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Crimean Tatars not to destabilize peninsula

April 02, 2014, 19:30 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/ The Russian leadership would like all nations living in Crimea - Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars - to enjoy equal rights. President Vladimir Putin pledged that Crimea will have three equal languages and said “all necessary political and legislative decisions should be made to finalize the process of rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatar people”.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, signed agreements to reunify with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

Out of 2,200,000 residents of the Crimean Peninsula, about 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians and some 300,000 are Crimean Tatars.

On Monday, Putin met with Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of Tatarstan, a Russian republic in the Volga Federal District, and said he would give instructions to explore the possibility to legalize settlements of Crimean Tatars on the peninsula, as well as establish a program to develop infrastructure. “I hope, with Tatarstan’s participation,” the Russian president said.

The first compromise step was made the day before: the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people decided to delegate to Crimea’s power bodies two of its representatives who will take the posts of the first deputy chairman of Crimea’s Council of Ministers and the head of the republican committee on nationalities and deported citizens.

The Majlis obliged its representatives to provide weekly reports on the resolution of issues connected with infrastructure development for the Crimean Tatar people.

Crimean Tatars have not given up the idea to hold a national referendum in which they want to gain autonomy.

“The problem is that Crimean Tatars do not have a single area of living, so the people cannot seek national and territorial autonomy. Prior to Crimea’s reunification with Russia, Ukraine’s authorities were not interested in satisfying the Majlis’ ambitions,” Alexander Ignatenko, a member of Russia’s Public Chamber and the president of the Religion and Politics Institute, told ITAR-TASS.

“The Majlis does not yet agree to national and cultural autonomy, although such autonomy has long been tested in Russia and guarantees peoples all their rights,” Ignatenko said.

According to the expert, the Russian leadership and the state and religious figures who have been on business visits to Crimea are pursuing a positive policy on the peninsula.

“I would specially emphasize the role of Tatarstan’s leader Rustam Minnikhanov, who has been to Crimea three times now, and the role of Russian Mufti Council head Ravil Gaynutdin, their balanced position, their ability to speak to people,” Ignatenko said.

“I am sure that Crimean Tatars will not be a destabilizing factor in Crimea. Vladimir Putin guaranteed that all Russian laws on rehabilitation of peoples who suffered from repressions will apply to them. To perform that task, we need funds, we need to give Crimean Tatars land plots, to return religious facilities and much more,” he said.

Without simplifying the problem, the president of the Religion and Politics Institute admitted that there are those among Crimean Tatars who are against rapprochement with Russia, for example, ex-head of the Majlis, lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev, who are ready to argue with Moscow in the United Nations. There also are those who hesitate and those who support integration with Russia. “Hard work is ahead with everyone,” he said.

“Prior to Crimea’s accession to Russia, the Ukrainian authorities did not resolve all issues urgent for the local population, although Crimean Tatars had fought for their rights for decades. They got used to struggling with official Kiev and now, by inertia, they think that they need to behave the same way with Moscow,” the expert said.

“The phobias regarding Russia, implanted by Kiev in the entire Ukrainian population, have played their part. But these phobias do not hold water as Moscow, unlike Kiev, has laid a roadmap regarding Crimean Tatars that offers financing, infrastructure development, representation in power bodies, respect for the people’s language and customs, that is an entire set of practical measures,” the Russian Public Chamber member concluded.

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