Thursday, February 6, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Crimean Tatars are Helping to Keep Crimea in Ukraine, Moskal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 6 – If it weren’t for the presence of the Crimean Tatar minority on the Crimean peninsula which is acting as “a restraining factor,” according to a former interior ministry official there, Crimea would already have become a Ukrainian counterpart to Transdniestria or Karabakh, a frozen conflict Moscow could use as leverage against Kyiv.

            Gennady Moskal, who now serves as a deputy there, said that he is “certain” of that because despite the attention they receive, “all the pro-Russian parties” in Ukraine are creatures Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions intended to intimidate Ukrainians but too weak to matter as much as many think (

            The plans of such parties in the ethnic Russian-dominated parliament in the Crimean Autonomy to appeal to Moscow to defend them should become the basis of a criminal case against them, Moskal says.  “Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine.” And he points out that “the Supreme Rada of Crimea is not as independent as a first glance might suggest.”

            Intead, it is “completely run” by Yanukovich, the deputy ays. It is “led by and consists entirely of the Party of the Regions, and the prime minister, Anatoly Mogilev, is a creature of the Donetsk” mafia.  Consequently, all its declarations, which many see as an expression of local opinion, are anything but.

                All this often has been lost sight of as Moscow journalists write article with titles like “The Crimean Card is Again in Play” and “Crimea is a Russian Autonomy” ( and and Russian nationalists like Konstantin Zatulin fan the flames among their counterparts in Crimea (

            Moskal’s comments are thus especially important now for three reasons. First, many in Moscow view Crimea as a region that the Russian Federation should “reclaim” and that its population would welcome such a shift.  In fact, it is far from clear that the ethnic Russian majority there would want to see such a change.

            Second, many, thanks to the arguments of many in Moscow, view the Crimean Tatars as an Islamist and national threat to Ukrainian territorial integrity and worry about Crimean Tatar contacts with Turkey ( reality, the Crimean Tatars, however rocky their relations with Kyiv have been since 1991 and whatever their ultimate goals, are neither Muslim radicals nor enemies of Ukraine.

            And third, the deputy’s words suggest that Ukrainians not only need to recognize this reality but to be more supportive of the Crimean Tatars than they have been in the past, helping rather than hindering both the return of the rest of the community from Soviet-imposed exile to Central Asia and the restoration of their property and national rights.

             The Ukrainian Tatars have supported the Maidan in Ukraine since the beginning of the revolutionary movement in Kyiv. They are the natural allies of Ukrainians concerned about the future of their country and its territorial integrity and in no way the Islamic threat that many in Moscow have implied as part of its larger effort to discredit Ukraine’s turn to Europe.

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