Staunton, April 29 – Mustafa Cemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatar national movement whom Russian authorities have banned from entering his homeland until 2019, says that the Russian security service has told him and by extension his nation that its members must submit to Russian rule, face prison, or, even more ominously, “disappearance.”
Despite Vladimir Putin’s promises to the Crimean Tatars before the Moscow-orchestrated referendum Russia invoked as the basis of the Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula and the Russian president’s decree about the “rehabilitation” of the Crimean Tatars within Russia, the messages that Russian officials, both Muscovite and local, are delivering are very threatening.
In recent comments, discussed in an article by Roman Chernyshev yesterday, Cemilev said that FSB officers have told his nation that it must obey, face prison, or be at risk of “disappearance,” an implicit suggestion that Moscow may be ready to expel the Crimean Tatars from their homeland a second time.
Cemilev called on democratic forces in Russia to track what may happen next and not leave the Crimean Tatars to face the Russian special forces “one on one,” a situation that given Moscow’s attempts to impose a media blackout over this issue could entail the most tragic consequences.
In his speech in Kyiv, Cemilev made the following comments as well:
o The Crimean Tatar leader said that Moscow’s complaints about the mistreatment of ethnic Russians in Crimea were without any foundation. All the local media is in Russian, he noted, and of the 596 schools, only 14 of them operate with Crimean Tatar as the language of instruction and only seven use Ukrainian. The other 573 use Russian.
o Cemilev said that Putin’s talk about some “mythical ‘Crimean people’” was an effort to obscure the real ethnic situation in Crimea and the historic rights of the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainians there.
o He said that only 950 to 1100 of the 180,000 Crimean Tatars who could have taken part in Moscow’s “referendum” did so, less than two-thirds of one percent and a figure that shows that Moscow’s claims about 97 percent participation cannot be accurate.
o Cemilev said that Russian propaganda about Crimea and Ukraine has been so filled with lies that it is impossible for anyone to believe it. “In recent years,” he said, the situation in Crimea was “most democratic,” with representation of all nationalities and all political trends.
o He said that it is important to remember that ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was “in essence” not so much a pro-Russian politician but “simply a bandit.” That is why democratic forces, including the Crimean Tatars oppose him.
o Cemilev reiterated what he told Putin in their famous telephone call: “the Crimean Tatars recognize Crimea as the territory of Ukraine” and any Russian assistance to his nation must take place in that context and as the result of a bilateral agreement between Moscow and Kyiv.
o Cemilev said that he personally as well as the Crimean Tatar nation has been threatened by the FSB. Some Russian security service officers have told him he must obey, face prison, or be at risk of “disappearing as in the Caucasus,” a reference to the practice of “disappearances” of anti-Moscow individuals and groups in that region at the hands of Russian siloviki.
o The Crimean Tatar leader said he and his nation are placing their hopes in Western sanctions.
o And he concluded that unfortunately, he and other Crimean Tatars expect Moscow to organize new provocations, especially in the run up to the annual commemoration of the anniversary of the 1944 deportation on May 18.