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Eskender Bariyev, head of the Crimean-Tatar Resource Center

The last remaining Ukrainian-language school in Russian-occupied Crimea doesn’t provide instruction in the eastern Slavic language, Eskender Bariyev, head of the Crimean-Tatar Resource Center, told RFE/RL in a radio interview on January 1.

Seven Ukrainian schools functioned on the peninsula before Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an order to send troops in early 2014 to seize the Ukrainian territory.

The school is registered in the southeastern coastal town of Feodosiya and, according to Bariyev, local residents say the Ukrainian language isn’t taught there.

According to Article 10 of the Russian-imposed constitution on the peninsula, there are three official languages in Crimea: Crimean-Tatar, Ukrainian, and Russian.

About 3 percent of 200,700 schoolchildren there were taught in the Crimean-Tatar language in 2018-2019, the peninsula’s education authority reports.

Bariyev noted that the status of 16 Crimean-Tatar language schools have also been altered since annexation.

Seven preserved instruction in Crimean-Tatar, while five have been transformed to instill instruction in Russian. Four have been designated schools that offer a “general education.”

Only 249 schoolchildren, or 0.2 percent of pupils, formally learned Ukrainian in 2018-2019.

Twenty-seven schools offer 126 classes with Crimean-Tatar instruction and five schools provide teaching in Ukrainian in eight classes.

Putin and other high-level Russian officials have justified the seizure of Crimea as a matter of historical justice.

As recently as December 30, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Crimea: “The [Foreign] Ministry’s official position, which has been voiced many times, is that the proclamation of the independence of the Republic of Crimea and its unification with the Russian Federation was a legitimate exercise of the right of the people of Crimea to self-determination following an armed coup in Ukraine with foreign support.”

Moscow maintains that a peaceful, pro-democracy uprising in November 2013-February 2014 that saw former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandon office and flee to Russia was a coup.

Proponents of what was called the Maidan protests in Kyiv say they stood up to an increasingly authoritarian president who ran a corrupt government that was betraying national interests to curry favor with the Kremlin.

Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were killed in February 2018, sparking widespread protests. (file photo)

A Slovak court has sentenced one of five suspects who have been charged with involvement in the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

Zoltan Andrusko, 42, was given a 15-year prison sentence on December 30 and was the only suspect to confess and seek a plea deal to act as a witness in the case.

Prosecutors allege he was the middleman who was tasked with finding the hitmen to kill Kuciak.

The anti-graft reporter and Martina Kusnirova, both 27, were gunned down in their house outside the capital, Bratislava, in February 2018.

The double homicide sparked massive protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Entrepreneur Marian Kocner, whom Kuciak often reported about in relation to fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen, is accused of contracting the killing.

The court rejected Andrusko’s 10-year plea deal with prosecutors on December 30 and proposed a longer sentence, which he accepted.

"This court considers the extraordinary reduced sentence as justified, as well as logical, but the court, by its decision, should seek justice not only for the accused but for all sides of the case, for society, for justice in the law," newspaper Dennik N cited judge Pamela Zaleska as saying.

Along with Kocner, three other defendants -- alleged gunmen Tomas Szabo and Miroslav Marcek, and intermediary Alena Zsuzsova -- who are all in custody -- are scheduled to face trial in the town of Pezinok on January 13.

According to the indictment, Kocner decided "to get rid of Jan Kuciak physically and thus prevent further disclosure of his [Kocner's] activities" after failing to find "any dirt" to discredit the journalist.

Given that the investigation exposed links between Kocner and police and public officials, the case is seen as a test of Slovak judicial independence.

If convicted, businessman Kocner faces a minimum of 25 years in prison but could be jailed for life.

The killing of Kuciak and Kusnirova stoked public anger over perceived corruption in Slovakia, prompting Fico to step down as prime minister in March 2018.

With reporting by Dennik N, AFP, and Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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