Mar 01, 2013

Crimean Tatars: Worrying Political Manoeuvres By Ukrainian Government

Underhand dealing by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych is worrying for the Crimean Tatar community.

Below is an article published by Human Rights in Ukraine:


Highly worrying moves afoot in the Crimea suggest that concern back in November 2011 over the President’s quite staggering promotion of Anatoly Mohylyov to the post of Prime Minister of the Crimea was extremely well-founded.  The nature of the current developments, as well as the fact that the appointment was so overtly offensive to Crimean Tatars given Mohylyov’s notorious hate speech and actions as head of the Crimean police back in 2007, suggest that the dangerous manoeuvres are being orchestrated at the highest level.


Since the beginning of 2012 there has been a noticeable increase in attacks, acts of desecration and apparent provocation, none of which has received proper response from the authorities.  It has also been clear for some time that the authorities are trying to undermine the influence of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People which does not have official status, but has always represented a clear majority of the peninsula’s Crimean Tatars.  It is headed by Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the much respected former political prisoner and champion of Crimean Tatar rights.  He is also an MP, and over recent years the Mejlis has supported candidates in opposition to those presently in power.


Under all previous presidents, Mustafa Dzhemiliev unfailingly chaired the Council of the Crimean Tatar People under the President.  This changed under Yanukovych with a new much more malleable person – Lentun Bezzaziev – being appointed to that post.  Valentina Samar writes in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya that the entire Mejlis had been on the Council, but this changed with representatives of marginal groups being invited in.  In one particularly incredible move, Vasvi Abduraimov, head of Milli Fyrka [National Party] was appointed deputy chair.  In September 2008 Abduraimov gained considerable notoriety through a letter to Medvedev, Putin and the President of Tatarstan, calling on the Russian Federation “to defend the indigenous and other small ethnic groups in the Crimea from the nationalist-leaning official authorities in Ukraine”.  This came, it should be remembered, at a time when the war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia was prompting the international community to pay closer attention to the Crimea.  Fears were quite openly expressed that a similar scenario could be played out there and Abduraimov’s action was condemned by most Crimean Tatars.


According to Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the Council, created under Kuchma, was then a representative body, albeit only with a consultative role.  He says that under Yanukovych efforts are underway to reformat it, with members effectively appointed from above.  Mohylyov is saying that he will only talk with this “representative” body.  It should be said that many other bodies, public councils etc are also presently being “reformatted” with the most notorious example of late being the Public Council attached to the Foreign Ministry which has been stripped of most prominent – and frequently critical – civic organizations. The situation in the Crimea is more serious given the ongoing failure by the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the problems of formerly deported peoples and apparent efforts to provoke inter-ethnic conflict in the Crimea. 



Another potentially explosive situation is looming due to the decision by the Simferopol City Council to ban remembrance events on 17 – 18 May to mark the anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar People. Valentina Samar reports that this is supposedly because the plan needs to be agreed with the Council of Ministers.  The pretext is pitiful since Crimean Tatars gather every year to remember the victims of that terrible crime.  Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov says that he has learned that Vasvi Abduraimov’s organization Milli Fyrka is supposed to have submitted notification first and will have it accepted.  Mustafa Dzhemiliev says that he asked the President’s Representative in the Crimea whether if 25-30 thousand people gather in the square, and instead of the Mejlis, representatives of these other “correct” Crimean Tatars appear on the Ukrainian Theatre balcony, they can guarantee their safety.  The representative apparently said that no, they couldn’t guarantee this, but well, orders are orders.  Whether those issuing such orders are positively trying to fuel tension and conflict is not clear but they can hardly be unaware of the likely consequences of such behaviour.


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