International community failed to react to Russian occupation in Crimea: Leader of Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev

Crimean Tatars
Canan Sarıtepe
17 March 2021, 12:15
Canan Sarıtepe
17 March 2021, 12:15

International society did not respond to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea as expected, Crimean Tatar Turks suffer from oppression the most on the peninsula, according to Mustafa Dzhemilev.

National leader of the Crimean Tatar people and Member of the Ukrainian Parliament Mustafa Dzhemilev made the corresponding statement in an interview with Turkey's Anadolu Agency on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia.

“I thought the reaction of the world was going to be different, it had to be compelling but unfortunately it wasn’t,” Dzhemilev said.

"I thought it would be same as what happened in Georgia"

The leader said he did not think the annexation would last for seven years and that the situation would be a replication of previously tried in Georgia.

"I did not believe that was possible in the 21st century - another country is invading your country with its tanks and, moreover, annexing your lands to its territory. I thought they would create a puppet republic here as they had done in Georgia in 2008."

Georgia lost control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions after a five-day war with Russia, and Russia later recognized both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Oppression on Crimean Tatar Turks ongoing

Noting that Crimean Tatar Turks were in favour of the integrity of Ukraine then, Dzhemilev said they boycotted the referendum.

"For this reason, the occupiers showed the most oppression to Crimean Tatar Turks. There are around 120 remanded in prisons, 75% of them are Crimean Tatars, but our population is only 13% of Crimea. 95% of house raids were conducted in houses of Crimean Tatars, 85-90% of those who were kidnapped and killed were Crimean Tatars."

Russians would never agree with Tatars, Dzhemilev noted, stressing that they adopted a policy to “force them to leave.”

“They did not load them in wagons carrying animals and send them to Siberia as in 1944 because we are in the 21st century, but they are applying the policy after the 1783 occupation. Such pressures were present then, and the majority of our people migrated to the Ottoman lands, especially after the Crimean war,” he said.

According to estimates, he added, there are around three to five million Crimean Tatar Turks living in Turkey.

Russia placed a million of its citizens in Crimea

The Crimean Tatar leader said that Russia brought a large number of foreign people to Crimea.

“According to official statements of Russians, 205,000 people came [to Crimea], to us, 600,000, while our cognates in Crimea say the number is nearly 1 million.”

He stressed that this was a policy of Russia, and added that even though Russia would need to leave Crimea in the future, their people would stay there.

According to him, Russia is bringing its people to influence Ukraine’s policy. Ukrainian MP also urged Ukraine to take necessary decisions in the parliament to prevent such influences.

"Those people should not be given Ukrainian citizenship and should be punished for illegally crossing the borders before they return to their country."

Russia becoming North Korea

Indicating that international sanctions are effective yet not enough, Dzhemilev said, “I went to Brussels for a NATO meeting after speaking to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in March 2014. They [the NATO officials] said they would impose sanctions and that Crimea would certainly be free.”

He recalled that he was told the annexation would not last long after sanctions, but it has been seven years.

Dzhemilev said the illegal annexation has brought great harm to Russia both economically and in terms of prestige and added that Russia is returning to North Korea.

“The Russian Federation is slowly becoming a North Korea. Russia is not being invited to any platform anymore."

According to Dzhemilev, the world has understood the situation however, unfortunately, the required actions had not done.

He said that they [Crimean Tatars] do not expect support from the "whole world" as some countries have ties with Russia for gas and oil supply, and some regimes depend on Russia for their existence.

“On March 27, 2014, a very right decision [support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine] was taken at the UN General Assembly with the participation of 100 countries,” he said.

Turkey’s support for Crimean Platform

Dzhemilev informed that, throughout the year, several measures would be taken within the Crimean Platform initiative, a part of Ukraine’s strategy of de-occupation of Crimea.

“There are several parts of Ukraine that are under occupation, 20,000 square-kilometer [7,722-square-mile] Donbas and 26,000-square-km [10,038-sq-mi] Crimea,” he reminded.

He said invitations for the Crimean Platform were sent to some 114 countries to discuss the situation, while the EU, Canada, the UK, and the US voiced support for Crimea.

He recalled that when he came to Turkey with a delegation accompanying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last October, a joint declaration was issued following Zelensky's meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Turkey said it supports the Crimean platform 100% and that it would attend the platform. We are grateful for that,” Dzhemilev said.

The MP stressed that the platform would serve to bring the issue to the world agenda, but the struggle would continue no matter the initiative succeeded or not. 

Self-governing body 'Mejlis' is banned in Crimea

Mr Dzhemilev and the President of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (Crimean Tatar's self-governing body) Refat Cubarov were banned from entering the peninsula after the occupation.

The Crimean Tatar leader stressed that Mejlis was branded an "extremist organization" and banned from operating in the peninsula.

"Some 2,500 Crimean Tatars who had direct ties to the Mejlis, and others who had relations with it, were considered members of the 'extremist' organization."

Due to pressure from the Russian occupation administration, thousands of Crimean Tatars had to leave the peninsula, Dzhemilev said.

"Detentions of Crimean Tatars and raids into their homes, mosques, and kindergartens continue on charges of being members of a 'terrorist' organization," Mustafa Dzhemilev concluded.