounds to believe occupation authorities tortured her (see section 1.c.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Under Russia’s occupation authorities, the judicial system was neither independent nor impartial.  Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were subject to political directives, and the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by occupation authorities.  The HRMMU noted that lawyers defending individuals accused of extremism or terrorism risked facing harassment or similar charges themselves.  On May 27, Crimean police detained lawyers Ayder Azamatov and Emine Avamileva, who defended Crimean Tatar activist Nazim Sheikhmambetov.  They were charged with organizing a mass gathering of citizens in a public place, which led to a violation of public order.  Ayder Azamatov was detained for eight days, and Emine Avamileva had five days of administrative detention.

On June 9, a Russia-backed tribunal in Donetsk sentenced two British and one Moroccan citizen to death after finding them guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power.”  The three men served in the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine before the British members surrendered to Russia’s proxy forces in the southern port of Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, in mid-April.  The Moroccan citizen was captured in mid-March in Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast.  The OHCHR noted significant violations of fair trial guarantees, including violations of the presumption of innocence, the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt, and the right to a public hearing, raising serious doubts concerning the independence and impartiality of the “courts.”

On September 29 the “supreme court” of Luhansk found Dmytro Shabanov, an employee of the OSCE, guilty of treason and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.  Shabanov was a security assistant at the OSCE mission’s forward patrol based in Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast.  Russia-led forces detained him in mid-April.  Later, he was accused of “transferring classified information to representatives of foreign secret services.” On September 15, the head of the OSCE and the OSCE Secretary General condemned the legal proceedings against the OSCE staff and called for the immediate release of Shabanov.

The OHCHR expressed concern that “courts” in occupied areas “continued to sentence civilians for conflict-related crimes in proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards and could thus amount to war crimes.”  Human rights groups reported that de facto occupation authorities widely practiced intimidation, pressure, and harassment of lawyers for their professional activities.

The Simferopol District “court” in Crimea fined lawyer Edem Semedlyayev 75,000 rubles ($1,230) for “liking” a social media article concerning the Russian Army in Ukraine.  Semedlyayev denied reading or tagging the article.

Trial Procedures

Occupation authorities did not observe the right to a trial without undue delay and the right to legal counsel.  The Ukrainian government’s lack of access to Russia-occupied areas complicated investigations into human rights violations and abuses there.  Perpetrators of such violations and abuses were rarely held accountable.  Russia and Russia-led forces terminated Ukrainian court system functions in areas under their control.  Donetsk and Luhansk did not have an independent judiciary, and the right to a fair trial was systematically restricted.  The HRMMU reported that in many cases individuals were not provided with any judicial review of their detention and were detained indefinitely without any charges or trial.

In cases of suspected espionage or when individuals were suspected of having links to the Ukrainian government, closed-door trials by military “tribunals” were held.  The “courts” widely relied on confessions reportedly obtained through torture and other forms of coercion.  There were nearly no opportunities to appeal the verdicts of these tribunals.  Observers noted that subsequent “investigations” and “trials” appeared to create a veneer of legality to the “prosecution” of individuals believed to be associated with Ukrainian military or security forces.  The HRMMU reported that Russia-led forces generally impeded private lawyers from accessing clients and that “court”-appointed defense lawyers generally made no effort to provide an effective defense and participated in efforts to coerce guilty pleas.  Occupation authorities intimidated witnesses to influence their testimony.

Defendants in politically motivated cases in Crimea were increasingly transferred to the Russian Federation for trial.  (See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.)

Occupation authorities limited the ability to have a public hearing.  According to the HRMMU, occupation authorities banned family members and media from the courtroom for hearings related to charges of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership and other activities deemed subversive under Russia’s laws.  The courts justified the closed hearings by citing vague concerns regarding the “safety of the participants.”  The courts failed to publish judgments in these cases.

Occupation authorities interfered with defendants’ ability to access an attorney.  According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, defendants facing terrorism or extremism-related charges were often pressured into dismissing their privately hired lawyers in exchange for promised leniency.  The HRMMU reported that occupation authorities retroactively applied Russia’s laws to actions that took place before the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula began.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, as of early December, 130 Crimeans were being deprived of freedom in occupied Crimea or in Russia on political or religious charges, 92 of whom were Crimean Tatar Muslims charged with terrorism.  According to the Ministry of Reintegration of Temporary Occupied Territories, as of late September there were more than 2,500 detained military personnel and civilians in various places of detention in the territories controlled by Russia’s forces or its proxies.

Charges of extremism, terrorism, or violation of territorial integrity were particularly applied to opponents of the occupation, such as Crimean Tatars, Jehovah’s Witnesses, independent journalists, and individuals expressing dissent on social media.  Most of those detained in the Donbas (Donetsk or Luhansk Oblasts) were either captured members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, those who demonstrated pro-Ukrainian opinions, those suspected of collaborating with the Security Service of Ukraine, civilians suspected of “subversive acts,” those who violated curfew hours, or those who had been held for ransom.

f. Unjust Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant laws of Russia and procedures that Russia’s government applied and enforced in Russia-occupied areas. Occupation authorities and others engaged in electronic surveillance, entered residences and other premises without warrants, and harassed relatives and neighbors of perceived opposition figures.

Occupation authorities routinely conducted raids on homes to intimidate the local population, particularly Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ostensibly on the grounds of searching for weapons, drugs, or “extremist literature.” According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, occupation authorities conducted 15 raids between January and June; 14 were in the households of Crimean Tatars.

Human rights groups reported that Russia’s authorities exercised widespread authority to tap telephones and read electronic communications and had established a network of informants to report on suspicious activities. Occupation authorities reportedly encouraged state employees to inform on their colleagues who might oppose the occupation. According to human rights activists, eavesdropping and visits by security personnel created an environment in which persons were afraid to express any opinion contrary to the occupation authorities, even in private.

