Staunton, October 30 – Because the future of Crimea does not depend on the residents of Crimea alone, Mustafa Cemilev says, the Crimean Tatars will take “their struggle for their rights onto the territory of Russia,” seeking allies among the Turkic republics there and among other Russians who will eventually come to their senses after the Anschluss.
In an interview published by Profile.ru yesterday, the Crimean Tatar leader told that portal’s Ivan Sukhov that the status of Crimea “can be changed if a miracle occurs and the leadership [in Moscow] begins to be guided by the interests of Russia and not by chauvinist ambitions” (profile.ru/eks-sssr/item/88120-mustafa-dzhemilev-my-mozhem-perenesti-i-na-territoriyu-rossii-svoyu-borbu-za-svoi-prava).
Such a rejection of “the principle of international banditism and the seizure of foreign territories” is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Cemilev continued, given that polls show that many in Russia are delighted with what Vladimir Putin has done. It will thus require “a significant time for the population of Russia to sober up” under the impact of sanctions.
But in the meantime, he said, everyone must recognize that “the future of Crimea and its status now depends not on the attitudes of the residents of Crimea. Even if 100 percent of them were for the return of the peninsula to Ukraine, Russian legislation does not make any provision for local referenda to define the status of a territory.”
Instead, calls for a return to the status quo ante “will be considered as calls for separatism,” actions that are punishable by up to five years imprisonment under Russian law. Consequently, Cemilev argued, “other factors are needed,” including those that will raise the price on aggression and prevent it from happening.
Whatever people in Moscow think, Russia is not going to be able to recruit Crimean Tatar leaders to perform as servants of the Russian state. Of the 33 members of the Mejlis, only three are willing to cooperate with the occupation authorities; and they are doing so only because they think that the Russian occupation is likely to last a long time.
But Cemilev said that “the overwhelming majority of members of the Mejlis just like the majority of the Crimean Tatar popular considers that there is nothing for them to talk about with the occupiers” except about the end of the occupation.
Moscow earlier tried to use the leaders of two of its Turkic republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, to attract the Crimean Tatars to its side. But that didn’t work because when those leaders came to Crimea and saw what is happening, they were not able to do what Moscow wanted and were in fact affected by it in ways Moscow did not like.
According to Cemilev, there initially were two trends within the Russian political establishment concerning how to deal with the Crimean Tatars. The first believed it was necessary to find an agreement with the Mejlis. That led to the invitation to Cemilev himself to speak with Putin.
The second “started from the proposition that it is impossible to reach agreement with the Crimean Tatars and therefore [Moscow] must use its traditional tactics: divide, intimidate, and put pressure” on them. “The experience of contacts with Tatarstan did not have any positive results” from the Kremlin’s point of view.
As a result, Cemilev said, “the Russian leadership has come to the conclusion that the Crimean Tatars have had a bad influence on the Kazan Tatars” with the latter interacting with the Crimean Tatars not as Russians but as Tatars -- even though the Kazan Tatars did say “formally” that the Crimean Tatars must learn to act within Russia because they won’t find it easy to escape.