Staunton, March 23 — “The Russian occupation regime” in Crimea is “worse than the Soviet one,” according to Mustafa Cemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatars, in large part because Vladimir Putin couldn’t find a Ramzan Kadyrov-type leader among them and thus has chosen the path of direct rather than indirect repression instead.
Speaking before a UN Security Council session organized by Lithuania but boycotted by the Russian Federation and China last Thursday, Cemilev said that after the Anschluss, the new Russian authorities have violated the political, social, economic, and human rights of all the Ukrainian peninsula’s residents.
As a result, Cemilev continued, “people are afraid to speak with one another,” and it can be said that “fear now rules in ‘Russian’ Crimea.” That fear means that people there are afraid to say what they think, something that Moscow and its agents use to suggest that the situation is improving.
In fact, he said, “a year after the illegal annexation of Crimea, we see an essential deterioration of the situation,” including harassment, disappearances, the closing down of media outlets, and most recently information about lists of Crimean Tatars who are slated for deportation or elimination.
As a result, many Crimean Tatars now fear that they will suffer a new deportation, something some of their Russian neighbors in the occupied peninsula apparently are being encouraged to think will allow them to seize the housing or other property belonging to Crimean Tatars.
Cemilev’s statement brings to mind the observation of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves that “if the Russians come back, they will not be constrained by communism,” a truly frightening prospect for other non-Russians who suffered so much under the communists but who would suffer even more under Putin’s Russians — as the Crimean Tatars already are.