Occupation authorities regularly used recorded audio of discussions concerning religion and politics, obtained through illegal wiretapping of private homes and testimonies from unidentified witnesses, as evidence in court. For example, on September 9, the southern district military court in Crimea sentenced Yashar Shykhametov to 11 years in a high-security prison on terrorism charges for alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Authorities accused Shykhametov of possessing prohibited literature after police raided his home during a mass search of Crimean Tatar households in 2021. The prosecution presented testimony of FSB officers and interrogation of anonymous witnesses, whose words could not be confirmed in the court, and recorded conversations of the defendant with other men.

In Myrnenska territorial community and surrounding villages in Kherson Oblast, Russia-led forces broke into private homes, raided the premises, and checked whether children were attending Ukrainian classes online. Russia-led forces looted, threatened men with forced mobilization, and terrorized and intimidated individuals in various ways.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

After Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, the levels of violence and scope of abuses significantly increased throughout the country; Russia continued to control the level of violence. Russia continued to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside forces it had mobilized in territories it occupied. Russia and Russia-led forces throughout the conflict denied access to international monitors, who did not have the access necessary to record systematically violations or abuses committed by Russia and Russia-led forces.

The UN Commission of Inquiry documented patterns of summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, ill-treatment, rape, and other sexual violence committed in areas occupied by Russia across the four regions on which it focused. Individuals were detained, some were unlawfully deported to the Russian Federation, and many were still reported missing. Sexual violence affected victims of all ages. Family members, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes.

Killings: As of December 11, the OHCHR recorded 17,362 civilian casualties, with 6,755 of those killed and 10,607 injured following Russia’s full-scale invasion. Of the total of those killed, 4,005 were in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The OHCHR estimated the actual figures were considerably higher, but continued fighting constrained its documentation efforts. The OHCHR assessed most of these casualties were the result of the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects and assessed just under 10 percent of them were caused by Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Russia’s forces continued to use land mines without fencing, signs, or other measures to mitigate civilian casualties in areas under their control. Russia’s forces reportedly mined roads, streets, fields, urban buildings such as hospitals and civic centers, as well as household objects, including toys and other items children would handle. In at least two instances, victim-activated booby traps were placed on dead bodies. According to survivors in liberated areas, mass media, and Ukrainian law enforcement, retreating forces of Russia left behind mined areas in disregard for civilian life. Ukrainian law enforcement officials maintained that, in some cases, the mining of territory has complicated the discovery of mass burials that offer evidence of what they characterized as war crimes by Russia’s forces.

On April 8, an air strike by Russia’s forces on Kramatorsk’s central train station in Donetsk Oblast killed 60 civilians, including seven children, and injured 111. Civilians were gathered at the train station to evacuate from the city following government warnings that fighting would soon intensify in the region. According to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, Russia’s forces struck the train station with two Tochka-U missiles. The UN high commissioner for human rights called the attack “emblematic of the failure to adhere to the principle of distinction, the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, and the principle of precaution enshrined in international humanitarian law.”

On March 16, Amnesty International reported Russia’s forces struck the Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. An Amnesty International investigation concluded at least 12 civilians were killed in the attack, but additional fatalities likely remain unreported. The OHCHR confirmed the cause of the destruction was most likely an air strike by Russia’s forces and noted the word “children” was clearly marked in Cyrillic letters on the ground outside the front and rear entrances of the theater and was clearly distinctive and visible from the sky.

On November 17, a Dutch court convicted in absentia two citizens of Russia and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian fighter of murder for their role in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with a surface-to-air missile of Russia manufacture on July 17, 2014. The plane was shot down as it flew over a separatist-controlled region of eastern Ukraine. The presiding judge stated evidence presented by prosecutors in the trial, which lasted more than two years, proved pro-Russian Ukrainian fighters brought down the Boeing 777 with a missile. The three men convicted were former intelligence agents of Russia Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian pro-Russian leader. All three are fugitives and believed to be in Russia. A fourth suspect, Oleg Pulatov of Russia, was acquitted on all charges. In 2018 a joint investigation group concluded that the surface-to-air missile system used to shoot down the airliner over Ukraine, killing all 298 persons on board, came from Russia’s forces.

Abductions: Russia and its proxies carried out widespread abductions of public officials, local authorities, human rights defenders, journalists, and individuals suspected of supporting the government in areas controlled by Russia. The OHCHR documented 407 cases of disappearances by Russia’s forces or Russia-led forces during the first half of the year, the vast majority of such cases. The majority of victims were active or former public officials of local authorities, human rights defenders, civil society activists, journalists and media workers. The OHCHR documented 18 victims found dead after their disappearance during the year, some of them with signs of a violent death, and others who died in detention due to lack of medical care. At least 232 victims remain arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, most in unknown locations with unknown conditions of detention. An additional 160 victims were released from detention, escaped, or were left behind when Russia’s forces retreated, and a further 15 victims were released during exchanges of prisoners of war.

Russia’s forces reportedly tortured and mistreated abductees to compel confessions or cooperation with occupation authorities, including through beatings, electrical shock, mock executions, and confinement in cramped spaces, according to survivors’ testimony and physical evidence discovered in areas liberated from Russian occupation or control.

Iryna Danylovich, an activist of the medical trade union movement and citizen journalist, was kidnapped on her way home from work in Koktebel, Crimea. On May 11, her lawyer learned that Danylovich was held in the basement of the FSB building in Simferopol, Crimea. Russia’s FSB charged Danylovich with the illegal possession of explosives. According to her lawyer, FSB officers beat and choked her, fed her only once a day and did not allow her to use the toilet for extended periods. Danylovich was interrogated, polygraphed, and threatened by interrogators that they would “take her to the forest in Mariupol.” The Feodosiya “court” in Crimea began hearing the case in November.

