Saturday, November 1, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Crimea’s Occupiers Say There is Too Much Moscow-Banned Material There for Them to Seize It All at Once

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 1 – Russian occupation officials in Crimea have provided a remarkable confirmation of how free Ukraine was and how unfree Russia has become. According to them, Ukraine allowed so many publications to appear there that Russia has banned that they lack the ability to seize them all at once.


            Officials of the occupation regime’s State Committee for the Inter-Ethnic Relations and Deported Citizens said yesterday that there are “hundreds of thousands” of publications in Crimea that are banned in Russia, so many that they cannot be confiscated immediately as Russian law requires (


            Zaur Smirnov, the head of the State Committee, said that these “extremist” materials had flooded into Crimea before the Russian occupation in order to support “non-traditional forms of Islam” and thus to undermine the government-backed and traditionalist Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Crimea.


            Such materials, he said, “thank God are banned in the Russian Federation” and must be confiscated and destroyed. But because there are “hundreds of thousands” of copies in Crimea, it is “impossible” for officials “to seize them all at once.”  Consequently, the Russian authorities now there are asking religious groups to turn them in voluntarily.


            Smirnov noted that Sergey Aksenov, the head of the Republic of Crimea, had met with the heads of religious organizations and taken a decision to offer them “the opportunity themselves to carry out a so-called cleansing” of such materials by destroying them or handing them in.


            Only after they have had the chance to do so, Smirnov said, “will the laws of the Russian Federation be applied with full force.”


            Some in Russia and the West will applaud what the occupation is doing, viewing it as a move against Islamist extremism, but those familiar will the sweep of Moscow’s bans on religious literature will recognize it for what it is: an indication of how the freedoms Crimeans enjoyed as citizens of Ukraine are being taken away now that they are de facto subjects of Russia


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