Kremlin creates agency for national minorities as it axes Crimean Tatar media
There are reports, mentioned below, about new mass searches and ‘checks’ of Crimean Tatars in and around the village of Zhuravki (Kirov region). More details when they become available.
A student fined for supporting ATR has no intention of staying silent, nor do the Crimean Tatar media the occupation regime clearly hopes to stifle. And in the Kremlin it’s lies as usual as well as imitation with Putin’s creation of a new Agency for Nationalities coinciding with the deliberate silencing of virtually all Crimean Tatar media.
On Wednesday evening a Crimean court fined student Alexei Yefremov for trying to support Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR, and 7 similarly unwarranted rulings are anticipated. The court hearing came after ATR was forced off air and Vladimir Putin’s press secretary claimed that the Kremlin had not played any role in the closure or exile of all but one Crimean Tatar media.
The denial can have only been for local consumption with the EU, OSCE Media Representative, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and many others joined by international media on Wednesday in reporting the latest curtailment of free speech in Russian-occupied Crimea.
If the occupation regime and its masters in Moscow were hoping to silence the press, they will almost certainly fail. Measures are underway in Ukraine to ensure that ATR will be able to broadcast and QHA – the Crimean News Agency announced on Wednesday afternoon that it has moved to Kyiv.
Alexander Yefremov has no intention of accepting the court ruling that he organized an unauthorized meeting and resisted police, and says that he will be appealing and if necessary will apply to the European Court of Human Rights. As reported, eight people, including seven students were detained in Simferopol on March 30. They were trying to make a video in support of ATR when they were seized by police who took them to the police station. They had already been warned against ‘extremism’ – and against making the video, but had seen nothing extremist or wrong with their entirely peaceful videoing.
All of this – the warnings about ‘extremism’ for peacefully expressing ones views, for gathering to remember the poet Taras Shevchenko on the anniversary of his birth; for reading the religious books that are not prohibited in Ukraine – have become part of the occupation regime’s treatment of any dissent, and, increasingly, their treatment of the Crimean Tatars. It is certainly no longer Ukrainian flags that provoke inadequate reactions from the occupation regime. Zair Smedlyaev, head of the Central Election Commission of the Crimean Tatar Qurultay [National Congress] reports that checkpoints have been set up in the Kirov region (according to QHA, mass searches of Crimean Tatar homes are also underway). Cars going in and out are checked for Crimean Tatar flags and other symbols. “I was told that they’re carrying out exercises. It’s obvious that Crimean Tatars are now the invented enemy and they will receive special attention in Crimea.”
Matvei Ganapolsky, writing for Ekho Moskvy, recalls that Putin rang veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev soon after Russian soldiers seized control in Crimea. He made all kinds of compliments and asked what was needed.
Mustafa Dzhemiliev replied: “that you remove your soldiers”. Ganapolsky reports that Putin did not openly get annoyed, just said that he had expected that answer and then assured Dzhemiliev that no Crimean Tatars would suffer.
That assurance came around a month before Dzhemiliev himself was banned from his homeland. Ganapolsky suggests that Putin clearly did “take offence”, and certainly the litany of affronts to the Crimean Tatar people, the violations of their fundamental rights is long. Putin, he says, had Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, the head of the Mejlis or Crimean Tatar representative assembly, exiled, but then the Crimean Tatar media continued to allow their voices to be heard. And now those media voices have been silenced.
If this is how the Kremlin already treats the Crimean Tatars, still worse can be expected from its new agency on nationality issues, he says.
Perhaps, although this new agency may simply be there as decoration, akin to the ongoing attempts to substitute real Crimean Tatar bodies with more malleable look-alikes, while the occupation regime continues its offensive against all those it can’t intimidate into submission.