On March 12, Russia’s forces abducted Oleh Baturin, a journalist with the Kherson newspaper Novy Den and an associate of the Center for Journalistic Investigations, from a bus station in Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast. Over the following eight days, Russia’s security forces repeatedly beat, humiliated, and threatened to execute Baturin during interrogations. Baturin, who was released on March 22, claimed his interrogators repeatedly asked him for the names of the organizers of antioccupation rallies in Kakhovka, Nova Kakhovka, and Kherson in Kherson Oblast.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Russia’s forces perpetrated the overwhelming majority of cases of systemic abuses including the most severe ones, such as rape and torture, as reported and documented by the OHCHR and other human rights organizations. Observers noted that Russia’s forces and Russia-supported forces systematically denied access to independent observers, complicating the documentation of abuses in areas occupied by Russia. In August, the International Committee of the Red Cross stated it would continue to request access to Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Olenivka or elsewhere and were ready to expand work in Olenivka if the necessary security guarantees were received.

Abuses by Russia’s forces reportedly included beatings, torture, mock executions, sexual violence, deprivation of food and water, refusal of medical care, and forced labor. The OHCHR documented reports of Russia’s forces subjecting prisoners of war to torture and interrogation sessions at the Olenivka penal colony in Donetsk Oblast and the Kursk and Taganrog detention facilities in Russia. Prisoners of war were reportedly punched, kicked, beaten with batons, electrocuted, strangled, forced into stress positions, and threatened with sexual violence upon entering these and other Russian facilities.

In Russia-occupied territory conditions in detention centers were harsh and life- threatening (see section 1.c.). Sexual violence was more prevalent in “unofficial” detention facilities, where in some cases women and men were not separated. The HRMMU reported that, based on the percentage of cases in which detainees reported being sexually abused, the total number of survivors of sexual violence while under detention by Russia-led forces could be between 170 and 200, even prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion. As of May 15, the OHCHR was aware of 108 allegations of acts of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, including 78 allegations of rape. Most of the survivors were women and girls. The actual number of survivors is likely to be significantly higher based on the stigma of reporting such abuses.

Reported forms of abuse included rape, threats of rape, threats of castration, intentional damage to genitalia, threats of sexual violence against family members, sexual harassment, forced nudity, coercion to watch sexual violence against others, forced prostitution, and humiliation.

Other Conflict-related Abuse: There were reports that Russia’s forces forcibly relocated thousands of civilians from Russia-occupied areas to Russia. According to the OHCHR, civilians seeking to escape from Mariupol during Russia’s attack on the city in March felt compelled to evacuate in any direction possible, even if they did not want to enter Russia. Russia’s forces reportedly subjected deportees to interrogations at “filtration camps,” where individuals with perceived links to the Ukrainian government or armed forces were reportedly beaten and tortured.

According to a Human Rights Watch article on September 1, “filtration” is a form of compulsory security screening, in which Russia’s forces typically collected civilians’ biometric data, including fingerprints and front and side facial images; conducted body searches, and searched personal belongings and mobile phones; and questioned them regarding their political views. Ukrainian civilians were effectively detained as they waited to undergo this process, with many reporting they were housed in overcrowded and squalid conditions, for periods as short as several hours to up to almost a month.

Ukrainian children trapped in war zones faced death, injuries, separation from their families and deportation to Russia. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, since the start of Russian’s invasion, 429 children were killed and 800 injured as of December 27.

According to a report issued by the Yale’s Conflict Observatory, Russian officials deported more than 6,000 Ukrainian children to Russia or Russia-held territories, at times without or with coerced parental consent, where they were held in “summer camps” and received “patriotic re-education.” This involved linguistic and ideological education as well as military training. Some of the children with unclear guardianship, particularly those living in orphanages or state institutions, were later transferred to Russian foster families for adoption.

In May, Russian President Putin signed a decree making it easier for to adopt and obtain Russian citizenship for Ukrainian children without parental care, making it more difficult for surviving relatives to return adopted children to Ukraine. According to an Associated Press investigation, Russia also prepared a register of suitable Russian families for Ukrainian children and offers payment for each child who gets citizenship, up to $1,000 for those with disabilities. The Ukrainian Ministry of Reintegration documented 13,876 Ukrainian children deported to Russia as of year’s end. According to human rights organizations from the Ukraine 5 AM Coalition, Russian authorities deported as many as 260,000 to 700,000 Ukrainian children; it is unclear how many of these children were relocated with their legal guardians as part of Russia’s filtration efforts.

Russia’s forces routinely bombed hospitals, resulting in civilian deaths. On February 24, a Russia-launched ballistic missile struck near a hospital in Vuhledar in the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donetsk, killing four civilians and wounding 10; six health-care workers were injured in the attack. Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab determined the projectile was a 9M79 Tochka ballistic missile, and Human Rights Watch stated the missile was equipped with a cluster munition warhead.

On March 9, Russia’s aircraft bombed Hospital No. 3 in Mariupol, destroying the medical complex’s maternity ward and children’s clinic. Ukrainian officials stated five persons were killed, including a pregnant woman and the baby she was carrying, and 16 were injured, including staff members and maternity ward patients. The New York Times verified videos showing the damaged and destroyed hospital buildings with several wounded persons being evacuated, noting it was not clear whether the hospital was fully operational or had been partially evacuated at the time of the strike. The United Nations verified a strike by Russia’s forces destroyed the hospital and noted several sources in Mariupol, including local authorities, and determined the hospital was clearly identifiable and operational at the time it was struck.

The Kyiv Independent reported on November 3 that Russia’s forces continued to patrol Mariupol, conduct identification checks, and look in residents’ houses and on personal mobile phones for pro-Ukrainian photos, symbols, or posts on social networks. The Independent also reported that, on average, five out of 30 filtered persons disappeared after being arrested at the police station.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

In occupied areas Russia’s forces suppressed freedom of expression, including for members of the press, through harassment, intimidation, abductions, and physical assaults on journalists and media outlets.  They also prevented the transmission of Ukrainian and independent television and radio programming in areas under their occupation.

Occupation authorities failed to investigate or prosecute physical assaults or other attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protesters, restricting the enjoyment of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied territories.

Freedom of Expression:  The HRMMU noted occupation authorities placed “excessive limitations on the freedoms of opinion and expression.”  On March 4, Russia’s parliament passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news regarding Russia’s military.  Occupation authorities also applied a new administrative article outlawing “public actions aimed at discrediting the Russian army” to prosecute those expressing dissent with actions taken by Crimean occupation authorities.

