The Siege of Crimea (II)

KIEV/MOSCOW/BERLIN (Own report) - Leaders of the Crimean Tartars, who have been blocking the supply of electricity to Crimea for the past few days, have good contacts to the German political establishment. Years ago, Mustafa Jemilev and Refat Chubarov, who were involved in the sabotage action, had held talks on closer ties between Crimea and the West with officials of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the German government's Representative for ethnic German immigration to Germany. Just two and a half weeks ago, they discussed with the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, the "de-occupation of Crimea" and the necessary "peaceful actions, in particular with respect to power supply." The Crimean Tartars, who are currently cooperating with fascist organizations and ultra-rightwing battalions, have been elected to the Ukrainian parliament on the electoral list of President Petro Poroshenko's party. According to an expert, Poroshenko is "instrumentalizing" them for "his foreign policy" objectives. Jemilev also has good contacts to the US political establishment. Among the Crimean Tartars, he and Chubarov, who in Berlin enjoy exclusive recognition, are competing with Tartar Salafists - some of whom are currently fighting on the battlefields of Syria - and with Russia-oriented Tartar organizations.

Blockade with Fascists

Crimean Tartars are primarily responsible for the current blockade imposed on Crimea. ( reported.[1]) Already on September 20, they had begun autonomously to inspect traffic destined for the Crimea from the Ukrainian region of Kherson, to prohibit commodity transports onto the peninsula. They accepted the help of Ukrainians - euphemistically referred to as "activists" in the German media - who often are members of fascist organizations, such as the Right Sector or ultra-rightwing militias, such as the Aidar or the Donbass Battalions. October 13, fascist organizations honored the most prominent Crimean Tartar leader, Mustafa Jemilev with the "People's Hero of Ukraine" Award for his reliable cooperation. Already by the beginning of October, their joint blockade of Crimea had expanded to the first attempts to not only cut off Crimea from commodities, but from electrical power, as well.[2] At the end of last week, several electric pylons were blown up, shutting down the supply of electricity to the peninsula. Crimean Tartars then blocked access to the scenes of the crimes to prevent the damage from being repaired.

Instrument of Foreign Policy

As "Ukraine-Analysen," a publication of the University of Bremen, points out, actions such as the blockade of the Crimea, could not have been carried out without the "quiet acquiescence" of the administration in Kiev. In fact, already a year ago, President Petro Poroshenko - whose dockyard had been nationalized, when the Crimea was integrated into Russia - had "entered cooperation with the Crimean Tartar leaders." In the October 26, 2014, Ukrainian parliamentary elections, Jemilev and Chubarov, the two last chairs of the Mejlis, the executive council of the Crimean Tartars, were elected to parliament on President Poroshenko's party list. September 26 - with the blockade already in full swing - Poroshenko designated Jemilev to head the National Council for Anti-Corruption Policies, a presidential advisory commission. The Crimea blockade "clearly" demonstrates, writes the editor of the "Ukraine-Analysen," that "in the Ukraine, paramilitary organizations are unofficially engaged in penal functions, permitting President Poroshenko to instrumentalize the co-opted Crimean Tartar leaders for his foreign policy objectives."[3]

No Monolithic Entity

However, Jemilev and Chubarov are in no way representing the standpoint of the entire Crimean Tartar minority. Whereas the Mejlis is seen to be pro-western, and even favoring, to a certain extent, circles linked to the Orange Revolution, the Crimean Tartar Milli Firka ("People's Party"), founded in 2006, has been standing in clear opposition to the Mejlis from the very beginning. Whereas the Mejlis 2013 - 2014 supported the Maidan protests and the putsch, Milli Firka had always been clearly opposed - and in March 2014, had appealed for participation in the referendum on Crimea's status and to vote in favor of integration into Russia. The Mejlis called for a boycott of the referendum and declared Russian integration, illegitimate. Reliable information on the proportion of followers Mejlis and Milli Firka have among the peninsula's 250,000 Crimean Tartars is unavailable. It is clear, however, that a monolithic anti-Russian unity, usually suggested by German media of the Crimean Tartar minority, is non-existent. Whereas Moscow has recognized Crimean Tartar as the third official national language - Kiev has consistently refused - official Russian administrations are repressing anti-Russian circles affiliated with the Mejlis. Jemilev and Chubarov, for example, had been banned for several years from Crimea, which is why they live in Ukraine.

