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20.09.2016 | Halya Coynash

Separatists of the world unite in Moscow while Russia steps up repression of Crimean Tatars

   

The Kremlin is funding a second separatist jamboree in Moscow on Sept 25. The event which purports to unite “parties and movements advocating for self-determination”, and which Russian embassies tout as in defence of minorities, will be held 4 days before the Supreme Court appeal against Russia’s criminalization of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the self-governing body of the main indigenous people of Crimea.  It comes as Russian Tatar activist Rafis Kashapov is ending the second of a 3-year Russian prison sentence for criticizing Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea., and as Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov and Crimean journalist Mykola Semena are facing 5-year sentences for opposition to Russian occupation. 

Those foreign ‘self-determination advocates’ on their all-expenses paid trip to Moscow could spare just a thought for the charges brought against the three men.  Expressing the conviction that Russia must stop occupying Ukrainian Crimea is qualified as “public calls to action aimed at violating Russia’s territorial integrity”.

Judging by the guests at the 2015 event, optimism is not high that they will perceive any incongruity.  Alex Luhn, writing for the Guardian, noted that the speakers last year were united by their opposition to the US and the European Union.  Many blamed the USA for the conflict in Ukraine and for the refugee crisis in Europe.  None mentioned Russia’s undoubted role in the first and suspected contribution to the second.  They were assured by Alexander Ionov, organizer of the event, that Russia’s role in both Donbas and Syria was only ‘humanitarian’ and nobody seems to have questioned this. 

There will probably be participants, as last year, from the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’, the Kremlin-backed formations which only Russia pretends are part of a ‘national liberation’ movement. 

The participants are also unlikely to be worried at why their flights and high-class hotel are being funded by a country whose prime minister Dmitry Medvedev recently told pensioners (from occupied Crimea) to just ‘hang on in there’ because there was no money.   Money there was, however, for the congress which received a generous 3.5 million rouble grant (for the third year running) from the National Charitable Fund.  This was created at the end of 1999 at the initiative of Vladimir Putin (then Prime Minister) with the stated aim of providing funds to support military servicemen and the development of military-patriotic projects.  It is under President Putin’s patronage.

The forum, entitled ’Dialogue of Nations. The Right of People to Self-Determination and Building a Multipolar World’ is officially organized by the Anti-Globalist Movement of Russia which boasts of having taken part, since its creation in 2012, in all kinds of events “in support of sovereign states around the world, in defence of various peoples from the West’s aggression”.   The movement has two ‘honourable members’ – Syria’s President Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the no less contentious Iranian President until 2012.   Its head Alexander Ionov is also a member of the presidium of ‘Officers of Russia’.   

RBC reports that the organizers are currently talking to regional deputies from Lombardia and Veneto in Italy where the Northern League, a far-right and very pro-Russian party, have a strong hold.  It was due to this grip that in May this year, Russian propaganda media were full of headlines about how Venice had supposedly recognized Crimea as Russian.

Otherwise the organizers report that guests are invited from Catalonia, Northern Ireland, Western Sahara, Scotland and the USA - Hawaii, Puerto Rico, California and Texas.  Ionov claims that the Texas Nationalist Movement, a secessionist organization sporting their own ‘republic’, was prevented from attending last year.

The right ‘self-determination’

The Kremlin-funded Sputnik spoke with a Moscow State University professor Andrei Manoilo, who told them that “today the issue of self-determination, both at the national and regional level, has become extremely relevant.

According to the expert, the UK’s vote to leave the EU is probably the best recent example of anti-globalist feelings actually cemented by an election victory. “

“National self-determination aside, anti-globalist forces have also stepped out in favour of ending US geopolitical hegemony, Western economic-financial hegemony, or the power of supranational institutions such as the EU. Asked whether the ADR conference could be seen as another indication that the world is moving toward multipolarity, Manoilo explained that the prerequisites are there, but it will take time for them to be realized. “

“Russia, as part of the BRICS group of country, and through its support for sovereignty and self-determination in the Syrian conflict, has demonstrated quite decisively its interest in building a multipolar world.”  One of the issues the forum is supposed to discuss is the task of creating “an ideology – one which stretches across national, ethnic, religious and political lines. “

RBC spoke with Boris Makarenko from the Centre for Political Technologies.  He points to the similarities with Soviet times, when ‘friends’ were sought among opponents of the establishment.  Then, however, they looked for such friends among the Greens or social-democrats. Now it is increasingly among far-right groups and separatists. It is they who can be relied upon to oppose the USA and European Union, and obediently condemn those the Kremlin says as ‘fascists’. 

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