In 2020, occupation authorities began enforcing a law that prohibits the unauthorized dissemination of information damaging to the FSB’s reputation without the organization’s approval.  Enforcement of this law in Crimea further deprived residents of the ability to exercise freedom of expression, by preventing them from publicly criticizing and disseminating information concerning reportedly unlawful actions of FSB officers and alleged violations or abuses of human rights.

Individuals could not publicly criticize Russia’s occupation without fear of reprisal.  Human rights groups reported the FSB engaged in widespread surveillance of social media, telephones, and electronic communication and routinely summoned individuals for “discussions” for speaking or posting opposition to the occupation.  These unlawfully obtained recordings were often used against those who were unjustly detained in closed trials.

Occupation authorities often deemed expressions of dissent “extremism” and prosecuted individuals for them.  On March 16, occupation authorities detained Crimean Tatar human rights activist Abdureshit Dzhepparov at his home in Belogorsk, charging him with the use of Nazi symbols.  The basis for the charge was a video posted on his Facebook page in 2019 that criticized Soviet propaganda by highlighting its similarities to Nazism.  He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.  Dzhepparov’s supporters gathered near his house after the detention.  A dispute broke out with Russia’s security forces; consequently, two other Crimean Tatars, Fevzi Yakubov and Muhammad-Ali Dzhepparov Yusuf Oglu, were detained.  Supporters say Dzhepparov’s detention was likely retaliation for an interview he gave in March, in which he said Crimean Tatars are looking forward to the returning of Crimea to Ukraine.  On March 11, the Crimean Human Rights Group documented the first fine for an antiwar slogan under the new regulation outlawing public actions aimed at discrediting Russia’s army.  The police issued an administrative offense citation and a fine of 35,000 rubles ($580) to a resident of Simferopol, Crimea, who laid a blue-and-yellow cardboard sign with the words “No to War” at the monument of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

On October 12, Russia’s forces shot dead musician and conductor of the Kherson Music Drama theater Yuriy Kyrpatenko when he refused to participate in a concert the occupying authorities planned to demonstrate “peaceful life” in the city.

Occupation authorities continued to ban the display of Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar symbols as “extremist.”  Human rights groups claimed violations of this law were rare during the year because of fewer residents displaying such symbols than in previous years, reportedly to avoid prosecution.  Occupation authorities deemed expressions of support for Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea to be equivalent to undermining Russia’s territorial integrity.  There were multiple reports that occupation authorities detained and prosecuted individuals seeking to film raids on homes or court proceedings.  On February 18, press reports indicated that Russia’s occupation authorities detained 15 Crimean Tatars, including journalist Aziz Azizov, who had gathered outside a court in Bakhchisaray to observe a hearing of a Crimean Tatar.  Azizov, who was reporting on and filming the gathering, was charged with administrative offenses related to the violation of public order.

Violence and Harassment:  The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) reported that Russia committed 462 crimes against journalists and media in Ukraine during the first nine months of its full-scale invasion.  As of November 24, Russia’s military killed 42 journalists in Ukraine, eight of whom were killed while performing their professional duties.  Another 14 journalists were injured.

There were numerous cases of Russia’s security forces harassing activists and detaining journalists in connection with their civic or professional activities.  On February 11, Russia’s occupation authorities detained three credentialed journalists near the Crimean garrison military court in Simferopol, Crimea.  The journalists came to highlight the case of two Crimean Tatar political prisoners.  Journalists Ali Suleimanov, Amar Abdulgaziev and Rustem Useinov were detained without explanation and taken to the police station in Simferopol.

French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was fatally shot while on a humanitarian bus alongside fleeing civilians on May 30.

On February 17, occupation authorities searched the house of the delegate of the Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people, Edem Dudakov.  Dudakov had called attention to the deliberate destruction of Crimean Tatar architectural objects as well as historical and cultural monuments by Russia’s forces and Russia-led forces.  After the search police took him to the Bakhchisaray “center for countering extremism.”  Dudakov was not allowed to consult with his lawyer either during the search or while he was questioned.  Authorities charged him with incitement to hatred and on February 18, the “court” sentenced Dudakov to 10 days of administrative arrest.

Censorship or Content Restrictions for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Following Russia’s occupation of Crimea, journalists resorted to self-censorship to continue reporting and broadcasting.  In partially occupied oblasts, Russian television and internet monopolized the communication space.

There were reports occupation authorities sought to restrict access to or remove internet content concerning Crimea they disliked.  As of August 2021, occupation authorities had blocked 27 Ukrainian websites in Crimea, including the websites of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Ministry of Integration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, leading human rights NGOs, and major independent Ukrainian news outlets, among others.  On May 6, Russia’s authorities declared the activities of the Crimean Human Rights Group “undesirable” and determined that it “posed a threat to the Constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.”  Censorship of independent internet sites was widespread (see Internet Freedom).

Occupation authorities banned most Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar-language broadcasts, replacing the content with programming from Russia.  For example, Yuriy Rodionov played a Ukrainian patriotic song in a cafe in Shcholkino, Kerch Oblast and on August 14, a Russia-controlled district “court” found Rodionov guilty of committing an administrative offense under propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi paraphernalia charges and sentenced him to 10 days of administrative arrest.

According to the IMI, during the first six months of Russia’s full-scale invasion at least 215 broadcasters, online and print media in Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Donetsk, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Luhansk, and Chernihiv Oblasts had to cease their activities due to hostilities or occupation.

According to the National Council for TV and Radio Broadcast, as of mid-June Russia’s forces took control of radio frequencies and television channels in Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Kherson.  The occupiers used property of the Ukrainian public broadcaster and the existing broadcasting network (in particular, 196-meter television towers in Mariupol, Donetsk and Melitopol, Zaporizhzhya) to organize broadcasting.  Russia’s forces seized and disconnected Ukrainian television channels and radio stations and replaced them with channels from the Russian Federation or the self-proclaimed “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.

