International Committee for Crimea
ICC, P.O. Box 15078, Washington, DC 20003.
ICC News Digest No. 7 (Fall 2006)
Selections from Monitoring of Ukrainian Mass Media (Russian and Ukrainian)
Turkey will continue to support Crimean Tatars
On Aug 21-27 a Crimean Tatar delegation headed by Mustafa Jemilev and including Anatolii Gritsenko, Remzi Ilyasov and Ilmi Umerov visited Kastamonu (Turkey) and met with the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and ministers of trade, international development and tourism and political party leaders. Ahmet Ihsan Kirimli and Celal Icten also participated in the meetings.
A.Gritsenko (Speaker of the Crimean Parliament) invited the Turkish side to take active part in large-scale investment projects in Crimea. Mustafa Jemilev in his speech thanked Turkey for successfully completing the "1,000 houses" project in Crimea, noting that the housing problem remained one of the most pressing. He asked the Prime Minister Erdogan to continue this program, possibly increasing the expense per house purchase from the current 5,000 USD to 14,000 USD. Erdogan assured that Turkey will continue to support the Crimean Tatars' return to Crimea and suggested that instead of making payments for individual housing constructing apartment buildings would be better. Gritsenko, in response, commented that if Turkey would assist with housing construction, the Crimean government could provide the land plots. Erdogan also expressed his concern regarding the chauvinistic attacks on the Crimean Tatars demanding the removal of the market from the holy area in Bakhchisaray. Gritsenko assured him that according to the protocol signed, the market would be moved within a month and supported the suggestion by Mustafa Jemilev that Turkey could help with constructing a historical complex on that spot. The meeting ended with an agreement to organize a visit by a Turkish delegation to Crimea to review the issues discussed. (Based on Mejlis-Inform bulletin, by Gulnara Useinova).
National Security and Defense Council considers Crimean issues
National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine reviewed the implementation of the President's decrees on Crimea. According to Dmitrii Tabachnik, Deputy Prime-Minister of Ukraine, one of the measures discussed was the need "for a package of laws, which will allow to determine the status of the deported peoples... and, most importantly, synchronize the actions of the central government and the executive government in Crimea." Tabachnik said that the government will work on the State program for a stable socio-economic development of the Autonomy until 2017. The NSDC also discussed the situation with the land seizures, "which has become one of the main destabilizing factors in Crimea."
Yushchenko on Crimea: "An exceptionally weak governance"
According to Yushchenko, Crimea is "subject to extraordinary external influence." He leveled a strong criticism of the Crimean government for not implementing Presidential decrees, not seeking ways to meet the pressing needs of the Crimean Tatars by prudently using available resources. There is enough land in Crimea for the needs of the deported, he said. That the majority of land seizures and illegal privatizations are not conducted by the Crimean Tatars underlines this fact.
Responses to the NSDC
Den, #159, 21 September 2006
Crimean political scientists Oleksandr Formanchuk and Volodymir Prytula were asked to comment on the recent NSDC initiatives. They stated that they were not optimistic about a positive outcome of the NSDC directives relating to the Crimean and Crimean Tatar situation and that Kyiv's attention to the problems was "hopelessly late." They added that Kyiv had a poor understanding of the Crimean Tatar problems.
Krymskaya Pravda, #173, 22 September 2006
Sergei Tsekov, Head of the Russian Community of Crimea and Deputy Speaker of the Crimean Parliament, commented on Yushchenko's NSDC statements, blamed Kyiv for all the problems in Crimea mentioned by Yushchenko. According to Tsekov, Kyiv applied double standards by "continuing a constant dialog with the [illegal] Mejlis, while not once meeting with such [legal] organizations as the Russian Community."
Krymska Svitlytsya, #39, 22 September 2006
Krymska Svitlytsya published an article on how state-owned vine-producing factories were circumventing the land privatization laws by creating "gardening cooperatives" and allocating large land plots to such cooperatives. Those land plots were later bought out by outsiders. Henadiy Moskal asked the Ministry of Agrarian Policy to forbid the practice.
