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Aggressive noises over land conflict in the Crimea

13.08.2010    source:
Speaker of the Crimean Parliament, Vasyl Dzharty has said that the authorities will take land away from Crimean Tatars if it is in their possession unlawfully. Land squatting in the Crimea has been continuing for some time. Crimean Tatars resort to these measures because they feel that the authorities are not helping repatriants [those who returned from enforced exile after the 1944 Deportation) to receive land plots. The squatting and defence of the land thus occupied has led to confrontations between the Crimean Tatars and local residents and the police. 10 days ago, during a special meeting in the Crimea, President Yanukovych said that those who had squatted land, would have to return it. “Let them return the land they took unlawfully. If they don’t, this should be dealt with by the Prosecutor and courts.” Yanukovych goes on to say that this “also applies to the Crimean Tatars”. It is these words that Dzharty is now quoting when he speaks of land squatted by the Crimean Tatars. “How are Russians and Ukrainians worse than Crimean Tatars? Are they also to squat land?” he asked rhetorically in an interview to Izvestia in Ukraine. The BBC article quotes Dzharty virtually verbatim quoting the President about the Prosecutor and courts becoming involved and saying that this is to ensure that all are equal before the law. He claims that the situation with squatting is preventing implementation of a general plan for development of the territory. Crimean correspondents say that such statements are not new, although perhaps they were less categorical before. However, did Yanukovych specifically mean the Crimean Tatars when he said that fictitious owners should return the land and that even their names will not be made public? Many hope that this is referring to those wealthy landowners who over many years, using various corrupt schemes, have gained considerable areas of Crimean land, including on the coast. Crimean Tatar organizations refer to other words spoken by Yanukovych during the meeting with leaders of the Crimean Tatars. Then he said that “these issues, especially over the last 5 years, were seriously neglected, there are many unresolved issues which have led to violations of legislation, including on land issues. We need now to rectify the mistakes”. He promised to involve representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, heads of all civic organizations, etc and promised various humanitarian, investment programmes, including construction of social housing and ensuring the rights of the Crimean Tatar people. The Mejlis asserts land squatted by Crimean Tatars makes up a third of the overall number of land sites seized, while others, according to the Head of the Mejlis, Mustafa Dzhemilyev, are due to the Russian speaking population. The Prosecutor gives totally different statistics, claiming that 70% are squatted by Crimean Tatars. Overall around 1,300 thousand hectares of land has been seized, although this information is very approximate. At the same time, Mustafa Dzhemilyev cites examples, names politicians and businessmen well-known in the Crimea or Ukraine as a whole, as well as Russian nationals who, he asserts, own considerable areas of land. Deputy Head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and National Deputy, Refat Chubarov says that there are no clear statistics and each side tries to give figures convenient for them. He stresses that whereas the Crimean Tatars are squatting land to make a home for their families after returning from exile, in the other case one is dealing with unlawful occupation of very large areas of land by well-known politicians or legal entities. The BBC asks why there are such discrepancies in the figures Refat Chubarov: In the first instance there is simply no wish to make the process of land distribution transparent. The speculation began several years ago, including over this figures. We suggested that the local councils which according to the law have the right to distribute land posted on the Internet all decisions regarding land from the beginning of the 1990s. That way we could all not only check ourselves, people we know, but also analyze who holds the land in the Crimea. He says that most regrettably this was not done. He mentions that the President’s site contains a number of instructions on the situation in the Crimea, including conclusions from his meetings with Crimean Tatars. He instructs Prime Minister Azarov and the Speaker of the Crimean Parliament to ensure by 1 October transparency of a mechanism for allocating land plots, including to those formally deported on ethnic grounds. He says that he particularly hopes that this will include a full register, and not just of Crimean Tatars. The BBC interviewer points out that even if this is implemented, it will concern future land allocations, and asks what to do about those already seized. Mr Chubarov says that he sees it all as being simple since according to the law each citizen is entitled to a plot of land for themselves and their families. This they are entitled to free of charge at least one time. He thinks therefore that any person having seized land should be thoroughly checked. If they haven’t received the said land, they would receive it, regardless of ethnic group. This applies equally to those owning huge areas, and Crimean Tatars. Asked if that means that those who have seized land, could be allowed to continue to own it, he says that yes, this is what he thinks. «I don’t know a single person, whether Ivan Ivanenko or Khasan Gusmanov, who would go and squat land without approaching the authorities. There are rules and people always traipse to the authorities for years, but the authorities turn them down, and then some, out of despair, take such a step”. He stresses that many people, if we’re talking about building their own homes, not a golf-club or hotel, were forced to seize land because the authorities was not enforcing current legislation. This needs to be checked. If it was the case they have an undoubted right to the land. Abridged from a report on the BBC Ukrainian Service
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