IMI reported the media landscape of Zaporizhzhya Oblast changed radically beginning with Russia’s full-scale invasion.  Since Russia’s forces controlled most of the oblast’s key cities, many media outlets were forced to close.  According to the IMI, there were no newspapers left in Melitopol, Berdyansk, Polohy, Tokmak, and Energodar (all in Zaporizhzhya Oblast).  Many online media stopped operating.  Pro-Ukrainian television channels in occupied areas also stopped broadcasting.  Instead, Russia’s propaganda television channels broadcast in occupied areas.

National Security:  Occupation authorities cited laws protecting national security to justify retaliation against opponents of Russia’s occupation.

The Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service included prominent critics of the occupation on its list of extremists and terrorists.  Inclusion on the list prevented individuals from holding bank accounts, using notary services, and conducting other financial transactions.

Occupation authorities frequently used the threat of “extremism,” “terrorism,” or other purported national security grounds to justify harassment or prosecution of individuals in retaliation for expressing opposition to the occupation.  For example, on May 17, a local resident was detained after he splashed the entrance of a building in Yevpatoriya (a structure that previously housed the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people) with yellow and blue paint on May 16.  Authorities first charged him with intentional destruction or damage of property but later added vandalism and terrorism.  Russia’s occupation authorities included him in a “list of terrorists and extremists.”  In October, the Simferopol, Crimea, district “court” extended his detention period until January 2023.  As of mid-October, he was held in the Simferopol pretrial detention center.  According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, investigators used illegal methods of investigation, namely pressure, intimidation, threats, and obstruction of the defense lawyer’s work.

Internet Freedom

As of June 1, Russia’s occupation forces reportedly blocked access to Ukrainian mobile operators and the internet in almost all the occupied areas.  Residents were deprived of widely used social media platforms and messaging applications, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Viber.  Human rights groups and journalists who were critical of Russia’s aggressive actions in the eastern and southern part of the country reported their websites were subjected to malicious cyber activities, such as coordinated denial of service incidents and unauthorized attempts to obtain information from computers as well as coordinated campaigns of trolling and harassment on social media.  Russia’s occupation authorities restricted free expression on the internet (see section 2.a. of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia) by imposing repressive Russian Federation laws on Crimea.  Security services routinely monitored and controlled internet activity to suppress dissenting opinions.  According to media accounts, occupation authorities interrogated and harassed residents of Crimea for online postings, including those that demonstrated pro-Ukrainian views, opposition to Russia’s occupation and the actions of occupation authorities, and support for groups occupation authorities deemed “extremist” (see Censorship or Content Restrictions, above).

Restrictions on Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Occupation authorities engaged in a widespread campaign to suppress the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian languages (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

In Russia-occupied territory, occupation authorities commonly prevented individuals from openly participating in peaceful assemblies, especially those protesting the occupation.  Numerous antioccupation rallies took place in Kherson Oblast.  For example, on April 27, during a peaceful pro-Ukrainian rally on Freedom Square in downtown Kherson, Russia’s forces used tear gas and stun grenades against civilians.  At least four persons were injured.

Russia-led forces in the occupied areas continued to implement “laws” requiring all religious organizations except the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate to undergo “state religious expert evaluations” and reregister with them.  According to the HRMMU, most religious groups recognized under Ukrainian law continued to be unable to reregister because of stringent legal requirements under “laws” in the occupied territories that mirrored Russia’s legislation preventing or discouraging reregistration of many religious communities (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

According to the June UN secretary-general’s special report, “The expression of dissenting political or alternative views through participation in public assemblies continued to be curtailed in Crimea.  In particular, freedom of peaceful assembly was undermined by the blanket requirement of prior authorization by the occupation authorities for any assembly.”

Human rights monitors reported that occupation authorities routinely denied permission to hold assemblies based on political beliefs, notably to opponents of the occupation, or those seeking to protest the actions of the occupation authorities.  Those who gathered without permission were regularly charged with administrative offenses.  Expansive rules regarding types of gatherings that required permits and selective enforcement of the rules made it difficult for protesters to avoid such offenses.

Occupation authorities brought charges for “unauthorized assemblies” against single-person protests, even though preauthorization is not required for individual protests.  For example, according to Crimean Solidarity, on March 25, a resident of Simferopol, Crimea, came to the building of the “State Council of Crimea” holding a poster with anti-war slogans.  She was charged with “public actions aimed at discrediting Russia’s army” and fined 30,000 RUR ($500).

There were reports authorities used a ban on “unauthorized missionary activity” to restrict public gatherings of members of religious minority groups.  On March 23, Imam Emir Medzhitov received a subpoena for “violation of missionary activity.”  On May 12, a Russia-controlled court in Dzhankoy fined him 20,000 rubles ($330) for “carrying out missionary activities in violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and religious associations.”

A “regulation” limits places where public events may be held to 366 listed locations, which, as the HRMMU noted, restricted the ability to assemble to a shrinking number of “specially designated spaces,” a move that appeared “designed to dissuade” peaceful assembly.

There were reports occupation authorities charged and fined individuals for allegedly violating public assembly rules in retaliation for gathering to witness security force raids on homes.

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Freedom of Association

According to the HRMMU, Russia’s and Russia-led forces did not permit domestic and international civil society organizations, including human rights defenders, to operate freely in occupied areas.  Residents informed the HRMMU they were being prosecuted (or feared being prosecuted) by the “ministry of state security” for their pro-Ukrainian views or previous affiliation with Ukrainian NGOs.  If human rights groups attempted to work in those areas, they faced significant harassment and intimidation.  The HRMMU also noted some Russia-led civil society organizations appeared to require certain persons, such as public-sector employees, to join.

See the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia for a description of the relevant Russian laws and procedures that the Russian government applied and enforced in occupied Crimea.

