‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Rustem Gugurik, a Kherson region resident convicted by a Russian court of participating in an ‘illegal armed group,’ is a political prisoner

23 January 2023

Rustem Gugurik was sentenced to eight and a half years in a strict regime penal colony on charges of involvement in the Crimean Tatar volunteer battalion named after Noman Chelebidzhikhan

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ an independent human rights project, in accordance with our guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ considers Ukrainian citizen Rustem Gugurik a political prisoner. He has been prosecuted for the offence of participation in an illegal armed formation on account of his political views, his citizenship and ethnicity. The criminal case against Gugurik is based on fabricated evidence. Gugurik’s prosecution has grossly violated his right to a fair trial.

We demand the immediate release of Rustem Gugurik and that all criminal charges against him be dropped.

What are the charges against Rustem Gugurik?

After the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rustem Gugurik and his wife decided to take their youngest daughter from their home in Kherson region to her relatives in Crimea. On 27 March 2022, while crossing the ‘border’ with Crimea, Gugurik was detained by FSB officers.

Gugurik was accused of participating ‘in an armed group on the territory of a foreign state not provided for by the legislation of that state, for purposes contrary to the interests of the Russian Federation’ (Article 208, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code). Investigators claimed Gugurik was involved in the activities of the Crimean Tatar battalion, named after Noman Chelebidzhikhan, which is considered an illegal armed group in Russia. All charges were based on the testimony of witnesses who allegedly saw Gugurik at the location of the battalion. According to them, he was engaged in small-scale farming and used to bring food there.

Gugurik himself categorically denies his guilt and claims he simply worked as a taxi driver in a border district of Kherson region.

On 25 October 2022, the Kyiv district court in Simferopol sentenced Gugurik to eight and a half years in a strict regime penal colony.

Why do we consider Rustem Gugurik a political prisoner?

Over the past three years, the FSB has launched a series of three investigations against Crimean Tatars on charges of participating in the Chelebidzhikhan battalion. In each case, the same witnesses gave the same testimony and many of the witnesses have given testimony in secret without any grounds. The prosecution of Rustem Gugurik is based on this same dubious evidence. There is no material evidence of his participation in the battalion.

Moreover, in our opinion, participation in the Noman Chelebidzhikhan Battalion does not constitute a crime.

Businessman Lenur Islyamov announced the creation of the battalion in September 2015 at a press conference in Kyiv. At the same time, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, members of the Ukrainian parliament, announced the beginning of a civic initiative to blockade Crimea. Battalion members checked cargoes on the border with Crimea. Over the next two months, the Ukrainian government decided to ban shipments of goods and services from and to Crimea, except for humanitarian goods. Since January 2016, members of the battalion, or more precisely, members of Asker, a civil society organisation created on its basis, conducted joint patrols with the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The battalion never took part in military action.

We consider the activities of the Chelebidzhikhan Battalion cannot be considered illegal, despite the fact that the battalion’s creation was never enshrined in law. Proof of this is the participation of the battalion in border patrols jointly with the Ukrainian security forces. At the same time, we believe Russia’s national interests are obviously undermined, not by the battalion’s activities, but by the illegal annexation of Crimea.

Further information about this case and the position of the human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ are available on our Telegram publishing platform.

An up-to-date list of political prisoners in Russia is available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

Letters can be sent by ordinary mail as follows:

In Russian: 432017, г. Ульяновск, ул. Куйбышева, д. 2, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по Ульяновской области, Гугурику Рустему Сейдалиевичу, 1971 г.р.

In English: Rustem Seidalievich Gugurik (born 1971), Remand Prison No. 1, Russian Federal Penitentiary Service for Ulyanovsk region, 2 Kuibyshev Street, Ulyanovsk, Russia, 432017. 

You can also send electronic mail via Zonatelecom and FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. For more information about donating, see our website.

Translated by Rights in Russia

Leave a Reply