Staunton, April 19 – In a demonstration of principled toughness, Mustafa Cemilev, the longtime leader of the Crimean Tatars and a member of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, has very publicly returned to his homeland after declaring that he remains a Ukrainian citizen and that some in Moscow are thinking about a new deportation of his people.
Cemilev arrived in Akmesjit (Simferopol) from Kiev Friday night. With him were Refat Chubarov, the chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, and Omer Kyrymly, the deputy chairman of that body. They were detained by border guards of the Russian occupation forces for 40 minutes but then allowed to proceed.
Prior to leaving the Ukrainian capital, Cemilev denounced what he described as the ever more frequent manifestation of “chauvinist” attitudes in Crimea against the Crimean Tatars and described FSB officers in Moscow who hope to promote a new deportation either officially or by creating unbearable conditions for his people.
He said that some ethnic Russians had asked Crimean Tatars “When are you leaving? … I want to move into your apartment,” adding that since the Russian occupation, “children are beginning to attack Crimean Tatars especially if they speak their [national] language.”
It is not clear what will happen next, but Cemilev’s return undoubtedly encourages members of his own nation and shows how leaders committed to democracy and human rights can and should behave in the face of repression and threats.