Friday, March 1, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Ukrainian Officials Move Against Crimean Tatar Mejlis; Cemilev Warns of Danger of Bloodshed

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 1 – The Ukrainian government and its representatives in Crimea have taken several new steps to undercut and divide the Crimean Tatar national movement, and Mejlis leader Mustafa Cemilev warns that these policies may lead to bloodshed if the authorities do not reverse their ban of upcoming commemorations of the 1944 deportation of his nation.

            Yesterday, in an extensive article in “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Tatyana Ivzhenko reported both about what the Ukrainian government has done in recent weeks and why both Crimean Tatars and experts on that region say that these moves of a divide and rule kind could trigger violence on the peninsula in the near future (

            Last month, she said, Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mohilev ignored Mejlis requests that the Crimean Presidential Council of the Crimean Tatar People be elected rather than appointed. Instead, in convening that body for the first time since 2010, Mohilev welcomed the president’s appointment of a man who is openly antagonistic to the Mejlis.

            Also in February, the Crimean Republic government named another opponent of the Mejlis, Refat Kenzhaliyev, in place of Mejlis ally Eduard Dudakov to head the Republic Committee on Inter-Ethnic Relations which oversees a 7.5 million US dollar budget for the repatriation of the Crimean Tatars.

            And at the end of last month, officials in the republic government removed Remzi Ilyasov, who is deputy to Mejlis head Mustafa Cemilev and widely assumed to his probable successor, from the position of chairman of Crimea’s parliamentary commission on inter-ethnic relations and the problems of deported citizens. In his place, the government named businessman Enver Abduraimov, who, Ivzhenko says, has “complicated relations with the Mejlis.”

            According to Cemilev, the Crimean Republic government has also dismissed “more than twenty” representatives of the Mejlis at all levels of government,” a clear indication that Kyiv and its representatives in Crimea want to divide the Crimean Tatars and weaken their oldest and most prominent organization.

            Mohilev dismisses these charges. He told “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that “the only criteria” used in appointments is “professionalism independent of nationality or political preferences,” and he said that “the level of trust of Crimean Tatars in the Mejlis does not exceed 25 percent,” thus undercutting that body’s claim to speak on behalf of that community.

            But experts dispute Mohilev’s claims.  They note that a poll in 2011 found that most Crimean Tatars supported in full or in part the Mejlis as their national organization and that only 16 percent were dissatisfied with its activities. And the experts suggested that these attacks on the Crimean Tatars will only lead “to the consolidation” of that community “around the Mejlis.”

            The situation may be even more explosive that the Moscow paper suggests.  Cemilev told Mubeyyin Altan, the founder of CTRIC – Crimean Tatar Research and Information Center, to whom the author is indebted for this information, there is a serious danger of clashes if Crimean officials continue to try to ban meetings on the May 18th anniversary of the 1944 deportation or to allow only Crimean Tatars not connected with the Meclis to lead them.

            Cemilev told Altan that 30 to 35,000 people will take part in a demonstration in Simferopil on May 18 that the Meclis plans to hold regardless of what the officials say, and he added that if Crimean Tatars see “the renegades” who are working against the Meclis on the platform, “no one will be safe.”

            The Mejlis leader said that he is appealing to the Crimean Tatar diaspora to organize similar meetings on May 18 in front of Ukrainian embassies around the world to protest the efforts of Mohilev to “ethnically cleanse” the Crimean Government of Crimean Tatars with Mejlis ties.

            And Cemilev concluded that what the Ukrainian authorities are doing is simply the latest variation of their old “divide and rule” tactic, an approach that the Crimean Tatars have long experience with and know how to respond.

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