The prisoners of the Kremlin are defenseless against COVID-19. We have to be their voice!

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An immediate reaction of international organizations and leaders of nations is required.

We call on international organizations, such as the UN, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE, as well as the states participating in these organizations, to immediately take measures to save the lives of thousands of people illegally deprived of their freedom on the territory of Russia and the territories it occupied, Crimea and Donbas.

Today, Ukrainian scientists, doctors, public journalists, writers, human rights defenders, entrepreneurs, and working people are held there behind bars on false accusations.

It is obvious to anyone who has an idea about the places of deprivation of liberty in Russia and the occupied Crimea that the leadership of these institutions cannot fulfill the WHO recommendations for protection against the coronavirus. Such places inherently carry an increased risk for the spread of infection. The cells are crowded with prisoners. Adequate ventilation is simply not available. Respiratory masks are not available for patients. People are not able to observe basic hand hygiene.

Even “exemplary” health services are understaffed, lack drugs and equipment. They cannot cure even the simplest diseases, much less the challenge that is COVID-19.

The situation in the occupied Donbas is even more dramatic. For six years now, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to prisoners. In addition to the so-called “official” institutions, there are secret places of imprisonment. For example, the “Isolation” mentioned in the latest report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Many institutions are not suitable even for short-term detainment of people. At the 10th post in the Donetsk pre-trial detention center, people are kept in the basement without access to daylight, with rats running around, and sewage leaks.

Prisoners are raped, beaten, tortured with electric shocks, their nails and teeth are pulled out, they are deprived of sleep, water, and food, threatened with violence against their family members. Therefore, there is no illusion that in the event of the spread of the coronavirus, they will not be provided with any kind of medical care.

“In prison, a person is simply deprived of the opportunity to defend themself,” the prisoner of conscience, the Crimean Tatar Server Mustafayev, comments on the situation. Therefore, we must become the voice of the prisoners of the Kremlin.

We demand immediate response of the international organizations of the UN, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE and their participating countries in order to call on the Russian Federation to:

⬤ release all political prisoners in the occupied Crimea and Russia, as well as to use the de-facto control that Russia exercises over parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to immediately release all people illegally deprived of their freedom there.

⬤ reduce the size of the prison population (in particular, by replacing preventive measures with house arrest, expanding the practice of using parole and amnesty, in particular, for political prisoners).

⬤ provide full and unimpeded access to the Russian-occupied territory of the Crimea and Donbas to international intergovernmental organizations and international humanitarian organizations, as well as to the people detained there, in particular, to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

⬤ take urgent measures to protect life and health, freedom from torture, and medical assistance to people whom Russia holds both officially (in the Russian Federation and occupied Crimea), and through illegal armed groups controlled by it in the Donbas.