The range of measures Ukraine and international organizations are taking today to stop the Russian intervention in Crimea depends to a large extent on Mustafa Dzhemilev, a globally-renowned politician, member of the Ukrainian Parliament, ex-chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, whom the Kurultai of Crimean Tatars has entrusted with coordinating international efforts to rehabilitate the people and restore their rights in their homeland, Crimea, which was invaded militarily and annexed by Russia. Here follows Mustafa Dzhemilev’s interview he granted to The Day.
“IT IS TOO EARLY TO ISSUE PASSPORTS”
Mustafa Effendi, this is the second time Russia is annexing the territory of the Crimean Tatar people. What do you think of it, what emotions does this rouse?
“I must say in no uncertain terms that it is an aggression, a military intervention, a treacherous violation of the existing global system of law. The list of the laws and treaties Russia has violated is very long. It includes, among other things, violations of the Black Sea Fleet Agreement, the Budapest Memorandum, the Comprehensive Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, and many others. Only a country that disregards the foundations of the present-day world order, international opinion, and wellbeing of its own people, could do so. So there can only be one conclusion: militarily, the aggressor may be taking a strong position, but, from the legal angle, he is in dire straits and will sooner or later meet a defeat.”
Russia is making its presence felt on the annexed territory at an accelerated rate. It plans to introduce Russian citizenship within a month, apply the Russian law and financial system without delay, etc. Do you think these processes have already passed the point of no return or it is too early for Ukrainian patriots and Crimean Tatars to lose heart?
“I don’t think so. Both Ukraine and the world community have not yet taken even a half of the measures they could take to stop the aggression, so I think it is too early to triumph and issue passports.”
You have made several foreign trips in the past few weeks. What is the attitude to the Russian intervention of the international organizations and politicians you met?
“Ukraine is unequivocally supported everywhere and there is a unanimous opinion that the aggressor must withdraw its troops from Ukraine and keep its territorial integrity intact. But as for the extent to which they are ready to take decisive actions, they prefer to maneuver. For example, I was in Brussels at a meeting of ambassadors and diplomats, conducted by a UN deputy secretary general – they expressed 100-percent support for Ukraine and readiness to impose sanctions stage by stage, but they are not yet prepared to speak about the fourth stage, i.e., military support for Ukraine. They say this option is not being discussed so far. Turkey totally supports Ukraine, too, defends its territorial integrity, and demands that the Russian troops be withdrawn, but they say they are a NATO member and the decision should be taken collectively. Naturally, if a decision of this kind is taken, Turkey will fulfill it. At the same time, Anders Fogh Rasmussen openly condemned the act of Russian aggression and demanded that troops be pulled out from Crimea. When I asked if the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits could be closed for Russian ships, Turkish politicians cited the Montreux Convention which regulates the procedure of closure. For example, there are different regulations for the time of war and peace.
“As for the European Union, the impression is that the vast majority of 28 member states also fully support imposing a wide range of sanctions on Russia to make it pull out its troops and vacate our territory. At the same time, they have some dissident countries, such as Greece and perhaps the part of Cyprus that is a European Union member. They are going to torpedo the EU decisions. To be more exact, they agree that Russia’s actions were unlawful but believe that it is better to defuse the situation by continuing negotiations, not by imposing sanctions.”
“PUTIN’S SPEECH IS A BID FOR THE RIGHT TO TACKLE INTERNATIONAL PROBLEMS FROM THE POSITION OF STRENGTH”
In Putin’s speech, the entire world saw a totally distorted picture of the situation in Ukraine. Do you think he is sincerely mistaken, or is this an attempt to deceive the world public?
“It is difficult to believe that the leader of a state like Russia is supplied with twisted information. I therefore believe that Putin knows the true state of affairs in Ukraine better than anybody else. So, by all accounts, his speech is – what is particularly cynical – his strategy aimed at restoring the so-called virtual Russian grandeur, it is his dream of reconstructing something like the Soviet Union, it is his bid for the right to tackle international problems from the position of strength, which he addresses to the world community in a hope that the world will put up with this.”
Putin said in his speech that the majority of Crimean Tatars supported this act of aggression and he intended to “complete rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatar people.” Do you think one can trust these words?
