The Council of the European Union (EU) announced new sanctions Friday against six people it says committed human rights violations in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which has been occupied by Russian forces since 2014. The six individuals were singled out by the EU in particular for participating in legal proceedings against journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was targeted by Russia for his outspoken views against the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Russian security forces arrested the journalist in 2021 after they allegedly found a hand grenade in his car. Yesypenko disputed the charges, saying the grenade was planted on him. He also claimed that he was tortured with electric shocks by members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) during his detention. Later, the Simferopol District Court, which was set up by Russian authorities after their 2014 annexation of Crimea, sentenced Yesypenko to 6 years in prison.
FSB agent Vitaliy Vlasov was sanctioned by the EU Friday for his investigation of Yesypenko and another investigation of four Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2021. Denis Korovin, another FSB agent, was sanctioned for allegedly participating in Yesypenko’s torture.
The EU’s sanctions also targeted individuals involved in court proceedings against Yesypenko, such as Elena Podolnaya and Anastasia Supryaga, who were the prosecuting attorneys. In addition, the EU sanctioned Dliaver Berberov, the judge who sentenced Yesypenko, and Viktor Krapko, the Crimean Supreme Court Justice who allegedly authorized abusive searches against Yesypenko and others. Several of the sanctioned individuals were also singled out for their alleged participation in “systematic persecution campaigns” against Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Crimean Tatar community and other religious minorities.
According to the Official Journal of the European Union, the EU continues to not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The Council documents also say the EU is “concerned about the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula”. The Russian Federation continues to frame the invasion of the Crimean peninsula as a “re-integration.”