Staunton, May 19 – The Russian occupation authorities are now alienating even those few Crimean Tatars who had been ready to cooperate, an indictment of Moscow and the Sevastopol regime that is especially telling because it comes from Yana Amelina, an analyst who has gained notoriety for her often impassioned defense of Russian imperialism.
Moreover, as she puts it in an article published today, she spent “much more time” trying to find a Russian outlet that would publish her conclusions than she did writing, an indication Amelina says forces her to “involuntarily” conclude these outlets want “a different assessment of what is taking place in Crimea regardless of whether it corresponds to reality.”
Amelina, secretary of the Caucasus Geopolitical Club, entitles her essay, “Why the Crimean Tatars are Disappointed in Moscow’s Promises,” and says that the decision by the occupation authorities not to allow the Crimean Tatars to mark the 71st anniversary of the deportation and to declare that those who wanted to hold it were “radically inclined members of the Mejlis” was a counterproductive mistake.
Nariman Dzhelalov, the first deputy head of the Mejlis, angrily but understandably says that “law-abiding citizens … in a way specified by Russian Federation laws who had submitted the necessary documents, received a rejection and publicly declared that they do not plan any illegal actions are called radicals.”
Dilyaver Akiyev, secretary of the Mejlis, agrees. He says the authorities are “discrediting Russia” by their actions, and he promises that he will seek to use all the legal recourses available to Russian citizens because this is “my constitutional right” and not as those authorities appear to believe a manifestation of “extremism.”
Ilmi Umerov, deputy chairman of the Mejlis, says that the authorities simply do not understand that the May 18 meetings are “devoted to the memory about a crime against the Crimean Tatars. It is a meeting in memory of those who died or passed away abroad.” It is a mark of respect and something that “unites the entire people!”
And Zair Smedlyaev, head of the Kurultay election commission, pointedly adds: “Those who today are in power are afraid of the people” and especially of the Crimean Tatars despite the fact that the people and the Crimean Tatars have obeyed the law and will continue to do so without fail.
Umerov and Smedlyaev, Amelina notes, opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and for that they can and should be criticized. “But as far as what concerns a meeting [on May 18], one can understand them,” given that they went about this in compliance with Russian law and showed no sign of violating it.
“The impression is being created,” Amelina says, “that in Russian Crimea, although one does not want to believe it, they intend to continue the Kyiv policy of ignoring the interests of the Crimean Tatars,” despite Vladimir Putin’s April 2014 decree on the rehabilitation of repressed peoples and the acquisition of Russian citizenship by most Crimean Tatars.
While it is of course true that the problems of the Crimean Tatars should be resolved only if that can be achieved without violating the views and rights of others, she continues, the Sevastopol authorities are dragging their feet and giving birth to “doubts about the sincerity of these [Russian] promises.”
Recently, and this is “in no way a good sign,” Amelina says, “the position of the local authorities is eliciting open dissatisfaction not only among those in the Mejlis but also among the Crimean Tatar structures opposed to it which initially supported the return of the Crimea to the Russian Federation.
As Vasvi Abduraimov, the head of the Milli Firka, told KrymMedia, the authorities decision to refuse to allow a meeting on May 18 represented “a colossal hit on the image of the Russian state” among Crimean Tatars. The meeting should have been allowed because it is about a showing of respect to the Crimean Tatars and their past.
This decision has also led to a sharpening of the rhetoric of the Mejlis which in recent months had taken a more “constructive” approach to dealing with the authorities. As a body, it has declared that the decision “does not withstand any legal or moral criticism, is a crude violation of generally recognized international norms and standards.”
And as Amelina notes, “it would be strange if beyond the borders of Crimea,” outsiders did not make use of the decision to put pressure on Crimea as they have done with meetings across Ukraine and with the declaration of “We are all Crimean Tatars now.” “The media propaganda consequences of this for Russia are obvious.”
Even more serious, Amelina says, the mistakes of the Crimean authorities are not exhausted by the decision to ban the meeting. They have been slow in resolving the land question, they have given out rehabilitation documents to only one of every six who have applied, and they have shut down Crimean Tatar media outlets.
All these things are “viewed by a significant part of the Crimean Tatars as the non-fulfillment of promises” Moscow made and as “an attack on their rights,” something which is “giving rise to distrust in the local authorities and in Russia as a whole” and leading them to look to Kyiv, Ankara and Washington.
According to the pro-Moscow Milli Firka analytic group and the Crimean Institute of Strategic Research, what this means is that once again “the center for the administration of the processes of resolving the Crimean Tatar issue have been shifted to beyond the borders of Russia,” something that opens the way to destabilization on the peninsula.
“It is possible,” Amelina says, “that this declaration is excessively alarmist. However, one won’t solve the problem of the integration of the Crimean Tatars into the Russian social-political space by means of banning a memorial meeting. Disappointment, especially when there is reason for it, is not an emotion on which one can build inter-ethnic peace.”
“The achievement of real and not declarative stability in Crimea is possible only by taking into account the opinion of the Crimean Tatars and their complete participation in the life of the peninsula,” she continues. Continuing to label them “radically inclined” without evidence won’t contribute to that.
Amelina’s words suggest that the situation in Crimea is far more explosive than Russian commentators have been willing to acknowledge, and they explain why she concludes by saying that what is necessary now is “a clear policy of the federal center concerning the Crimean Tatars” and Moscow’s insistence that its Crimean authorities carry it out.