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Russian occupation can’t risk banning Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Ukrainian journalist says

The majority of Crimean Tatars are pro-Ukrainian and ready to make temporary sacrifices to liberate themselves from the occupation by Russia. (Image: UNIAN)
The majority of Crimean Tatars are pro-Ukrainian and ready to make temporary sacrifices to liberate themselves from the occupation by Russia. (Image: UNIAN)
Edited by: A. N.

The Russian occupation authorities are increasingly repressing the Crimean Tatars, but they cannot take the risk of banning the Crimean Tatar Mejlis because that would constitute “recognition by the Russian side of the most complete failure of their effort to ‘recruit’ the Crimean Tatars” to their side, according to Sergey Krymov.

The Ukrainian journalist says that “the Russian authorities have nothing to offer in opposition to the civic blockade of the Crimea,” and consequently, they have been limited to making “loud declarations” about banning the Mejlis or requiring that journalists under their control not mention it.

But these threats are no more than “a bluff,” Krymov says, because the Russian authorities cannot take the risk of banning the Mejlis lest they call the attention of the entire world to their failure to transform the Crimean Tatars from being pro-Ukrainian to being pro-Russian.

Since the occupation began, Krymov says, the Russian powers that be there have tried to pursue two “mutually exclusive” approaches. On the one hand, they have cracked down on the Crimean Tatars for their support of Ukraine; but on the other, they have sought to create structures “which could replace the organs of national self-determination of the Crimean Tatars.

At first, he continues, the Kremlin treated the Crimean Tatar “’question’” as a secondary one, but the consistent pro-Ukrainian position of the Crimean Tatar leadership forced Moscow to change its view. The Russian authorities “perfectly well understand that only the Crimean Tatars, the Karaims, and the Krymchaks have the right to self-determination on the peninsula.”

Russian propaganda posters in Crimea are getting defaced with graffiti representing how the Crimeans view Putin and his occupation of their land. October 2015 (Image: Social media)
Russian propaganda posters in Crimea are getting defaced with graffiti representing how the Crimeans view Putin and his occupation of their land. October 2015 (Image: Social media)

And they understand, he continues, that “the mythical ‘people of Crimea,’ to which Russian diplomacy refers exists only in the imagination of Lavrov and Churkin. On the peninsula live Crimean Russians, Ukrainians and representatives of other nationalities who already have achieved self-determination and formed their own states beyond the borders of Crimea.”

The Kremlin’s efforts to invoke Kosovo as a precedent “have not basis,” the journalist says. That land “separated from Serbia but was not joined to Albania. The West approved the redrawing of Serbian borders because Albanians in Kosovo were threatened with mass destruction.”

Following the Russian Anschluss, the Crimean Tatars were “under threat of ethnic cleansing” from “’the little green men,’ Russian ‘Cossack’ bands, criminals, ‘Putin tourists,’” and so on. And they were truly afraid of what might happen. But they did not gain self-determination: instead, their land was illegally annexed by Russia.

The occupiers encouraged local people to denounce them for “treason” and to think that they could take Crimean Tatar property after a new deportation. Some Crimean Tatars were killed or kidnapped, “but the Russian ‘law enforcement organs’ only imitated investigations” and thus provided protection to those responsible.

But at the same time the occupation authorities were doing this, Krymov writes, Moscow needed to find some Crimean Tatars who could declare that they were happy with the new order, something that they recognized would require them to take the Kurultay and the Mejlis “under Russian control,” something they have pursued ever since.

Moscow’s agents used all their usual tactics – including bribery, fear and blackmail – to achieve that, but they have failed even when it appeared that in particular cases they might succeed, Krymov says.

First the Russian occupiers placed their bets on Remzi Ilyasov, who believed that he should have won the elections for head of the Mejlis in the fall of 2013. Russian emissaries “played on his personal ambitions and complexes” and encouraged him to view Chubarov as a usurper and to see himself as the true leader of the Crimean Tatars.

Ilyasov agreed to become vice speaker in the occupation’s state council, but the bet on him “also failed,” Krymov says. His “collaborationist ‘Crimea’ movement does not enjoy popularity among the people” and generally refuse to have anything to do with him, even refusing to sit with him at one table at weddings and other celebrations.

“Sources in Crimea report,” Krymov continues, “that the occupiers then began to carry out ‘Plan B’” which involved putting Crimean Mufti Emirali Ablayev “into active play.” They did so by threatening him with the loss of his position unless he went along. He agreed to play but only lost authority among the Crimean Tatars as a result.

At present, the Ukrainian journalist says, “no more than ten to fifteen percent” of Crimean Tatars on the peninsula are on the Russian side. “the larger part of the people–as before–is oriented toward Ukraine and is ready to suffer temporary difficulties in the interests of liberation.”

Consequently, he concludes, the Russian “’authorities’ cannot without political harm to themselves officially liquidate the organs of national self-administration of the Crimean Tatars.” But unfortunately, that does not mean that they cannot unleash new waves of repression against that community.

Indeed, “if the blockade of the occupied peninsula gathers force and Crimea is ‘cut off’ from Ukrainian electricity, then the [Russian] gauleiters will try to control the anger of the plebeians under their control by directing it at the Crimean Tatars.” That is the biggest threat to them now.

Edited by: A. N.
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