During the year the occupation and purported “annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 continued significantly and negatively to affect the human rights situation. The government continued to train, equip, and supply pro-Russian forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, who were joined by numerous fighters from Russia. International monitors and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) attributed thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as widespread human rights abuses, to combined Russian-separatist forces in the Donbas region and the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (for details see the Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine).
The most significant human rights problems during the year involved:
1. Restrictions on the Ability to Choose One’s Government and Freedoms of Expression, Assembly, Association, and the Media, as well as Internet Freedom: According to the country’s constitution and laws, citizens have the ability to choose their government through the right to vote in free and fair elections; however, authorities restricted this ability. The government increasingly instituted a range of measures to suppress dissent. The government passed new repressive laws and selectively employed existing ones systematically to harass, discredit, prosecute, imprison, detain, fine, and suppress individuals and organizations engaged in activities critical of the government, including NGOs, independent media outlets, bloggers, the political opposition, and activists. Individuals and organizations that professed support for the government of Ukraine or opposed the Russian government’s activities in Ukraine were especially targeted.
2. Political Prosecutions and Administration of Justice: Officials denied due process to defendants in politically motivated cases, including in the prosecutions and appeals of several defendants arrested after the 2012 anti-Putin demonstrations on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow; secret detentions and convictions based on treason and espionage charges; the harsh sentencing and imprisonment of environmental activist Yevgeniy Vitishko; the convictions of non-Russian citizens taken illegally from other countries, especially Ukraine, and brought to Russia for trial; and criminal cases opened against several other political activists and human rights advocates. The government stymied and stigmatized the work of NGOs through the “foreign agents” law and adopted an “undesirable foreign organization” law targeting non-Russian NGOs. Authorities failed to bring to justice the individuals responsible for the deaths of prominent journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and opposition politicians.
3. Government Discrimination against Racial, Ethnic, Religious, and Sexual Minorities: The government continued to discriminate against and selectively prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; members of some religious and ethnic minorities; and migrant workers. The government stoked Russian nationalism to implement its policies while stifling dissent. The law banning “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relations to minors was increasingly used to harass members of the LGBTI community by threatening their jobs, blocking websites, and suppressing activism.