Mar 13, 2014

Crimean Tatars: Talks With Russia Will Continue


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Mustafa Jemilev became the first Crimean Tatar leader to talk with a Russian leader in 200 years, as he discussed the current and future situation of Crimea with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday 12 March 2014.  Despite disagreements in this regard, Jemilev revealed that the two sides had agreed to continue talks. 

Below is an article published by WORLD BULLETIN

Crimean Tatar representative and former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (parliament) Mustafa Jemilev told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday [12 March 2014] that the secession of Crimea from Ukraine to join Russia would violate an international treaty in which Russia, Britain and the United States vowed to keep Ukraine intact.

He arrived in Moscow late last night [Tuesday 11 March 2014] and is believed to have met with the ambassadors of Ukraine and Turkey. On Wednesday [12 March 2014], he met with Mintimer Shaymiyev, the first president of the Republic of Tataristan.

Putin spoke by phone with Mustafa Jemilev, a senior figure in the Crimean Tatar community, in what may have been an effort to ease their concerns over a referendum on Sunday [16 March 2014] in which Crimeans will be asked whether they want to join Russia.

Mustafa Jemilev became the first Crimean Tatar leader to talk with a Russian leader in 200 years. The meeting lasted half an hour, after which Jemilev revealed that the two sides had agreed to continue talks.

He said that in the meeting Putin told him that Russia would decide on its stance on Crimea after the March 16 [2014] referendum, in which Crimeans will decide whether they want to annex the peninsula to Russia.

Jemilev also added that Putin said he felt the pain of the tragedies the Crimean Tatars had been through in the past and expressed his wish that the Crimean Tatars do not get involved in clashes. Putin also warned Jemilev that Ukrainian nationalists were attempting to entice Crimean Tatars into an armed conflict.

In the meeting, Putin is said to have given the example of the Tatars in Tataristan who live in Russia without problems, which Jemilev said was an attempt to convince him that Crimean Tatars would also live happily in Russia.

Crimean Tatars are the native Turkic-speaking Muslim population of the Crimean peninsula. Despite this, they have been reduced to a minority status in their homeland, which is dominated by ethnic Russians, after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin forced them out in 1994.

In the late 1980s, some Crimean Tatars were able to return home, but due to their minority status, they are seemingly powerless in stopping the Crimea parliament on annexing the peninsula to Russia following the ousting of former pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich from Kiev in February.

Many Crimean Tatars, who make up about 12 percent of the population of the Black Sea peninsula, are strongly opposed to falling under Russia's control and want be governed from Kiev. Their leader has called for a boycott of the plebiscite.

"I, of course, expressed doubt about the expediency of holding this referendum, and about its legitimacy," Jemilev said in remarks to Ukraine's Channel 5 television.

The United States and European nations have said the Russian-backed vote would be illegitimate and are threatening to impose sanctions on Moscow if it goes ahead as planned. They say Russia has already seized control of Crimea.

"I told Putin that the issue of the territorial integrity of our country is very important," Jemilev said, according to the Ukrainian news agency Unian.

He said he told Putin Crimean secession would violate a 1994 pact in which Russia, Britain and the United States committed to assuring Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in return for its pledge to give up its ex-Soviet nuclear arsenal.

If this happens, "nobody will trust such agreements and there will be efforts to obtain nuclear weapons by every country with the financial wherewithal to do so - and Ukraine will be no exception," Unian quoted him as saying.

The 1994 treaty was part of an effort to ensure the Soviet collapse of 1991 did not lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The superpower's breakup left Ukraine with the third-largest arsenal after the United States and Russia.

Exiled en masse by the Soviet authorities during World War Two, many Crimean Tatars are very wary of Russia.

Jemilev told Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy that Putin had promised that the security and rights of Crimean Tatars would be protected.

Putin said "measures will be taken to solve all the social and legal problems of Crimean Tatars that went unsolved by the Ukrainian authorities for many years," he was quoted as saying.

But Jemilev said he told Putin the best security guarantee would be the withdrawal of Russia forces from Crimea, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Russia denies sending troops into Crimea, saying armed men who have established what Western governments describe as "operational control" over the region are "self-defence units".