Another attack on the Mejlis building
On September 16, a group of unidentified men attacked the building of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis on Shmidta Street in Simferopol. Mejlis Chairman Mustafa Jemilev and his deputy Remzi Ilyasov were in the building at the time. At 19.52 the unidentified men opened the door of the Mejlis building and threw in a hand-made grenade. The building was filled with smoke. Lenara Adjiasanova, a Mejlis employee, attempted but was unable to extinguish the burning device. She managed to throw it out of the building. Mejlis's security cameras recorded a large group (10) of young men with hoods over their heads passing the building. Two of them later returned with a package which they lit up and threw in through the entry door. Mejlis denounced the act as a "planned action targeting to destabilize the situation in Crimea." (Based on Mejlis-Inform Bulletin by Gulnara Useinova.)
The land question at a critical stage
Henadiy Moskal, President Yushchenko's Representative to Crimea commented on the rapidly deteriorating state of land affairs on the peninsula. 8,197 public protest actions relating to the land issues took place in Crimea in 2006, a four-fold increase over 2005. Massive land seizures remind of the 1991-92 years of the Crimean Tatars' return to Crimea. The land captured is often nominally owned or rented by someone, which leads to physical contacts between the parties. Furthermore, land seizures are not limited to Crimean Tatars only - the Slavic population started land grabs as well. In September over 1,000 protesters scattered over 50 sites were staging actions in Simferopol, Sudak, Yalta, Alushta, Feodosia, and Bakhchisaray. Lack of reliable information on who would be eligible to receive a free land plot aggravates the situation, leading to misuse of the land as well as mutual accusations and conflicts, including among the Crimean Tatars. Moskal stated that he will apply to the National Security and Defense Council to take the land issue under control.
Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada approves the first reading the law bringing criminal responsibility for "unlawful grab of a land plot"
The proposed law was sponsored by Leonid Grach, a communist and former Speaker of the Crimean Parliament. The draft law envisions 6 months to 1 year or a penalty of 100 to 250 minimum salaries for an illegal land grab. In planned group seizures participants may face 3 to 5 years in jail, or up to 3 years for organizing or participating in a group land grab. The draft law was approved by 331 out of 414 people's deputies present at the session.
Stick without a carrot
In an article about the proposed new law against the land seizures, Valentina Samar reports that although less than a third of all land grabs in Crimea are conducted by the Crimean Tatars, the new law will be directed first and foremost to them. The Mejlis representatives pointed out that Crimean Tatars usually seize land that was unlawfully privatized and handed over to a private owner by corrupt officials. Refat Chubarov was quoted saying that the Ukrainian politicians who often are the owners of expensive land plots in Crimea, and who without resolving the land needs of the Crimean Tatars, "simply want to block the Crimean Tatar resettlement in Crimea." According to Emine Avamileva, head of Mejlis's legal department, often the culprit were local governments which blocked requests for land plots for years, while quietly distributing land to their own people. However, there was not a single case of a legal action against such perpetrators. Victor Shemchuk, the recently appointed Crimean chief prosecutor, while approving of harder measures against illegal land seizures, warned the local governments not to try to resolve a complex and long-lasting conflicts by liberally applying the new law. Refat Chubarov also pointed out that the new law will allow the current land owners who received the land by circumventing the law to protect themselves against seizures by Crimean Tatars.
Questioning whether the new law would stop the Crimean Tatar actions, Valentina Samar wrote that the history of the Crimean Tatar return to Crimea and of their "land returns" tells us otherwise. All previous attempts to apply force against them proved futile. She also noted that it should be openly stated that in many cases Crimean Tatar land grabs have commercial underpinnings, and often the land received is sold at a profit. In her opinion, Mejlis should distinguish and clarify the differences between those who act out of a need, and those for whom land is a business. On the other hand, it is also clear that the government, which often accuses Crimean Tatars of selling land on the black market, does nothing to make it more transparent, as it is not the Crimean Tatars who primarily fuel such a market. A uniform electronic land registry could help tremendously, but Samar noted, none other than Leonid Grach during his position as Speaker was behind the liquidation of such a land registry then under construction.
Kurultay-Rukh faction on the new law about criminal prosecution of land seizures
At a meeting with the journalists, Remzi Ilyasov, Raet Settarov, Amedjit Suleymanov and Smail Temindarov stated that the Crimean Tatar faction boycotted the vote on this topic in the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea. In response to a question, Remzi Ilyasov said he was hoping that there would not be forceful demolitions of the Crimean Tatar buildings and criminal prosecutions against them, and that all issues "would be discussed at round tables". Raet Settarov said he supported bringing order to the land issue, but not only Crimean Tatars should be affected. Land was often seized by persons who were not even Ukrainian citizens, and Crimean Tatars did not want to remain the silent observers to such actions in their own land.
