Experts: UN report understates Moscow’s effort to Russify occupied Crimea

A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru)

A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru) 

Crimea, Op-ed, Russian Aggression

Ukrainian officials are pleased that the United Nations has acknowledged that Russia is an occupying power in Crimea and that it has promoted demographic change there in violation of the Geneva Convention. But Ukrainian experts are concerned that the UN report understates just how far Moscow has gone.

The report, which was circulated last summer but only formally promulgated earlier this week, represents welcome recognition of and attention to Russia’s crimes in occupying Crimea.

For the report, see undocs.org; for discussion of it, see ehorussia.com and euromaidanpress.com.

The UN report says that “no fewer than 109” Crimean residents were forcibly deported in 2017-2018, but this is smaller than the more than 360 cases the Crimean Human Rights Group reports, and represents “only the tip of the iceberg” of Moscow’s efforts to get current residents to leave and to replace them with ethnic Russians.

The Ukrainian ministry for social policy says that as of August 2018, there were 33,500 forced resettlers from Crimea, but the Crimean Tatar Resource Center’s Eskender Bariyev says that the minimum figure is at least 40,000. And the number will certainly rise given Russian pressure on ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars to leave.

According to the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, the number of ethnic Russians who have come to the Ukrainian peninsula is “significantly higher” than the UN report says, and amounts to “about 200,000,” most of whom are military personnel, government employees, or judges and other court officials.

Bariyev says that “Russia is systematically increasing its military contingent in Crimea, and with the soldiers come their families. The same situation is true with officials, siloviki and judges who are systematically replacing local cadres in almost all spheres of government activity.”

He says this process has been speeded up by officials who arrange for arriving Russians to be paid more than departing Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars for the same job.

The true size of Russian efforts to change the demography of occupied Crimea is indicated by the following statistic: “the flood of Russians resettling in Crimea is so large that it is compensating for negative [demographic] trends on the peninsula.” As Crimean officials admit, mortality rates are 60 percent higher in Crimea than elsewhere in Russia and rising.

But despite this, the occupation statistical agency says that “over five years from the moment of annexation, the population of the peninsula has risen by more than 70,000 people. Most of the new arrivals are from Moscow, Moscow oblast, St. Petersburg, and Krasnodar, it continues.

What is most shameful about this situation is that Russian rights activists, queried by Deutsche Welle concerning the findings of the UN report, refused to comment on all this, citing “’geopolitical” concerns or saying that questions about demography in Crimea were “beyond the scope” of their activities.

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Edited by: A. N.

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