Thursday, October 26, 2017

Putin’s Approach to Crimean Tatar Leaders Like Brezhnev’s toward Soviet Refuseniks, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 26 – Vladimir Putin’s freeing and then expulsion abroad of Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, two leaders of the Crimean Tatar Milli Mejlis, follows the scenario the Soviet Union used under Leonid Brezhnev when it expelled political opponents and Jewish Refuseniks, Vitaly Portnikov says.

            That is, the Ukrainian commentator continues, Moscow did so “secretly, by secret decrees and to that Western country which was prepared to serve as a place of asylum or transit” (

Indeed, one can say, Portnikov argues that Umerov and Chizygoz are also ‘prisoners of Zion,’ with this difference: their people is already in its historical motherland and seeks recognition of its right to determine the fate of Crimea without ‘polite little green men’” and other Putinist inventions.

“In Soviet times, the country which was concerned about the freedom and security of its heroes was the State of Israel. But Israel, if one is honest, did not have great influence on the anti-Semitic Kremlin elders who could not forgive the small country for the defeat of the Arab armies and their Soviet advisors in the Six Day War of 1967.”

Fortunately, Israel received help from the international community and “above all the Jewish community of the US. It turned out that the Soviet leaders did not find it so easy to say  no to American presidents. The White house had levers on the Kremlin then and now,” the Ukrainian commentator continues.

“Today the country which has assumed responsibility for the future of the Crimean Tatar people and the preservation of the Mejlis, its parliament which has been banned in Russia, is Ukraine,” Portnikov says.  But its influence on the Kremlin now is “completely comparable” to that of Israel and for the same reason: Ukrainians proved ready to “fight for freedom.”

Ukraine has now received help from Turkey because while Moscow can “ignore Poroshenko,” it is “much more difficult for it to ignore Erdogan.

There is another parallel in these two situations which is even more important. “The liberation of ‘the prisoners of Zion’ showed that the Jewish movement in the Soviet Union really existed, that it had to be taken into account and that repressions against its activists could lead to undesirable consequences for the USSR leadership,” such as the Jackson-Vannik amendment.

“The freeing of Umerov and Chiygoz according to this scenario … also shows that no judicial decisions about banning the Mejlis can destroy the international authority of the popular parliament of the Crimean Tatars or the need to take that body into account.” Indeed, by freeing these two, Putin has recognized that they are “political figures whose freedom must be respected.

And that in turn means, Portnikov continues, that the Crimean question whatever Moscow propagandists say, is “hardly closed just as the Jewish question was not closed after the latest ban on departures from the USSR. The will of peoples, even small but free ones, always is stronger than the will of dictators.”

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