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Experts: Crimean Tatar activists’ threats to blockade Crimea nothing but PR campaign

September 17, 2015, 19:15 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Crimean Tatars at Turetsky Val crossing point on the Russian-Ukrainian border in May 2014

Crimean Tatars at Turetsky Val crossing point on the Russian-Ukrainian border in May 2014

© ITAR-TASS/Alexey Pavlishak

MOSCOW, September 17. /TASS/. Recent threats to "blockade" Crimea, uttered by Ukrainian legislators Refat Chubarov and Mustafa Dzhemilev, who position themselves as heads of the Mejlis (assembly) of the Crimean Tatar people in Ukraine, are nothing but a PR campaign that first thing harms Ukraine, and not Crimea, Russian experts say, adding both men are desperate to persuade Kiev they still enjoy authority at a time when their popularity with the Crimean Tatars has been dwindling.

Chubarov and Dzhemilev have declared that their followers will soon appear on all roads leading to Crimea to stop trucks carrying foods to Ukrainian supermarket chains in the peninsula, adding that the picketing campaign would be a long-term one.

Ukraine’s extremist group Right Sector has said it would provide support for the campaign. Earlier, Dzhemilev said he had discussed the Crimean Tatars’ idea of blocking the administrative border between Ukraine and Crimea with Ukraine’s president and prime minister to have allegedly obtained approval for staging the action. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has promised the protesters will enjoy police protection. At the same time the activists have not yet received official permission to block the roads.

Both Dzhemilev and Chubarov made a very aggressive response to Crimea’s re-unification with Russia. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars has never enjoyed official registration in Ukraine, because its Charter contained clauses contradicting the Ukrainian Constitution. The inter-regional conference of the non-governmental movement Crimea, which brought together more than 200 delegates from 20 non-governmental organizations of Crimean Tatars, declared that Dzhemilev’s and Chubarov’s activities were destructive and unacceptable.

The Crimean authorities have slammed the plans for a road blockade as a destructive step and promised they were prepared to provide alternatives for the import of Ukrainian products. They are certain the blockade, should it ever be established, will have no considerable effect.

"The plan on the Ukrainian side looks not like a real plan but as an information warfare tool," the portal Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press) quotes Professor Andrey Manoilo, of the Moscow State University’s political sciences department as saying. "When Crimea reunited with Russia, Dzhemilev found himself on the sidelines, largely due to the stance he had preferred to take. These days he is being abandoned even by former supporters, who remained on his side at the early phases. But the regime in Kiev does need provocateurs like this. This explains why he has been trying to emphasize his importance and role and voicing underground sabotage and blockade threats.

He is certain that the blockade will hit the Ukrainian producers first thing. "The Ukrainians bring their produce to Crimea and market it there at rather high prices to garner hefty profits from this business," he said.

The dean of the sociology and political sciences department at the University of Finance, Aleksandr Shatilov, does not believe a prolonged blockade of Crimea is possible. "Everything that Dzhemilev has been saying should be taken with a large pinch of salt. At the moment he is barred from his electorate. His status is uncertain, so he is desperate to address the public with repeated reminders to ensure he is not forgotten altogether. In the meantime, the Crimean Tatars are witnessing the rise of new leaders, while Chubarov and Dzhemilev are both discarded figures."

"Ukrainian legislators Dzhemilev and Chubarov throughout the years Crimea remained inside independent Ukraine were parasitizing on the interests of their people. They literally made gains on people’s misfortunes. That they have now been pushed to the sidelines is their own choice," the director of the CIS Studies Institute, Konstantin Zatulin, told TASS. "They are determined to invigorate interest towards their personalities and, of course, they have met with support from Ukraine’s current authorities. They are now trying to play the Crimean Tatar card."

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