Occupation authorities broadly restricted the exercise of freedom of association for individuals who opposed the occupation.  For example, there were numerous reports of authorities taking steps to harass, intimidate, arrest, and imprison members of Crimean Solidarity, an unregistered movement of friends and family of victims of repression by occupation authorities that opposes Russia’s occupation of Crimea.  During the year the Crimean Human Rights Group documented multiple cases in which police visited the homes of Crimean Solidarity activists to threaten them or warn them not to engage in “extremist” activities.  On May 17, the “prosecutor’s office” of Feodosia handed Suleiman Kadyrov a letter warning him against participating in gatherings related to the May 18 Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide, as they might constitute “extremist” activities.  At least five other Crimean Tatar activists and journalists received similar “preventive warnings” in advance of the Day of Remembrance, as well as in advance of Crimean Tatar Flag Day on June 26.

According to human rights groups, Russia’s security services routinely monitored prayers at mosques for any mention that Crimea remained part of Ukraine.  Russia’s security forces also monitored mosques for anti-Russia sentiment and as a means of recruiting police informants, whose secret testimony was used in trials of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members.

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people remained banned for purported “extremism” despite a decision by the International Court of Justice holding that occupation authorities must “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis.”  Following the 2016 ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis as an “extremist organization,” occupation authorities banned gatherings by Mejlis members and prosecuted individuals for discussing the Mejlis on social media.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at

d. Freedom of Movement

Occupation authorities restricted freedom of movement.

In-country Movement: Occupation authorities maintained a state “border” at the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and occupied Crimea and the other four purportedly annexed territories. According to the HRMMU, the administrative boundary and the absence of public transportation between Crimea and mainland Ukraine continued to undermine freedom of movement to and from the peninsula, affecting mainly the elderly and individuals with limited mobility. Children younger than 16 were allowed to cross the administrative boundary between mainland Ukraine and Crimea both ways if accompanied by one parent. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 could cross the administrative line both ways unaccompanied if they studied at an educational institution located in mainland Ukraine and resided or were registered in Crimea.

There were reports occupation authorities selectively detained and at times abused persons attempting to enter or leave Crimea. According to human rights groups, occupation authorities routinely detained adult men at the administrative boundary for additional questioning, threatened to seize passports and documents, seized telephones and memory cards, and questioned them for hours. After February, there were reports that Crimean Tatars were targeted for conscription.

Crossing from the occupied areas into Ukraine was cumbersome and dangerous. On May 17, members of Russia’s military fired at civilian cars near the checkpoint in the village of Davydiv Brid, Kherson Oblast. On the same date, a column of vehicles heading to Kryvyy Rih, which remained in the “gray zone” between the Ukrainian and Russian checkpoints, came under fire from Russia’s forces. Reportedly three persons were killed and at least six wounded. By October, the sole entry point to cross from the occupied areas into Ukraine was the checkpoint near Vasylivka, in Zaporizhzhya Oblast. All other crossing points were closed due to the military conflict.

On September 30, Russian S-300 missiles struck a humanitarian column killing up to 31 persons and wounding 118 on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhya city. The column had planned to enter the occupied parts of Zaporizhzhya Oblast to deliver humanitarian aid and escort out relatives from the occupied area.

At the beginning of October, Russian occupation authorities imposed additional requirements on travelers crossing from the occupied areas into other parts of Ukraine. Travelers needed to obtain a special permit issued by military forces and were required to provide detailed information concerning their plans. In-person permit applications could only be submitted in several cities of Zaporizhzhya Oblast. Residents of Kherson Oblast only had the option to apply online, but there were reports that entry passes could be obtained at the crossing point. Crossing the line of control by bus was no longer an option since carriers were required to get a Russian license to render transportation services. Those who had been helping residents evacuate were sometimes detained themselves. In July, Russia-led forces detained Azat Azatyan for 43 days while he was transporting persons from the temporarily occupied parts of Kherson. According to Azatyan, he was beaten with batons and tortured with electric current every day in captivity.

Volunteers said the permit procedures slowed crossings, thereby reducing the flow of persons into Ukraine. According to media reports in August, individuals spent nights in tents, cars or in the nearest villages for several days waiting to cross. As of August 10, 10 individuals died waiting in line. The HRMMU noted in its December 2 report persons often had to queue for up to three days at the crossing point, and the permits (which were only valid for one to two days) often expired before they could cross, forcing them to turn back and reapply.

Citizenship: Russia’s occupation authorities required all residents of occupied areas to accept Russian passports and offered them incentives to move to Russia. On July 11, Russian President Putin signed a decree fast tracking Russian citizenship to all citizens of Ukraine, not just those in purportedly annexed territories. On August 27, the Russian president signed two decrees to assist “stateless” persons and residents of Ukraine to live and work in the Russian Federation. The first decree allows Ukrainian residents to work in Russia without a permit if they acquire a Russian identification card within 30 days of the decree. The second decree orders social services to provide payments to individuals who leave Ukraine. Those who refuse Russian passports could be subject to arbitrary expulsion. According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, since Russia’s occupation there in 2014, approximately 2,000 Ukrainians were prosecuted for not having Russian documents, and approximately 530 persons were ordered to be “deported.”

Residents of Crimea who chose not to accept Russian passports were considered foreigners, but in some cases, they could obtain a residency permit. Persons without Russian passports holding a residency permit were deprived of key rights and could not own agricultural land, vote or run for office, register a religious congregation, or register a vehicle. Occupation authorities denied those who refused Russian passports access to “government” employment, education, and health care as well as the ability to open bank accounts and buy insurance, among other limitations.

According to the Crimean Human Rights Group, Russian authorities prosecuted private employers who continued to employ Ukrainians. Fines could be imposed on employers for every recorded case of employing a Ukrainian citizen without a labor license. Fines in such cases amounted to several million dollars.

In some cases, authorities compelled Crimean residents to surrender their Ukrainian passports, complicating international travel, because many countries did not recognize “passports” issued by Russian occupation authorities.

e. Protection of Refugees

Not applicable.

f. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Approximately 53,000 residents of Crimea were registered as IDPs by the Ukrainian government on the mainland, according to the Ministry of Social Policy. The Mejlis and local NGOs, such as Crimea SOS, believed the actual number could be as high as 100,000, as most IDPs were unregistered. Most of these individuals fled due to fear of persecution by occupation authorities because of their work as political activists or journalists. Muslims, Greek Catholics, and Evangelical Christians who left Crimea said they feared discrimination due to their religious beliefs.

