Kyiv, 22 March 2014 – Mustafa Cemilev, one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatars, said: “It’s good that the Verkhovna Rada has passed the resolution to finally recognize the Crimean Tatars as the indigenous people of Crimea, however it’s a shame that it was done so late. If the resolution had been passed earlier, we could have prevented the Black Sea Fleet Agreement from being concluded and extended. The long-awaited bill to restore the rights the people who were deported for national reasons is scheduled to be reviewed by the Parliament on Tuesday, March 25th. Of course, it seems a little late to pass this law, but we hope that the occupation regime will not last long and the law will take effect.”
Mustafa Cemilev also commented on the resolution passed by the Crimean Parliament which denies entry to Crimea to over 200 members of the Ukrainian and Crimean parliaments who voted for the dismissal of the Crimean Verkhovna Rada. “The list of people is still unknown but the very fact of its existence bewilders me. How can the authorities prevent me from arriving to Crimea? Do they have any idea what will happen in Crimea then?”
Answering a question about the reaction of Crimean Tatars in case of compulsory replacement of Ukrainian passports with Russian ones, Mustafa Cemilev said: “It is very hard to say how the Crimean citizens who don’t support the change should behave. For instance, people who lived in the territories occupied by fascist Germany were forced to obtain Ausweis ID’s to survive. I do not rule out the possibility that Russian passports, as a sort of an Ausweis, will now be required in order to remain in Crimea. By the way, the Ukrainian legislation envisions a strict procedure for withdrawal from citizenship, which requires a person to come and clearly express such an intention. If a person living in the occupied territory is forced to obtain a new Russian passport, the citizenship is not revoked but temporarily suspended.”
Mustafa Cemilev also commented on his recent meeting with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “We really did discuss the current situation since Turkey is concerned about Crimea’s fate for more than just historical reasons – there are 10 times as many Crimean Tatars in Turkey than there are in Crimea. However, I wouldn’t want to talk about the agreements reached – let it be a surprise for the Crimean occupation authorities. Let me just say that Mr. Erdoğan had a talk with Mr. Putin during which he said that Turkey was keeping a close eye on the situation in Crimea and if anything should happen the Turkish people would not let the government remain a mere observer.”
“According to the UNHCR reports, from 9 to 17 March, about a thousand people were observed moving to the Kherson region, most of them Crimean Tatars. However, this may be explained by natural migration as approximately 6 to 7 thousand Crimean Tatars reside in the Kherson region. There is no mass relocation tendency – we did not spend more than 50 years in exile to run away at the first threat,” said Mr. Cemilev.
Mustafa Cemilev is a Ukrainian politician, one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar national movement, Head of Majlis of the Crimean Tatars (in 1991-2013), People’s Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on behalf of the ‘Batkivshchyna’ Party.