Mejlis pressures the local government
Natalia Kiseleva from the anti-Tatar Krymskoe Vremya newspaper complains about a protocol signed by the head of Bakhchisaray district state administration Ilmi Umerov, chairman of the district council Alexander Tarianek, and chairman of Bakhchisaray Mejlis Ahtem Chigoz that asks the head of the Vilino district to provide land to Crimean Tatars (list provided by the local Mejlis) "to avoid land seizures and protest actions". Kiseleva sites her disbelief that such illegal organization as Mejlis, aided by two state officials, would dictate rules to the Vilino district official.
Protest called off
Viktro Khomenko reports that Crimean Tatars gave up on one of the land seizures on the Simferopol-Feodosiya (Ak Mescit-Kefe) road. After more than an eight-month long stand-off with the government, confrontation was ended by the protesters in a move that they call "Step towards the government." Now they expect a corresponding move from the government. The protesters promised to return to the 165-hectar field "if the government does not fulfill its promises." They plan to build 700-800 buildings in the field and call it Hoshkeldi-2. There are eight more large-scale protest actions in which both Tatars and Slavs participate.
The land issue, cont'd
Remzi Ilyasov, MP, held a press conference in Simferopol, explaining how the government is working on resolving the land issue in Crimea by coordinating the land distributions in Simferopol, visiting the protest sites, and taking steps to provide land plots in an organized fashion. Leila Alaidinova from the Golos Kryma, while taking note of the positive developments, writes: " if all is well, then why the Crimean police is sending a letter to Mustafa Jemilev threatening personal responsibility if Mejlis obstructs the liquidation of the protest sites."
Pilunskii wants to become opposition
Leonid Pilunskii, Head of the Crimean section of the People's Rukh of Ukraine (RUH) and deputy chairman of the Kurultay-Rukh faction in the Crimean Verkhovna Rada believes that Kurultay-Rukh should become an opposition faction and leave the government positions, following the lead of the Nasha Ukraina in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada. However, Pilunskii noted that only Kurultay could take the decision to withdraw Crimean Tatars from the Crimean government. There are 8 deputies in the Kurultay-Rukh, including the Chairman Remzi Ilyasov; his Deputy Leonid Pilunskii; Deputy Speaker Aziz Abdullayev; Raet Settarov, Minister of labor and social policy; Head of the Committee on Nationalities and Deported Peoples; Server Saliyev; Abmidjit Suleymanov; Shevket Kaybullayev; and Smail Temindarov.
Crimean Tatar opposition tries a new approach
According to a report by Shakir Mehmet, representatives from Crimean Tatar NGOs Azatlyk, Namus, Koydeshler and Cherkez-Kermen gathered in Simferopol to discuss the issue of restitution. The representatives took a further step and wrote an "Appeal" to the Council of Europe, UN and other international organizations. The Mejlis criticized their activities as not being coordinated and approved by the Kurultay, and in Sudak it stopped the collection of signatures under the "Appeal."
Crimean Tatar Emigration: End of the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries
Eldar Seydamet published an essay in the Golos Kryma describing the Crimean Tatar emigration in the waves of 1783-1800, 1874, 1883 and 1901-1902. According to some researchers, more than 1.8 million residents emigrated to the Ottoman empire between 1783 and 1917. Main reasons for the emigration were first the rapidly deteriorating economic situation of Crimean Tatars after the annexation of Crimea by Russia; later the introduction of compulsory military service for young Crimean Tatars; military and criminal repression against the Crimean Tatars; and rumors of forthcoming forced Christianization of the Muslim population on the peninsula. Other rumors of good treatment and cheap land for the emigrants in the Ottoman lands also had an effect. The Russian government, after watching the first groups leave, attempted to take the emigration under strict control and prevent depopulation of Crimea, but to little effect. Crimean Tatars continued to leave en mass. This mass emigration had profound effect on the Crimean Tatar identity, played role in the formation of Crimean Tatar intelligentsia and the emergence of the young Crimean Tatar nationalists who opposed it.
Stand-off in Golubinka
Confrontation continues in Golubinka (Fotisala) between the Christian community, wanting to build a church on the Kylse-Bair hill and the Crimean Tatar community, insisting that the hill is a place of a Muslim shrine. A. Gritsenko, Speaker of the Crimean Parliament, organized a meeting in Golubinka and invited the mufti and the chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in an attempt to find a solution to this pending problem. The participants called on the communities to be tolerant of the needs of each other, but the meeting adjourned without arriving at a solution. Gritsenko suggested that the discussion will continue in the Crimean Parliament with all interested parties present.