On July 18, the Ukrainian parliament amended the law so that the term “territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation” would be used in legislation regarding IDPs from Crimea, and regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Crimean Tatars, who made up the largest number of IDPs from Crimea, said they left because of pressure on their community, including an increasing number of arbitrary searches of their homes, surveillance, and discrimination. In addition, many professionals left Crimea because Russia’s occupation authorities required them to apply for Russian professional licenses and adopt Russian procedures in their work.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

Elections:  Russia’s occupation authorities have prevented Crimean residents from voting in Ukrainian national and local elections since Crimea’s occupation began in 2014.  Russia’s occupation authorities permitted Crimean residents to vote in the September 2021 Russia State Duma elections.  Occupation authorities claimed a voter turnout rate of 49.75 percent.  Independent observers and elections experts alleged massive electoral fraud, including coerced voting by state employees and ballot stuffing, among other irregularities.  Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Russia’s elections in Crimea as illegal and stated it would hold responsible those who organized and conducted the illegal voting there.

Russia-led forces facilitated residents’ acquisition of Russian passports to enable voting in Donetsk and Luhansk in Russia’s September 2021 Duma elections.  According to independent observers, these elections were neither free nor fair.  Russia-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine were one of the few places where residents were able to vote online.

From September 23 to September 27, Russia’s occupation authorities held sham “referenda” in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts on joining the Russian Federation.  On September 30, the president of the Russian Federation signed the so-called Treaties on the Accession of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Regions to the Russian Federation.  On October 4, the Russian Federation adopted federal constitutional laws on accession and purported to formally recognize these four Ukrainian regions as separate “subjects” of the Russian Federation.  Ukrainian media reported that in all four oblasts, Russian soldiers went to Ukrainian homes to encourage them to participate in “voting” and Russian mobile brigades reportedly showed up at places of work to get out the “vote.”

In Luhansk Oblast, Bilovodsk, a company that employs local residents, told all employees they must vote or lose their jobs or have their names passed to proxy authorities who investigated “terrorism.”  Russia’s forces stopped pedestrians in the street to demand that they vote.  When one resident said he did not have his passport with him, a member of Russia-affiliated forces said, “You don’t need one; we already know you.”  In Kherson Oblast, press alleged that “voters” were brought in by Russia’s forces from Crimea and from the Rostov region of Russia to take part in the “elections.”  There were also allegations that residents were paid to “check certain blocks on voting ballots.”  A Ukrainian mayor from a Russia-occupied part of Zaporizhzhya said Russia’s forces went door to door with a mobile voting box with assault rifles in hand.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Corruption:  There were some reports of systemic corruption among Russia’s appointed proxy “office holders” in occupied areas, including through embezzlement of Russian state funds allocated to support the occupation.  On July 7, Russian authorities detained the military commissar of Crimea, Yuriy Lymar.  He was charged with abuse of power and soliciting bribes and placed under house arrest for two months.  According to the FSB, Lymar gave illegal instructions to his subordinates to release citizens from conscription for military service for a monetary reward.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Russia-led forces and proxies in Russia-occupied areas routinely denied access to domestic and international civil society organizations.  Human rights groups attempting to work in those areas faced significant harassment and intimidation (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).  Most independent human rights organizations ceased activities in Crimea following Russia’s occupation in 2014.  Occupation authorities refused to cooperate with independent human rights NGOs, ignored their views, and harassed human rights monitors and threatened them with fines and imprisonment.

Russia continued to deny access to the Crimean Peninsula to international human rights monitors from the OSCE and the United Nations.  There were no independent NGOs working in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses


Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a serious problem in occupied Crimea; however, occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights organizations made it difficult to assess its prevalence. There was no information available on this issue from Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts.

Sexual Harassment: There was not sufficient information available to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment nor the enforcement of any relevant laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of occupation authorities.

Women in Crimea accessed reproductive health care through services funded by the Russian occupation authorities, private insurance, and NGO programs; however, no Ukrainian or international monitors had access to Crimea or other occupied Russian areas, making it difficult to assess the state of reproductive health care there.

Discrimination: This information was not available given the restriction of independent NGOs working in the Russia-occupied areas.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Since the beginning of its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Russian authorities singled out Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians for discrimination, abuse, deprivation of civil liberties and religious and economic rights, and violence, including killings and abductions (see sections 1.a.,1.d., 1.f., 2.a., 2.b., and 2.d.). The August 2021 UN secretary-general’s report noted, “The activities of the Mejlis remained prohibited in Crimea.”

There were reports that Russian occupation authorities openly advocated for discrimination against Crimean Tatars. Occupation authorities harassed Crimean Tatars for speaking their language in public and forbade speaking it in the workplace, and teachers reportedly prohibited it in schools. In March, a Russia-occupied court in Crimea prohibited defendant Imam Raif Fevziyev from speaking the Crimean Tatar language in court. Crimean Tatars were prohibited from celebrating their national holidays and commemorating victims of previous abuses (see section 2.b.).

Occupation authorities prohibited the use of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags and symbols (see section 2.a.). In early September, a teacher from Sevastopol, Crimea, was fired after she decorated her classroom with balloons of blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Russian occupation authorities prohibited Crimean Tatars affiliated with the Mejlis from registering businesses or properties as a matter of policy.

Ethnic Ukrainians also faced discrimination by occupation authorities. Ukrainian as a language of instruction was removed from educational institutions in occupied areas. In 2017 the International Court of Justice ruled on provisional measures in proceedings brought by Ukraine against the Russian Federation, concluding unanimously that the Russian Federation must “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”

Occupation authorities did not permit churches linked to ethnic Ukrainians, in particular the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to register under Russian law. Occupation authorities harassed and intimidated members of these churches and used court proceedings to force the OCU to leave properties it had rented for years.

