The ‘trial’ and sentence against Aider Muzhdabaev over strong words on Facebook would be easier to take seriously if state-employed propagandists did not call to murder Ukrainian children and destroy Ukrainian cities on television
A military court in Moscow has passed a six-year sentence against Aider Muzhdabaev over Facebook posts from 2018 about trying to save the life of Oleh Sentsov, Ukrainian filmmaker and Kremlin hostage. The sentence against the 51-year-old journalist and Deputy Director General of Crimean Tatar TV ATR was in absentia as Muzhdabaev moved to Ukraine from Moscow soon after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Muzhdabaev responded by writing that he was “saddened” because the sentence was not bigger. “I had counted on a minimum of eight years as a summary of my Russophobic crimes.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee [IC[ announced on 25 June 2020 that it had declared Muzhdabaev on the ‘international wanted list’, accusing him of ‘public calls to terrorist activities’ under Article 205.2 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code. IC claimed that two posts on Facebook had “contained calls to carry out violent actions and seize, with the use of force Russian citizens in Ukraine, in order to then exchange them for Oleh Sentsov, convicted in Russia of terrorist crimes”.
Sentsov was seized and tortured in May 2014 and then sentenced to 20 years not for ‘terrorist activities’, but because of his opposition to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Although IC mentions two posts, only one of these has been identified, as from 8 August 2018. Sentsov had been on hunger strike in a harsh-regime Siberian prison colony for over 85 days, and there was immense concern in Ukraine and internationally that his life was in immediate danger.
It was specifically then that Muzhdabaev wrote on Facebook of the need to “seize Russian agents here (everybody knows who they are), take them wherever you like, put guns to their forehead and, on camera, demand that [Russian president Vladimir] Putin immediately hand over Sentsov in exchange for them. Otherwise they’ll be shot without trial or investigation. I understand that this is illegal, that it looks barbaric, but I refuse to accept the death of Sentsov without taking any – any – measures to save him.”
The post disappeared from the site the following day, although Muzhdabaev later told Graty that he had not himself removed it. The fact that it disappeared long before the Russian ‘expert assessment’ in January 2019 and the formal criminal proceedings in July 2019 is confirmation of Muzhdabaev’s own belief that the Russian FSB are constantly monitoring his movements (including comments on social media).
In fact, Graty reports that the criminal proceedings were initiated over something else with the Facebook posts then made into a separate case. This also is typical since Russia has been systematically initiating grotesque charges against prominent Crimean Tatars since the latter and the Mejlis, or representative assembly, of the Crimean Tatar people remained implacably opposed to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. In at least two other cases, absurd ‘sentences’ have also been passed in absentia, after Russia first banished world-respected Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev and the Chair of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov from their homeland.
In 2019, Russia also added Muzhdabaev to its supposed ‘list of terrorists and extremists’ which in fact contains a large number of Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners (including Sentsov). At the time, Muzhdabaev also asked Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry to inform Interpol of the political nature of the charges against him to ensure that Russia’s application for a Red Notice to be issued (obliging member states to detain him, prior to ascertaining the charges). Although this should always have been obvious, there have been several cases where Interpol has allowed Russia to seek the extradition of Ukrainian citizens facing political persecution.
Muzhdabaev’s Facebook post was certainly strong, although it is telling that it did not even incur a Facebook ban, let alone charges of ‘incitement to terrorism’. Russia’s Investigative Committee is also highly selective in what it chooses to notice or find ‘criminal’. Muzhdabaev’s words were considerably milder than the video address in which Russian fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin called to “kill all Ukrainians” and countless other social media posts. Nor did the Investigative Committee find anything wrong with a public talk show hosted by Anton Krasovsky, then broadcasting director for the state funded Russia Today [RT] channel on 20 October 2022. When told that Ukrainian children had spoken of Ukraine being occupied by ‘moskali’, Krasovsky said that they should be drowned, and then went on to say that Ukrainians should be locked up in their homes and burned. Although he lost his job over such shocking words about killing children, the rest of his tirade, claiming that elderly Ukrainian women wanted to be raped, that Ukraine had no right to exist and that those with whom it would be difficult to share one country should be shot were not objected to, and differed little from the normal fare heard virtually every night on Russian state television.