Uspenskii Monastery in Bakhchisaray may become another "hot spot"
Aleksandr Mashenko reports on the conflict in Bakhchisaray that involves the site where the Crimean Tatar Zinjirli Medrese neighbors the Russian Uspenskii Monastery. The monastery authorities intend to start construction on the land that would block access to Zinjirli Medrese. The Bakhchisaray Mejlis and the local Tatar community object to the construction. Krymskoye Vremya complains that Henadiy Moskal, the Representative of the President in Crimea, puts pressure on the Crimean government to resolve the issue in Crimean Tatar favor, and accuses Moskal of generally adopting a pro-Tatar stand. The paper quotes him saying that "Tatars are the main stabilizing factor in Crimea that does not allow Crimea to turn into a Kosovo or Dniester."
OSCE Commissioner visits Crimea
Leila Aliadinova reported on the visit of High Commissioner for National Minorities Rolf Ekeus on 25 October and his meeting with Henadiy Moskal, Yushchenko's Representative to Crimea. Moskal in detail explained the problems with the Crimean Tatar resettlement, indicated areas where the assistance of donor countries could make a difference and added that a law on the rights of the deported people could improve the situation greatly. The High Commissioner's speech was disappointing, according to Aliadinova. The donor countries could not provide financial help, all that the deported people could expect would be training sessions.
Chairman of the State Committee on the Nationalities and Migration visits Crimea
One year after his appointment to the State Commission on the Nationalities and Migration, Sergey Rudyk visited Crimea and met with the heads of the government and the Parliament of the Autonomy. According to Rudyk, the State Committee's main mandate was to implement the state policy of nationalities, protect the rights of the national minorities and returning deportees in Ukraine. He said he was worried about the decrease in funds for the resettlement of Crimean Tatars from 82 million to 44 million HRN (approx. 10 million USD), but said he was hoping the funds would increase again. He added that Nasha Ukraina and the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and National Minorities were the principal supporters of higher funding. He also said he was in favor of adopting a state law on the protection of the rights of deported peoples.
Main topic of the forthcoming Kurultay - new regulation on the elections of its members
Leila Aliadinova reports in the Golos Kryma that the main topic of the Kurultay that will convene on December 22-24 will be a new regulation on the elections of its members. Several groups are preparing draft proposals that envision direct or proportional two-stage elections of Kurultay members. According to Refat Chubarov, direct elections of the Kurultay members could turn out to be expensive, requiring approximately 1.5 million HRN to conduct. Mustafa Jemilev, commenting on the debates, noted that the electoral reform will be high on the agenda of the forthcoming Kurultay. He also said that Kurultay would review the activities of some of the Mejlis members and Kurultay deputies who violated the decisions of Kurultay. Such deputies could not be members of Mejlis he said.
On the development of political conflict in Crimea
Political analyst Volodymyr Prytula comments on the increasing concentration of power in the hands of the Party of Regions in Crimea, sometimes at the expense of its allies, and on the growing conflict between Henadiy Moskal, the Representative of the President, and the Party of Regions dominated Parliament and Government of the Autonomy. Prytula thinks that the Party of Regions could attempt to resolve the conflict by persuading Yushchenko to call Moskal off to a lucrative position in Kyiv and appointing a less conflict-prone Representative to Crimea. However, Prytula continues, as the roots of the conflict lie much deeper than personalities - in the continuing redistribution of the economic resources among the political elite - changing the personalities would be unlikely to resolve the Crimean tensions.
According to a report by Mykola Semena, Refat Chubarov believes that the political conflict in Crimea stems from the competition between the political parties, which control different branches of power and have different weights in the regional bodies. Formally, the local governances should implement the directives of the central government. In reality, however, the local governments dominated by one or the other political party, implement only those directives which their party finds attractive, while entirely blocking the decisions which are not. According to Chubarov, the Party of the Regions at the moment perceives itself "in charge" and issues directives to the local governments instead of organizing the directives in the official state bodies and letting them to be interpreted for the local governments. As the result, some decisions that are not in the interest of the Party of the Regions such as certain directives regarding Crimean Tatars become outright blocked.
Translated into English by Kemal Seitveliev.
Issued: 20 December 2006
For other issues of the News Digest, see: ICC News Digest Series