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Crimea Bans Another Tatar Leader

Flimsy ‘extremism’ accusations fuel repression of the peninsula’s indigenous people.

by Halya Coynash 9 July 2014

For the second time since Russia annexed Crimea in March, the authorities have banned entry to a prominent Crimean Tatar leader over alleged “extremism.”  Despite the absurdity of the charges and impossibility of lodging appeals against them, there has been no public reaction from the EU or United States, nor from international human rights organizations. If Russia’s occupation regime was trying to avoid accountability, it looks as if it needn’t have bothered.


As reported, Refat Chubarov, head of the Mejlis, or representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, was stopped from returning to Crimea on 5 July.  He had been attending a meeting of the Mejlis held exceptionally in mainland Ukraine to enable Mustafa Dzhemilev to attend.  Dzhemilev, a veteran Crimean Tatar leader and Chubarov’s predecessor in the Mejlis, has been banned from Crimea since late April. 

Rufat Chubarov at a press briefing in mid-March. Image from a video from the website of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People.


In a statement issued on 7 July, the Mejlis Presidium notes that Chubarov was detained at passport control, and that the Crimean prosecutor, Natalya Poklonskaya, then appeared and read Chubarov a prosecutor’s warning claiming that his activities fall under the Russian Law on Extremism. She ignored his legitimate demand to be given the document in Crimean Tatar or Ukrainian and stated only that he had three days in which to lodge an appeal with the courts against the document. She did not, however, leave a copy of her opus in any language, thus rendering an appeal impossible. It seems clear from the video that Chubarov’s “extremism” is linked with his – and the Mejlis’ – position on self-determination for the Crimean Tatars. For both Chubarov and Dzhemilev, Crimea and its indigenous Crimean Tatar people are irrevocably part of Ukraine. 


Chubarov’s passport was not returned to him and as they stood waiting, a van used for transporting detainees appeared, and armed men in military uniform began amassing. A little later, some men in civilian clothes appeared, with some of them identifying themselves as FSB [Russian Security Service] officers. In their presence Chubarov was read “notification of a ban on entry to the Russian Federation” for five years. The document was signed by the senior border guard officer on duty, M. Sirotkin, but does not have an official stamp.


Mustafa Dzhemilev

The same tactic was used when banning Dzhemilev.  The scrap of paper handed to Dzhemilev on 22 April enabled Russian President Vladimir Putin and various officials to deny the ban yet Dzhemilev was prevented from flying to Simferopol on 1 May and then stopped at the border the following morning.  



The Mejlis considers both these bans as demonstrating the regime’s crackdown on dissenting assessments of what is happening in Crimea. It calls on all Crimean Tatars to rally around the Mejlis. It also asks human rights organizations to do all in their power to prevent systemic and inhuman discrimination against the Crimean Tatars in their homeland.


How much international groups can do is not clear, but silence is unacceptable. 


There was only one possible reaction to the overt violation of Chubarov’s rights and affront to the Crimean Tatar people. This was given immediately by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, which called the move “the result of hatred and the chauvinistic policy the Russian Federation, following Stalin’s tradition, has been carrying out with respect to the Crimean Tatar people since the beginning of the armed occupation and annexation of Crimea.” It said Crimea is still part of Ukraine and Chubarov’s banning is illegal. Those sentiments were echoed within the next three days by Human Rights Ombudsman Valeria Lutkovska, the special government envoy on ethnopolitics, Gennady Druzenko, and the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine. Turkey, which counts the Crimean Tatars as ethnic kin, has also formally protested the ban.


There has not been a word of public protest from Western governments. That is not because they are focusing on proper sanctions over Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine. Despite apparently unequivocal warnings that third-level sanctions would be imposed, a meeting of EU ambassadors on 7 July is reported to have only agreed to add some low-level names to the blacklist. Various states, “led by France and Germany want to make sure Russia is kept on board in diplomatic efforts,” according to one report.


Diplomatic efforts in 1938 have long been known by another name. The EU has levers it could apply. Failure to do so, and silence when Russia resorts to overt repression of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, are about collaboration, not diplomacy. 


Halya Coynash is a journalist and member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on whose website a version of this commentary originally appeared.



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