The largest OCU congregation in Crimea closed in 2019 following a ruling by occupation authorities that its cathedral located in Simferopol must be “returned to the state.” The church was shut down after repeated refusals by authorities to allow it to register.


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, and after February 24, since the full-scale invasion made it more difficult for parents to register a child as a citizen with Ukrainian authorities. Registration in the country requires a hospital certificate, which is retained when a birth certificate is issued. In occupied areas, new parents could only obtain a Russian birth certificate and did not have access to a hospital certificate. The Ukrainian government instituted a process whereby births in Russia-occupied areas could be recognized with documents issued by occupation authorities.

Education: Occupation authorities imposed Russian as the instruction language in educational institutions of all levels. They forced Ukrainian citizens to enroll their children in schools and preschool facilities that followed the Russian curriculum. Children were taught by teachers and educators who came from the Russian Federation. If parents did not agree, the occupation administration threatened to remove children from families and place them in boarding schools. The occupation administration imposed a curriculum that included a so-called patriotic education program and initial military training for schoolchildren.


According to Jewish groups, the Jewish population in Crimea was approximately 10,000 to 15,000, with most living in Simferopol. According to the Jewish association, there were approximately 30,000 Jewish persons living in the Donbas. There were no reports of antisemitic acts; however, Russia’s occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights groups limited their ability to properly monitor antisemitic acts.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics

Criminalization: According to NGO Nash Svit, in March a man was detained by Russia’s forces near Mariupol (Donetsk Oblast) as he attempted to leave the city. The forces examined his belongings and found information on his mobile phone that “attested to his homosexuality.” Russia’s forces sentenced him to a month in Olenivka prison in Donetsk Oblast for terrorism. The administration of the prison disclosed the man’s sexual orientation to all the other prisoners, after which he was subjected to repeated sexual violence.

Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: The UN Human Rights Council’s independent expert received reports of increased violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTQI+ community in Crimea as well as the use of homophobic propaganda employed by the occupation authorities. LGBTQI+ persons reportedly were frequently subjected to beatings in public spaces and entrapped by organized groups through social networks. The council’s report noted, “This environment created an atmosphere of fear and terror for members of the community, with related adverse impacts on their mental health and well-being.”

Discrimination: Russia’s forces and Russia-led forces in occupied areas systematically failed to respect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons. Human rights groups and LGBTQI+ activists reported that most LGBTQI+ individuals fled Crimea and Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya oblasts after Russia’s occupation began. Those who remained lived in fear of abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

There was not sufficient information on the treatment of members of the LGBTQI+ community in occupied eastern Ukraine.

According to the HRMMU, NGOs working on access to health care among vulnerable groups found it impossible to advocate for LGBTQI+ persons due to fear of retaliation by occupation authorities.

Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: There was not sufficient information on the availability of legal gender recognition within Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine.

Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There was not sufficient information on coercive medical or psychological practices within Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine.

Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: On December 6, President Putin signed legislation that widely bans public expression of LGBTQI+ identity in Russia. The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” regarding “nontraditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, film, or on social media. Demonstrations of “nontraditional relationships or preferences” will also be completely barred from advertising, and from any outlet visible to children. Distributing to children any information “that causes children to want to change their sex” was also prohibited. As Russia deems occupied areas of Ukraine to be part of its sovereign territory, the new law was likely to be enforced in Crimea, and Russia-occupied parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts.

Occupation authorities prohibited any LGBTQI+ group from holding public events in Crimea, and occupation authorities were likely to enforce similar policies in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts. LGBTQI+ individuals faced increasing restrictions on their exercise of free expression and peaceful assembly, because occupation authorities enforced a Russian law that criminalizes the so-called propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to children (see section 6 of the Country Reports on Human Rights for Russia).

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities in Russia-occupied Crimea and occupied areas in eastern Ukraine faced a lack of appropriate care and education. On September 9, the UN Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reported that persons with disabilities trapped in Russia-occupied areas in Ukraine were being used as “human shields” by Russia’s armed forces. The CRPD’s Vice-Chair, Jonas Ruskus, revealed that the committee had learned that at least 12 persons with disabilities died in a residential institution in Russia-occupied territory. CRPD was also gravely concerned that persons with disabilities were reportedly trapped in the conflict zones and that the evacuation of the institutions in conflict areas was not prioritized.

According to reporting, the CRPD also urged Ukraine and the Russian Federation to immediately evacuate persons with disabilities who remain in residential institutions on territory under their respective control, and to ensure the evacuation process is monitored by independent parties. The United Nations reported that the CRPD was further concerned about reports that persons with disabilities who remain in residential institutions are at severe risk, as their access to basic resources, such as food, an adequate standard of living, and to heating in the winter months, are jeopardized.

According to the HRMMU’s December 2 report, the water supply in Russia-occupied areas of Donetsk Oblast sharply decreased since February, with some settlements receiving only one-fifth of the water they need. As water is delivered by trucks to specific collection points, persons with disabilities and older persons with chronic health problems or mobility challenges, face additional hurdles in accessing sufficient potable water.

Section 7. Worker Rights

Occupation authorities in Crimea applied the labor laws of the Russian Federation.  It was expected that Russia’s labor laws would be applied in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts after their purported annexation (see the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Russia).

Occupation authorities imposed the labor laws and regulations of the Russian Federation on Crimean workers, limited worker rights, and created barriers to the exercise of freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the ability to strike.  Trade unions are formally protected under Russia’s laws but limited in practice.  Employers were often able to engage in antiunion discrimination and violate collective bargaining rights.  Occupation authorities threatened to nationalize property owned by Ukrainian labor unions in Crimea.  Ukrainians who did not accept Russian passports faced job discrimination in all sectors of the economy.  Only holders of Russian national identification cards were allowed to work in “government” and municipal positions.  Labor activists believed unions were threatened in Crimea to accept “government” policy without question and faced considerable restrictions on advocating for their members.

Informal Sector:  Although no official data were available, experts estimated there was growing participation in the underground economy in Crimea.  Child labor in amber and coal mining remained a problem in Crimea.  No information was available at year’s end regarding labor practices in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future