A New Danger Signal: Russian Occupiers Say Crimean Tatars ‘Heavily Armed’

October 6, 2015
Crimean Tatars climb the mountain Eklizi-Bourun's peak Chatyr-Dag, near the Simferopol-Alushta Highway on May 18, 2015, the 71st anniversary of Stalin's deportation.

Staunton, October 6 – In what may presage an even more savage crackdown on the Crimean Tatars and their Mejlis, Russian occupation authorities on the Ukrainian peninsula are claiming that members of that nation are heavily armed and a threat to law and order, according to Russian journalist Ruslan Gorevoy.

Moreover, his sources suggest the most heavily armed Crimean Tatars are those who support the Mejlis and Mustafa Dzhemilev, who supposedly acquired these guns from Chechen radicals in the 1990s and who kept them because Ukrainian officials did little even when they knew about them.

There was evidence of an influx of guns from the North Caucasus in the 1990s, and some Crimean Tatars have been caught with illegal guns. But there is no basis for Gorevoy’s claims that Crimea is now drowning in “a sea” of “thousands” of illegal weapons and that the authorities must launch a campaign to confiscate them.

Gorevoy directly asserts that weapons are a problem in Crimea because “there are too many” and because those who have them “illegally” are “mainly Crimean Tatars” who acquired them during the wild 1990s to defend themselves as small businessmen against criminal groups on their return to Crimea from Central Asian exile.

Twenty years ago, one Ukrainian Interior Ministry official said that there were “no fewer than 50,000” guns in Crimea, the journalist says. Now, their numbers have certainly increased because the Ukrainian authorities did nothing to confiscate these guns especially from the Crimean Tatars.

Given that “four out of five adult Crimean Tatars” still work in trade, he suggests, and given that the militia in Ukrainian times was unable or unwilling to defend them adequately, no one should find it surprising that many of the Crimean Tatars have retained their weapons to this day.

Gorevoy insists on the Chechens as major suppliers of the arms in the past and claims that the leader of the Mejlis in the late 1990s, Mustafa Dzhemilev, kept a photograph of Dzhokhar Dudayev in his office and that Dzhemilev’s son used an illegal gun in one of the crimes the latter is now charged with.

The Russian journalist concludes in ominous terms that there are clearly guns about in Crimea and that “as has been known for a long time: if a rifle hangs on the wall, at some point, it will have to be fired.” Clearly, if he gets his way, the Crimean Tatars face an even more difficult time ahead.