Feb 23, 2015

Declaration by Mustafa Dzhemiliev at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly: Key challenge is ‘to put an end to the aggression and to liberate the occupied territories of Ukraine’

On 19 February 2015, member of the Ukrainian Parliament and exiled figurehead of the Crimean Tatar community, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, spoke at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly about the deteriorating situation in the Crimean Peninsula. 

In his speech Mr Dzhemiliev described the problems facing the Crimean Tatar community under the persecution of occupying Russian forces. He outlined the increasing problem of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fleeing war-torn areas of Ukraine, particularly the Crimean Peninsula and other areas of Eastern Ukraine. Mr Dzhemiliev called on the international community ‘to put an end to the aggression and to liberate the occupied territories of Ukraine’. If the violence in the region continues, Mr Dzemiliev warned that the number of displaced persons will only increase.

Below is a transcript of the complete speech:


Dearest Ladies and Gentlemen!

It has been almost a year since Ukraine became one of the most volatile places on the planet. Consequently, it has become home for a large number of internally displaced persons. The vast majority of them have moved from the war zones of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The other wave of IDPs came from the Crimean peninsula occupied by the Russian troops.

Prior to turning to the problems of internally displaced persons in our country, I would like to comment on the events which caused the deaths of thousands, and the suffering, despair, and grief of hundreds of thousands more.

In four days we will mark one year to the day from when, in violation of all international norms, the Russian armed forces started an intervention against neighboring Ukraine. The international norms violated include the 1994 year’s Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine’s abandonment of nuclear weapons (which bears the signature of Russia as one of the guarantors of security and territorial integrity of Ukraine) and the 1997 year’s Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia, which emphasizes respect for the sovereignty and integrity of both countries.

On 23 February 2014, the so-called "little green men", which were actually Russia’s special forces without markings, first appeared in Sevastopol and started seizing administrative buildings. On February 27, 110 of these armed "little green men" seized buildings of the parliament and the government of the Crimean Autonomy in Simferopol. Later, armored personnel carriers, tanks, and helicopters of the Russian army appeared all over the major roads of Crimea.

The occupation did not lead to bloodshed as Kyiv ordered its armed forces not to resist in order to avoid violence. The Kyiv authorities counted on the international community and the guarantor countries under the Budapest Memorandum to stop the aggression. But this did not happen. The representative body of the indigenous people of the occupied Crimea, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, called on UN to dispatch its peacekeeping troops to Crimea. But the calls were not and could not be successful, as the aggressor-state has the right to veto any uncomfortable resolution within the UN Security Council. The sanctions imposed by Western countries on the aggressor country, although causing significant damage to its economy, have still not lead to the liberation of the Crimea.

Moreover, starting from April last year, Russian commandos began to seize government buildings in cities and towns of eastern Ukraine, followed by announcements of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk "republics". Ukraine had to proceed with an anti-terrorist operation, which resulted in a bloody, full-scale war both with imported terrorists and with regular Russian troops armed with the state-of-the-art military equipment.

There is no accurate information available on the number of casualties, wounded, missing persons, and refugees. The data is often contradictory, since, as in any war, the parties tend to underestimate their losses and exaggerate the loss of the other side. According to some sources, since the start of the armed operation, Ukrainian armed forces have suffered around five thousand dead and missing, and about four thousand wounded. Russia has lost about twelve thousand people, including militants and members of the regular Russian Army with roughly the same number of wounded and missing. This is about as much as the Soviet Union lost during the ten-year war in the occupied Afghanistan.

As of the day before yesterday, the total number of refugees or internally displaced persons from the war zones was about 1.5 million. Among these, 980,000 people migrated to other regions of Ukraine, and about 600,000 left Ukraine completely. A large number of ethnic Russians from the war-torn regions are brought to the occupied Crimea with an explicit aim of changing the demographic of the peninsula in favor of the Russians, despite the fact that the Russians constituted about 60% of the population even before the occupation and the Crimean Tatars only 14% on the peninsula.

At the same time, the occupational authorities of Crimea undertake various measures aimed at forcing the indigenous people of Crimea - the Crimean Tatars - to flee their homeland. The overwhelming majority of the Crimean Tatars are opposed to the annexation of Crimea by Russia. They boycotted the so-called "referendum" on the status of Crimea in March; they boycotted the pseudo-elections to the local councils in September last year; and they reject notices by the Russian army etc. These measures include forced Russian citizenship; an absolute absence of democratic freedoms as it was under the Soviets; full censorship of the media; numerous house raids of the Crimean Tatar homes on the grounds of search for weapons or "banned literature"; the arrests of activists of the national movement of the Crimean Tatars; and the confiscation of all property of the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, the Mejlis. The occupational authorities have intensified their efforts to split the Crimean Tatar community through threats or bribery, kidnapping and murder of young people, forced recruitment into the Russian army, severe discrimination in employment and so forth.

To this date, according to the UNHCR, around twenty thousand people have fled Crimea. More than half of these people are Crimean Tatars, which constitutes roughly 3.5% of the total Tatar population of in Crimea. This has happened despite the calls to the Crimean Tatar people by their representative body, the Mejlis, not to leave their homeland notwithstanding the difficulties. We assume that the flow of IDPs from Crimea, especially the Crimean Tatars, will increase as the pressure from the occupational authorities mounts. In this regard, forcible recruitment to the Russian army has become a significant problem for the Crimean Tatars.

The most significant problems facing all internally displaced persons from Crimea and from the war zones in eastern Ukraine are the problems of housing, employment, and health care. Obviously, there are a number of other issues associated with their status, for example, the problem of documentation, education for their children and so on. These can be addressed by the State. However, the key challenge to be addressed and to be paid attention to by the international community is to put an end to the aggression and to liberate the occupied territories of Ukraine. Without peace, the number of refugees and the extent of human suffering will only rise.

Thank you for your attention.