Against Russia

Jemilev's close cooperation with the West's foreign policy establishments, where he has made strong pleas against Crimea being integrated into Russia, may have been what caused Russian repression. A good example is Jemilev's trip to Washington in early April 2014, immediately following Crimea's integration into Russia. The Crimean Tartar leader also had an appearance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he responded to the question of a threat of radicalization on the Crimean peninsula saying that he may "not be able to control younger Tartars and Islamist factions."[4] One of the "Islamist factions" being referred to is the Tartar organization Hizb ut Tahrir, which has sent militia to fight in Syria. When the US press asked if he can imagine "a road back to Ukraine for Crimea," Jemilev ambiguously responded, "everyone talks about the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Where is it?"[5] Among his interventions, also spoke at an informal session of the UN Security Council - boycotted by Russia - and April 4, 2014, held talks with Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the US State Department. He recommended that relations to Crimean Tartars be intensified - for example with scholarships, but also with direct support. The exact nature of Jemilev's plea for "direct support" is unknown.

Partner for EU Rapprochement

Berlin, in particular, maintains close relations to leaders of pro-western Crimean Tartars. The Crimean Tartar's Mejlis, with Refat Chubarov as chair, is a member of the ethnicist organization Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN),[6] sponsored by the federal government, as well as various regional governments in Germany. Another ethnicist organization, the Society for threatened Peoples (SFTP), awarded its "Victor Gollancz Prize" to Mustafa Jemilev in 2005. Erika Steinbach (CDU) - at the time the chair of the German League of Expellees (BdV) - held the laudatory address. The SFTP was one of the organizers of the first "German - Crimean Tartar Dialogue," held in the summer of 2011 in Berlin. Mustafa Jemilev, chair, at the time, and his successor Refat Chubarov were among the Mejlis representatives, who traveled to Berlin for the occasion. Viktor Yanukovych had won the Ukrainian election eighteen months earlier. Berlin was searching for a means for keeping Kiev on its pro-western course. According to one report, the German - Crimean Tartar Dialogue had a double objective: on the one hand, to draw attention to the Crimean Tartars and their living conditions, and, on the other, to "search for partners ..., who, at an international forum ... would discuss the Crimean Tartar issue as an element ... of the rapprochement to the EU structures."[7]

High Level Contacts

In Berlin, numerous officials, including some in senior positions, participated in this debate. The Mejlis delegation held talks not only with parliamentarians of the Bundestag and the chairman of the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, it also met with "activists of half a dozen NGOs," it was reported.[8] The delegation was even received by representatives of the Turkish embassy. Ankara claims to be the "protective power" of Crimean Tartars. The Mejlis delegation also met with Christoph Bergner, at the time, Commissary for Ethnic German Immigrants and National Minorities, who was also responsible for cooperation with the FUEN. The delegation concluded with consultations with representatives of the Foreign Ministry.[9]

The De-Occupation of Crimea

Berlin's seasoned foreign policy contacts, Jemilev and Chubarov, are supportive of the past few days' blockade by the sabotage of electric pylons in Ukraine's Kherson region, and are making sure that electrical power will not be restored. Most recently, they both met with Federica Mogherini, High Representative for the EU's Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. They "discussed sincerely and frankly" with Mogherini about the issues of Crimea's "de-occupation," they subsequently reported. They spoke of the extension of sanctions against Russia, and "peaceful actions, in particular with respect to power supply."[10] At the time of these talks, the Crimean Tartars' autonomous trade blockade was already in full swing, blowing up the power pylons was soon to follow.

For more information on this theme read The Siege of Crimea (I).

[1] See The Siege of Crimea (I).
[2], [3] Katerina Bosko: "Es geht ums Geschäft": Die Krim-Blockade und die Realität der Wirtschaftsbeziehungen mit der Krim nach eineinhalb Jahren Annexion. In: Ukraine-Analysen Nr. 158, 28.10.2015, 5-9.
[4] After Annexation: Assessing Crimea's Future With Mustafa Dzhemilev. 02.04.2014.
[5] Matthew Kaminski: A Crimean Tatar Comes to America. The Wall Street Journal 02.04.2014.
[6] See Hintergrundbericht: Die Föderalistische Union Europäischer Volksgruppen.
[7], [8], [9] Mieste Hotopp-Riecke: Der lange Schatten Stalins über den Stiefkindern Eurasiens. 02.08.2011.
[10] Crimean Tatar leaders met with Federica Mogherini. 09.11.2015.