How the National Border Guards Cash in on the Crimean Ukrainians

The human right activists record stream of applications from citizens of Ukraine who are leaving the occupied Crimea and face violation of their rights by Ukrainian border guards. Victims’ claim that they are required a written statement on “why the citizen Ukraine wants to move in Ukraine” and in the absence of such a certificate they do not shun a paper “certificate” with a picture of Hryhorii Skovoroda (a cash banknote of UAH 500.00).

A website of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBS) informs that when crossing the administrative border with Ukraine the Crimean citizens should have documents that confirm their identity and citizenship, referring to the Law “On protection of rights and freedoms of citizens and legal regime in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine”. It is not provided by this law to submit any other certificates, invitations or other written evidence of the purpose of travel.

However, the requirements of the law and the situation in practice differ significantly. The representatives of the Strategic Litigations Platform identified top 5 violations by the Ukrainian border guards, which the citizens of Ukraine had to face when leaving the Crimea. The victims turn to human rights activists with complaints about (1) conduction of a thorough search; (2) blackmail; (3) withdrawal from a train and sending to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea; (4) requirement of documents confirming the purpose of travel and other documents that are not required by law; (5) searching and destroying invalid passports of the Russian Federation, which were issued in the Crimea.

Maxim Butkevych, the coordinator of the Project “Without Borders”, a coordinator of the Resource Centre to assist forced migrants, said that his organization regularly receives messages from citizens of Ukraine who tried to leave the occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for the mainland of Ukraine with valid Ukrainian documents and who were returned to the Crimea by Ukrainian border guards without any explanations. Some of them were explained that there was an internal order, which allowed doing so.

A human rights activist said that representatives of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBS) deny the existence of such an order. They also deny the existence of a separate regulation on the citizens of the Russian Federation. Maxim Butkevych said: “We received messages from the citizens of the Russian Federation who were trying to cross an international border with Ukraine, including seeking for safe haven, who were returned in the same way. However, we know for certain that there is an internal telegram as of March of this year signed by the First Deputy Chairman of the SBS, who was in service at that time. What we know about the document indicates that it is contrary to Ukrainian and international law”.

Lack of control over the actions of Ukrainian border guards will definitely hurt those citizens who already find themselves in distress and harm the image of Ukraine, said Serhii Zaiets, a lawyer, an expert of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. He said that the leadership of the State Border Service of Ukraine is not even trying to bring order to the situation, as evidenced by ignoring complaints and inquiries of both human rights defenders and victims of the border guards’ actions.

Advocates emphasize that the documents relating to the movement of the Ukrainians from the occupied territory, shall be made public, and those violating the law of Ukraine, should be abolished.


The Strategic Litigations Platform was established to expand the use of strategic judicial defence and its improvement as a mechanism for human rights protection, as well as to increase the influence of civil society on legal policy. The platform was created to unite the efforts of NGOs, lawyers and law firms working in the field of strategic judicial protection. For more information visit

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