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Turkey fires 15,000, shuts 375 NGOs in latest coup purge
By Raziye AKKOC
Ankara (AFP) Nov 22, 2016


Russia accuses Ukraine of abducting two soldiers in Crimea
Moscow (AFP) Nov 22, 2016 - Russia has accused Ukraine of abducting two Russian servicemen on the annexed Crimea peninsula, but Kiev said it had merely detained two Ukrainian army deserters.

In a statement carried late Monday by local news agencies, the Russian defence ministry said servicemen Maxim Odintsov and Alexander Baranov were "illegally detained and removed from Crimea by Ukrainian security forces" on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the men's capture "an unlawful act of provocation carried out by Ukrainian special services towards Russian citizens on Russian soil," quoted by TASS state news agency.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) meanwhile said the two were "former Ukrainian servicemen who betrayed their oath and went to serve in the Russian military after the illegal annexation of Crimea".

The SBU added that the men stood accused of "desertion and treason" and had been detained at a checkpoint after crossing the administrative frontier between Russian-annexed Crimea and Ukraine.

It said the men had been caught after trying to bribe Ukrainian officials to obtain education certificates they needed to become officers in the Russian army.

A Russian Black Sea fleet spokesman told TASS the men were lured over the frontier apparently to receive higher education certificates and then immediately detained by SBU officers.

The two face jail sentences of up to 15 years if convicted of bribery and desertion.

Russia seized Crimea in 2014 by sending in thousands of special forces to take control of Ukrainian bases and holding a hastily organised referendum that was rejected by the international community.

The move shattered ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbours and sent relations between Moscow and the West plummeting to their lowest point since the Cold War.

In August, President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of attempting armed incursions into the disputed region.

Russia's security agency said at the time it had thwarted "terrorist attacks" in Crimea by Ukrainian military intelligence and beaten back armed assaults, but Kiev furiously denied the incidents.

The allegations ratcheted up tensions in the feud between Russia and Ukraine sparked by Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula and sparked fears of a wider conflict.

Turkey on Tuesday dismissed over 15,000 state employees and ordered the closure of 375 associations within the state of emergency imposed after the July failed coup, in a purge that shows no sign of slowing.

More than 100,000 people have already been suspended or sacked so far in a crackdown on those alleged to have links to coup-plotters while dozens of media outlets have been shut down.

In the latest government decree published on Tuesday, 7,586 personnel working in the police, including police chiefs and commissioners, were dismissed.

Meanwhile 1,956 soldiers and personnel in the air force and navy were sacked while another 403 were removed from the gendarmerie, which looks after domestic security.

Thousands more were dismissed in government ministries and state institutions, including nearly 3,000 officials in the interior ministry and related institutions.

In total, 15,726 people have been dismissed under the latest decrees.

The dismissals are permitted under the state of emergency, which was extended by another three months in October, and was originally imposed in the wake of the coup.

But its scope has been vehemently criticised by the European Union and human rights activists.

- 'Silence critical voices' -

The decrees, published in the latest issue of the official gazette, also ordered the closure of 375 associations across the country working on issues ranging from rights to culture to women.

Critics have claimed that the crackdown goes well beyond the suspected coup plotters and targets anyone who has dared show opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The closure of nearly 400 NGOs is part of an ongoing and systematic attempt by the Turkish authorities to permanently silence all critical voices," said Amnesty International's Europe Director, John Dalhuisen.

Amnesty said the groups closed included lawyers associations working on preventing torture, women's rights groups working against domestic violence and local NGOs helping refugees.

Among those ordered closed is the leading Ankara-based children's rights NGO Gundem Cocuk (The Agenda is Children).

The decrees also ordered the closure of nine provincial press outlets and 19 health institutions.

Ankara blames the coup plot on the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and says an unrelenting campaign is needed to root out his influence from public life. Gulen denies the allegations.

Erdogan indicated in a speech on Tuesday that the purges would continue, saying that not all Gulen supporters had been rooted out of Turkish institutions.

"We know that the state has not been entirely cleared of this treacherous network.

"They are still in our armed forces, our police organisations, inside our judiciary, inside different state institutions," he said.

In a separate development on Tuesday, Turkish authorities detained 20 staff at Silivri jail outside Istanbul accused of using the Bylock messaging app that Ankara says was specially developed by Gulen supporters for the coup plot.

Those detained include the head of the prison, named as H.T., it added. Hundreds of suspects rounded up after the coup are being held in the jail.


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