In Crimea, Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Supreme Court of the Crimean Republic has outlawed the ‘Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People’ as an extremist group and has banned its activities on the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

The decision was passed on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reports. The court ruling was not final, however, as it can be appealed in one month’s time.

Below are two statements by Crimean Tatars on the banning of the Tatar ‘Mejlis’ organization: by Ruslan Balbek, Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea; and Milli Firka, a Crimean Tatar social and political organization.

The ‘Mejlis’ is the top legislative body [sic] of the Crimean Tatars between major congresses that are called ‘Kurultais’. Founded in 1991, it has a fairly long history, but is still mainly seen as an informal group because its orders only regulate the life of ethnic Crimean Tatars – who account for about 12.5 percent of the peninsula’s population.

Ukrainian Rada deputies Mustafa Dzhemilev (L) and Refat Chubarov (C) joining rally in support of right-wing, road transport blockade of Crimea in 2015 (Maks Vetrov, Sputnik)

Ukrainian Rada deputies Mustafa Dzhemilev (L) and Refat Chubarov (C) joining rally in support of right-wing, road transport blockade of Crimea in 2015 (Maks Vetrov, Sputnik)

The relations between the Crimean authorities and the Mejlis have been strained ever since the republic’s accession into the Russian Federation, but a full-scale conflict developed only in September 2015, after Mejlis leaders Refat Chubarov, Lenur Islyamov and Mustafa Djemilev used the Ukrainian ultranationalist association Right Sector to organize the “food and energy blockade of Crimea.” The radicals stopped trucks carrying food to the Russian exclave from Ukraine and blew up several pylons of the power mains that supplied electricity to the peninsula.

In mid-February, top Crimean prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya asked the Supreme Court of the republic to ban the Mejlis, claiming that law enforcers had collected sufficient proof of the group’s extremist activities. In particular, she mentioned the ties discovered between the Mejlis and terrorist groups such as the Turkish Grey Wolves (Bozkurt).

In mid-April, the prosecutor ordered the suspension of all Mejlis activities on Crimean territory, pending the court decision.

Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea, Natalya Poklonskaya (Sergey Malgavko, Sputnik News)

Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea, Natalya Poklonskaya (Sergey Malgavko, Sputnik News)

On Tuesday, Poklonskaya described the members and leaders of the Mejlis as “puppets in the hands of big Western puppeteers who used the Crimean Tatar people as pawns in their game”. She added that everyone, including the members of the Mejlis, acknowledged this sad truth.

Poklonskaya called the Tuesday court ruling well-founded, adding that it was aimed at securing stability, peace and order in the Russian Federation. She also noted that after the court decision comes into force, any actions by Mejlis members or their representatives on Russian territory would be considered unlawful and such people would be brought to justice.

Defense attorney Djemil Temishev, who represented the Mejlis in the Crimean court, told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

Crimean Tatars react to the banning of the Mejlis organization:

*  From the official Facebook page of Ruslan Balbek, Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea:

Today’s court decision recognizing the Mejlis as an extremist organization and banning its activities on the Crimean peninsula is a finishing shot against the ‘fathers of the Crimean Tatar nation’,  M. Dzhemilev and R. Chubarov, as well as their ‘stepson’, L. Islyamov [a Crimean  Tatar media magnate]…

The sheep’s clothing which the wolves have worn for the past 24 years has been stripped away. Now we will see them run to the European Union and describe on their knees the supposed atrocities taking place against Tatars in Crimea. As usual, they will ask for money to fight the supposed “offenses” committed by the Russian Federation.

From an interview with Aleksei Grishin of the Religion and Society analytical center in Russia, re-published by Millli Firka on April 26, [corrected citing of source–New Cold] a Crimean social and political organization, responding to an April 21 statement of the U.S State Department: 

The Mejlis was never a representative body of the Crimean Tatars. No one ever recognized it as their sole, representative body. This organization as well as Kurultai [an assembly of Crimean Tatar organizations] were never officially registered. In parallel to the Mejlis and Kurultai were other movements of the Crimean Tatar people, for example, Milli Firka, Qırım Birligi, The Public Council of the Crimean Tatar People, and Qırım.

So why does the U.S. recognize only one organization of the Crimean Tatars and pay no attention to others? This is, to put it mildly, incomprehensible – at least to those who don’t understand the real situation. But the disregard of other Tatar organizations by the U.S. is because they took part in the process of joining Crimea to Russia. They are sincerely participating in the affairs of Russia in relation to the Tatar people. The Mejlis only destabilizes the situation in Crimea and relations between the West and Russia. That is why it is supported by the US. This is a selective approach.

Read also:

U.S. State department statement on banning of Mejlis organization, April 21, 2016

Tatar legislature [sic] is banned in Crimea, New York Times, April 26, 2016

Crimean Tatars are returning home from shattered Ukraine; their claimed numbers were always grossly exaggerated, three news articles compiled on New Cold, Sept 5, 2015


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