27.11.2014 | Halya Coynash

Why are Germans asked if they support annexation?


In a recent ‘opinion poll’ 39% of Germans proved ready to recognize Russia’s demonstration of contempt for international law in annexing the Crimea, and ignorant or indifferent to the flagrant violations of human rights committed since Russia’s invasion.  

A brief search of the Internet found no opinion polls taken to find out how many Germans wanted Kaliningrad, until 1945 Königsberg, to be returned to Germany.  That subject and probably others are almost certainly taboo for the German media.  Unlike recognition of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. 

The Infratest survey, much trumpeted in the Russian media, according to which 39% of  Germans are happy to recognize the Crimea as Russian was commissioned by a presenter from the German TV channel ARD,   This came a week after Hubert Seipel from the same channel avoided any hard-hitting questions in an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The latter was given full scope to present his version of reality – and of the events around Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea – with effectively no difficult questions or other means of alerting viewers to the multiple distortions and outright lies in the Russian president’s narrative. 

Challenged by journalist colleagues, Seipel claimed that “the viewers are not stupid and can draw their own conclusions”.

Statistical research would be needed to determine how many of those ‘intelligent viewers’ were among the 39% of respondents who, when asked whether Germany should legally recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, answered affirmatively.

Given a choice between ignorance and callous disregard for flagrant violations of human rights, the former seems marginally preferable.  I would hope, for example, that those 39% of Germans are unaware of the major offensive being waged against Crimean Tatars and the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly.  Since Russia’s invasion, prominent Crimean Tatar leaders, including 71-year-old Mustafa Dzhemiliev have been banned from their homeland.  There have been armed searches of homes, mosques and religious schools; killings, disappearances and abductions.  Over the last two weeks, there have also been effective ethnic raids of markets and cafes in Simferopol.  All of this is carried out by the ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’. 

Other Crimean Ukrainians who have openly opposed annexation have been harassed, beaten up or driven from the Crimea.  Four men, including renowned film director Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksander Kolchenko, are illegally held in Russian detention facing absurd charges of organizing a ‘terrorist plot’. 

All but one faith – the favoured Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate – are constantly subjected to harassment, discrimination and attacks.  Many representatives of different religious communities have been forced to leave the Crimea.

This list of specific concerns regarding the Russian occupation could be continued.

The near 4 in 10 Germans prepared to recognize Russian annexation of the Crimea may not understand how gravely Russia has breached international law.  They may not even know that Putin used arguments dangerously similar to those once presented for similar aggrandizement by Adolf Hitler.   They should, however, know, if only from the darkest pages of German history to be wary of any invasion of another country’s territory.

The former leader of the SPD party, Matthias Platzeck who first raised the issue of possible German recognition of Russia’s land grab cannot claim ignorance as his excuse.  Nor can the TV channel which is free to seek the public’s opinion on a whole range of subjects from their favoured party to gun legislation. They should not – without serious presentation of the case – ask if Germans wish their country to join Russia in demonstrating profound contempt for international law and human rights. 

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