Two women in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied region of Crimea, including the winner of this year’s Miss Crimea pageant, were found guilty of discrediting the Russian army by singing a Ukrainian patriotic song in a video posted on social media, local authorities have said. Olga Valeyeva — who won the Miss Crimea 2022 beauty pageant — and an unnamed friend sang the popular Ukrainian “Chervona Kalyna” song on a balcony.
A video of the women singing was posted on Instagram stories, which auto-deletes after 24 hours.
Crimean police said Valeyeva was fined 40,000 rubles (about $673), while her friend was given a 10-day prison sentence.
“A video was published on the internet in which two girls performed a song that is the fighting anthem of an extremist organization,” the Interior Ministry of Crimea, a peninsula that Russia unilaterally annexed in 2014, said Monday on Telegram.
It said a court found the women, born in 1987 and 1989, guilty of discrediting the Russian army and publicly demonstrating Nazi symbols.
Russia, whose troops are fighting in Ukraine, often alleges that Kyiv’s national symbols are extremist and Nazi-like.
Crimean police also posted a video of the women apologizing for singing the song, blurring their faces.
“I did not know and did not realize that it had a nationalist character and definitely did not want to spread propaganda by singing it,” one of the women said in the video.
Valeyeva posted on Instagram earlier that she did not wish to “harm anyone.”
“I didn’t know that this song was connected with something and is somehow forbidden,” she wrote. “We just sang a Ukrainian song. We thought it was just a little song that we knew for a long time.”
“In Crimea, no one is punished for normal Ukrainian songs,” Oleg Kriuchkov, an aide to the governor of occupied Crimea, said on Telegram. “But no one will allow nationalist hymns to be sung here!”
Last month, the Moscow-installed head of the peninsula Sergei Aksyonov warned Crimeans that authorities would react “harshly” to such songs after Chervona Kalyna was played at a wedding.
“Singing such nationalist anthems — especially during the special military operation — will be punished,” Aksyonov said in a video on Telegram in September, using Moscow’s terminology to describe its military invasion of Ukraine.
“People who do this are acting like traitors,” he added.
Aksyonov said there was a special FSB security service group working on the matter.
Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 during a previous invasion, and has used the territory to launch attacks against the country in the current war.
In August, explosions and fires ripped through an ammunition depot in Crimea, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people.
In: Ukraine Russia