“This is absolutely wrong. The allegation of his Crimean puppets that 40 percent of Crimean Tatars took part in this bogus referendum is a load of bull! Of course, it is impossible to name an absolutely accurate number of the Crimean Tatars who took part in the vote because many of them live dispersedly, but there are a lot of new villages where they live compactly and where people of other ethnicities account for not more than 10-15 percent. Surveying the results of voting in these villages, one can have a sufficiently correct picture of the whole ethnic group’s electoral behavior. This survey shows that not more than one percent of Crimean Tatars took part in this ‘referendum.’ Moreover, it is most likely that even those Crimean Tatars who came to the polling stations voted for the second question in the ballot in a hope that this will help stop the annexation. So these arguments of the puppets are of a Soviet-style deceitful nature.”
What is the Mejlis’ opinion about the annexation of Crimea and the attempts of Russian politicians and the self-proclaimed Crimean authorities to win over a part of the people?
“The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People has clearly stated that Crimean Tatars do not accept the annexation, consider Crimea the territory of Ukraine, and will demand that the foreign occupation forces be withdrawn. Our activists are still taking this position. The Mejlis has been in session for two days, and I think the decision will be the same. But there are some problems – the self-proclaimed Crimean authorities are offering Crimean Tatars the rights they have not had before, including up to 20-percent representation in public administration bodies, restoration of geographical names, further promotion of the Crimean Tatar language, official recognition of the Mejlis and the Kurultai of the Crimean Tatar people, etc. And if the Mejlis does not accept this, the proposed offices will be given, as it was done under Yanukovych, to some puppets who will work to the detriment of the Crimean Tatar people. What is to be done in this situation? The Mejlis is studying the options, but there is no clear answer so far to this question. I asked Chubarov to take a clear-cut stand on this matter, and then we will discuss these measures with the leadership of Ukraine.”
Mustafa Effendi, the information milieu is seriously discussing the possibility of nomination you as Ukraine’s presidential candidate. I think many citizens of Ukraine would support this idea in the current situation. Moreover, they are suggesting very convincing arguments in favor of this idea, considering you as a world-level politician. What do you think of this idea?
“Well… (laughs). Even if a court orders me to be the president, I will appeal this ruling. This country has far more suitable candidates than a 70-year-old veteran with broken health.”
“THERE CAN STILL BE LOSSES AND MAJOR DIFFICULTIES”
What measures should the Ukrainian leadership take to regain Crimea and restore the rule of law both in Ukraine and on the international arena?
“These measures are being taken, albeit somewhat belatedly. For example, today [the interview was conducted on March 19. – Ed.] our committee has approved the text of a Verkhovna Rada declaration on guaranteeing the rights of the Crimean Tatar People as one of Ukraine’s indigenous peoples. It was also decided to join the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is essential progress because this opens considerable prospects for our people. The committee also unanimously decided that the Law on Restoration of the Rights of Deported Peoples, passed last year in the first reading, should be finally adopted. I also think highly of the National Security and Defense Council’s Wednesday proposal that the UN declare Crimea a demilitarized zone and all the troops be withdrawn from here. The world community can view this as a real way to settle the so-called Crimean crisis. It was also decided to launch the procedure of Ukraine withdrawing from the CIS. What is more, it was proposed that the United States and Britain, as guarantors of Ukraine’s territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum, hold joint war games on the territory of Ukraine.”
Could you try to forecast the future situation? What trends can get the upper hand in this situation?
“Peace and stability would be more lasting if there were neither victors nor losers and international law prevailed. But the impression is that one of the sides is not striving for this but wants to impose its will, taking advantage of its military superiority and the other side’s keen desire is to avoid bloodshed. It is very difficult to anticipate rosy prospects in this situation. There can still be losses and major difficulties. Besides, the totally inefficient Crimean leaders, who are under the thumb of Moscow advisors, may bungle the job more than once. The gun-wielding criminals and semi-criminal guys dressed up like ‘Cossacks’ and talking profusely about the need to deport Tatars from Crimea again, may cause a lot of trouble, but, whatever the case, it is our fate and our life, and we must live it to the end.”