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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The two realities of Crimea

As Russia continues to build up its forces, Crimean politicians are “quietly” getting ready for the referendum
13 March, 2014 - 11:17
LAST SUNDAY SIMFEROPOL SAW A RALLY OF PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES WHOM THE AUTHORITIES FORCED TO COME TO LENIN SQUARE WITH THE FLAGS OF CRIMEA AND RUSSIA IN HAND. THE AIM WAS TO SIMULATE MASS-SCALE SUPPORT FOR THE REFERENDUM. THE CRIMEAN AUTHORITIES ALSO ORGANIZED A CONCERT, “CRIMEAN SPRING,” ON THE CITY’S SQUARE / Photos by Leniara ABIBULAIEVA

There seem to be two realities in Crimea. One is associated with the actions of Russian servicemen and the so-called “self-defense” which local activists claim are commanded by Russian special force officers, The driveways to Crimea from Kherson oblast have already been blocked by checkpoints with machinegun emplacements and APCs in shelters.

The Russian military have seized, for some reason, a Simferopol hospital and taken all the medical personnel outside. The so-called “special forces of Crimea” have captured Euromaidan-Crimea activists Andrii Shchekun and Anatolii Kovalsky who the self-proclaimed premier Serhii Aksionov says are accused of “stealing passports from Crimean residents,” although two instances of this occurred on Monday afternoon, two days after the activists had been detained. They are supposed to be held in custody until the referendum day. Their colleagues say the law classifies the actions of the self-proclaimed government of Crimea as terrorism, and the aim of the detention was apparently to neutralize their anti-referendum campaign, even though the interim provision on referendums, drawn up by the Crimean authorities, offers Crimean residents the right of free vote campaigning. An electronic surveillance company was blocked in Chernomorsky district at night. The Simferopol international airport, including its runway, was blocked again yesterday morning, all the international flights were canceled, the traffic control tower was seized and approaches to it were mined.

The other reality is the efforts of politicians to pretend that nothing extraordinary is taking place. The Crimean parliament speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov, against who criminal proceedings have been instituted and whom a court ordered to arrest, has again visited Moscow and said on coming back that “Russia is ready to accept us.” The illegally appointed prime minister of Crimea, Serhii Aksionov, has said the Crimean authorities are going to nationalize the Ukrainian Navy stationed in Sevastopol as well as Black Sea Oil and Gas Company ships.

On March 11, the suddenly convened Crimean parliament session adopted the Declaration on Independence of the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the City of Sevastopol. The document maintains – citing for some reason the UN Charter and international law which allegedly “confirm the right of peoples to self-determination,” although it is common knowledge that the Russian people self-determined long ago and have had a state of their own, Russia, for several centuries – that the Crimea and Sevastopol deputies (it is not yet clear whether there were Sevastopol deputies at the session) have resolved that Crimea “will be proclaimed as an independent and sovereign state with a republican form of government” after the referendum. Law experts are saying that Crimean separatists have understood at last that what can apply for being part of Russia is not a piece of another state but a self-sufficient entity and they decided to declare themselves as such.

PREPARING FOR A BOGUS REFERENDUM

It is clear that Crimean separatists consider the successful handling of this bogus referendum as their No.1 goal. Konstantynov told journalists on coming back from Moscow that preparation for it “is in full swing. All the services are working, people are inspired, and the overall mood is superb.”

Asked where Crimea is receiving money from, he said: “We began last week to set up a system alternative to the treasury, and we will solve the problem. We levy taxes. The taxes the Crimeans pay are not a small resource. We are receiving material aid from all the regions of Russia. We do have this money, and we are determined to solve all the financial problems…”

The parliament speaker claims that Crimea is prepared to fight against Ukraine. “We are ready. Transport movement is one of the many scare stories that the other side concocts. There are no Ukrainian politicians to speak to about our choice. They have in fact forced us to decide on a referendum in a matter of days because they have driven Crimean residents into a blind alley. They never spoke to us. They only threatened us. They wanted to destroy the entire political elite of Crimea – both morally and physically. We are being threatened all the time – 300 SMS messages of this kind are coming daily. The country in which we have lived for 23 years no longer exists. Some people with assault rifles have come to intimidate us…”

The Crimean MPs have also taken over the Krym TV and radio channel and the radio relay center, appointed the chief prosecutor, and adopted interim provisions on the interior ministry, the prosecution service, the security service, the tax administration, the pension fund, and vigilantes.

“GUARANTEES” TO CRIMEAN TATARS

In addition to this declaration, “through the mediation” of Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, who was present at the session, the deputies passed the resolution “On Guarantees to Restore the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People and to Promote their Integration into Crimean Society” which claims that the new Constitution of the Republic of Crimea will give the following guarantees: awarding the Crimean Tatar language official status on a par with the Russian and Ukrainian languages, electing the Supreme Council on a proportional representation basis with 20 percent of seats being reserved for Tatars, guaranteeing the representation of Tatars in district and municipal councils and other bodies, recognizing the Crimean Tatar people’s ethnic self-government bodies, i.e. the Kurultai and the bodies it will form, approving five-year and one-year settlement plans, addressing legal, organizational, financial and land problems. This list also includes other problems which the Crimean Tatars have been trying to get solved since their repatriation.

Observers say, however, that all these “guarantees” are insincere because if the deputies had really wanted to help the Crimean Tatars, they would have proclaimed a Crimean Tatar ethnic autonomy in Crimea instead of preserving their own, Russian, one.

And although Crimea is being showered with leaflets that insistently call upon people to vote for joining Russia and tempt them with higher wages in that country and scare them with high prices and cancellation of privileges in Ukraine, many do not believe in these prospects.

According to the State Border Security Service, 265 people left the peninsula in the past 24 hours alone. Most of them are the Crimean Tatars who are concerned about their further destiny.

By Mykola SEMENA, The Day, Simferopol