Kremlin Takes Revenge on Crimean Tatars for Foiling Covert Annexation Plans
It was no surprise that Russia cited a pre-annexation demonstration as ‘argument’ for banning the Mejlis or self-governing body of the Crimean Tatar people, and this is not just because it has used the same pretext for holding Mejlis leader Akhtem Chiygoz in custody for almost 2 years. The demonstration on February 26, 2014 almost certainly spoiled Russia’s plan to seize Crimea without getting its hands dirty. The tactics used were noted a long time ago by banished Mejlis Head Refat Chubarov, but they recently received unexpected confirmation from taped conversations intercepted between Sergei Glazyev, a close adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other figures, regarding events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
A pivotal point on the tapes is the need to orchestrate ground-level support. One way or another, for example, local councils must be persuaded to hold sessions asking for help from Russia.
That scenario was tried, but failed, though for some time Moscow still asserted that the soldiers without insignia were “not theirs”. When Putin finally admitted that they were Russian, he claimed that the process of what he called ‘returning Crimea to Russia’ had begun on Feb 23, immediately after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled.
In fact, that date is also clearly a lie. Although the so-called ‘self-defence’ paramilitaries were formed on Feb 23, former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin [Strelkov], who played a major role
Things went according to plan in the genuinely pro-Russian city of Sevastopol, with Russian national Alexei Chaly being ‘appointed’ by a rally to the invented post of mayor. This same scenario was tried later in Eastern Ukraine but largely failed.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis had strong grounds for believing that an attempt would be made in the Crimean parliament on Feb 26 to push through a ‘vote’ changing Crimea’s status. They called on all Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians to gather outside parliament to prevent this from happening. All members of the Mejlis present can be seen on the video footage actively engaged in calming people and trying to prevent violence.
Heavily armed Russian soldiers without any insignia seized control of the parliament buildings at around 4 a.m. the next morning.
Despite the presence of Russian soldiers, the old scenario was still largely followed. There are multiple reports about the real nature of the ‘parliamentary session’ in the afternoon of Feb 27, with even Girkin
Putin has since pushed the line that Russian soldiers were there to defend the population during the so-called referendum on joining Russia. It is frustrating how seldom this readjustment of facts and their timing gets challenged. The so-called ‘referendum’ was organized by the leaders installed at gunpoint and, as the tapes show, coordinated from Moscow.
As with the parliamentary session, the pseudo-referendum needed to be falsified. Even Putin’s own
Russia failed to carry off a covert coup on Feb 26, 2014. The Mejlis played a major role in this, and then called on people to boycott the pseudo-referendum.
Eleven months later, Chiygoz - the highest-ranking Mejlis leader to not have been banned from Crimea – was taken into custody on charges of “organizing a mass riot” under Article 212 § 1 of Russia’s Criminal Code. He has been in detention ever since, along with two other Crimean Tatars – Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy – who are almost certainly in custody for their courage in refusing to testify against Chiygoz.
Russia has now flouted international law by banning the self-governing body of the main indigenous people of Crimea and more arrests seem inevitable.
Even with ‘courts’ which provide the sentences dictated from above, it seems likely that the ‘trials’ over the demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, will be dragged out as long as possible.
There were no ‘mass riots’ on that day. Yes, two people died, but one had a heart attack, and the other was crushed in the pro-Russian section of the demonstration and her husband has repeatedly stated that he does not think that any Crimean Tatars were involved (See: Russia’s trial of jailed Crimean Tatar leader turns openly racist)
In fact none of the 6 Crimean Tatars on trial are charged over the deaths, and it’s not really clear what they are charged with. The video footage is against the prosecution, so too are fundamental principles of law since the demonstration took place before Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
It seems that for the Kremlin, if they want something enough, any violation of international law is permitted, as are the reprisals for those who get in its way.