Russian Occupiers Block Another Crimean Tatar Leader from Returning to His Homeland

July 7, 2014
Refat Chebarov, Crimean Tatar leader

Staunton, July 6 – On July 5, the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea blocked Refat Chubarov, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, from returning to his homeland from Kherson Region where he was attending a meeting, an action that repeats their exclusion of Mustafa Cemilev on May 3 and that is now a key part of Moscow’s effort to rein in the Crimean Tatars.

When one of the occupation officials read the order to Chubarov at what they view as the border between Ukraine and Russia, the Mejlis leader asked that it be read to him in Crimean Tatar as the new Crimean constitution requires. Not surprisingly, the Russian official refused to do so.

When he was banned from entering what Moscow considers Russian territory for five years, Cemilev said that it was entirely possible that the Russian authorities would apply the same measure against others to limit their contacts with Crimean Tatars and supporters abroad and to try to break the resistance of his nation.

Three aspects of yesterday’s action should be kept in mind. First, in many respects, such actions by the occupiers represent an updated version of Soviet policy when dissidents or others Moscow did not approve of were in some cases allowed to travel abroad and then stripped of their Soviet citizenship so that they could not return.

Second, the Russian occupation authorities are engaged in what can only be described as “a law-like” but illegal action. That is, they are violating the Russian Constitution which they claim now governs life in Crimea, but they are doing so in a way that is likely to create the illusion that they are acting “legally.”

And third, because such actions are obviously intended to divide the Crimean Tatars and make them less able to defend their nation and more amenable to the demands of the Russian occupation authorities, they approach if do not yet constitute an act of genocide as defined by the United Nations convention.

But however that may be, this latest action of the Russian occupation authorities is yet another reason why the international community must not forget Crimea and the Crimean Tatars even as many in the West focus on the victories of Ukrainian forces against Moscow-backed secessionists elsewhere in Ukraine.