26.02.2013 | Halya Coynash

Dangerous manoeuvres in the Crimea


18 May 2012  Remembering the Victims of the 1944 Deportation

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 (see Civic anger over hijacked public councils)   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. 

There is, of course, no reason why the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People should have a monopoly, however current efforts to push it out suggest that those in power are set  on an entirely different, and very dangerous course. 

Mustafa Dzhemiliev says that a “purge” is underway with Mejlis representatives in positions of authority being replaced by people more inclined to be loyal to the present regime.  Last week brought the 22nd new appointment, and a particularly shocking one at that.  In the above-mentioned article, Samar writes that the latest appointment of businessman Enver Abdurammov as Chair of the Crimean Parliamentary Committee on Inter-Ethnic Relations and Deported Citizens was even opposed by the usually subservient new head of the Presidential Council.  The widespread opposition is in no way surprising. .   Abdurammov excelled himself during a broadcast on the Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR by explaining why, in his view, the Mejlis must cooperate with the regime. He said that the fact that the authorities ignore the problems of the Crimean Tatar People is half the fault of the latter. This included in his opinion the 1944 Deportation.  He was asked by the presenter whether Jews were also 50 percent guilty for the Holocaust and apparently answered in the affirmative.

Given the enormous mileage which certain Party of the Regions MPs are getting out of d the undoubtedly repugnant behaviour and views of the rightwing VO Svoboda Party, it is worth keeping in mind that Abdurammov is being pushed into a position of authority by those currently holding the reigns in Ukraine.

Other, all too familiar, methods would also appear to be part of the new arsenal.  In an interview to Ukrainsky Tyzhden, Dzhemiliev said that: “at present each Crimean Tatar businessperson is coming up against forays by the controlling bodies. Yet if he expresses his loyalty to those puppet structures, they promise to free him of any problems”.

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.

All of this is disturbingly cynical, lawless and very dangerous.

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