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MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. Ankara’s continuing support for the extremist organizations of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine is clear evidence its anti-Russian policies remain unchanged, which may be fraught with the risk Moscow may take a still harder line in relations with Turkey, polled experts have told TASS.
The coordinator of what the so-called "civil action for Crimea’s blockade," Lenur Islyamov, last Saturday declared he was creating a new volunteer battalion. This initiative of his, he claimed, enjoyed support from the Turkish Defense Ministry. "On Friday, we will get the first batch of Turkish military uniform. While the Ukrainian Defense Ministry is still sitting on the fence, its Turkish counterpart is already supporting us. We are about to get 250 sets of uniform and boots," Islyamov told the Odessa Crisis Media Centre.
On Tuesday, the Turkish Defense Ministry dismissed reports it provided backing for Crimea’s blockade and the idea of forming a battalion of Crimean Tatars, Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu said. In meantime, on December 18 the very same news agency said the former leader of Crimea’s Tatars, Mustafa Jemilev, had been received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two men reportedly discussed the creation on Ukraine’s border with Crimea of an armed group subordinate to the Mejlis (assembly) of the Crimean Tatar people.
Crimea’s prosecutor, Natalya Poklonskaya, has warned that creation of a volunteer battalion on the border with Crimea, announced by one of the organizers of the peninsula’s blockade, Lenur Islyamov, constitutes a criminal offense. An inquiry is in progress, Poklonskaya warned. Once the evidence has been gathered, it will be handed over to the federal security service FSB. Last October Crimea launched criminal proceedings against Islyamov for organizing the peninsula’s trade blockade.
Deputy chairman of the international affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament (Federation Council), Andrey Klimov, believes that "Ankara’s support for the extremist groups of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine is an attempt to annoy Moscow in retaliation for the trade restrictions imposed on Turkey after its Air Force shot down a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber over Syria."
Even when Crimea was still part of Ukraine, Klimov recalls, Turkish special services did not leave Kiev in peace for a moment and maintained close contact with the non-governmental organizations of Crimean Tatars’ NGOs in attempts to reorient them towards Ankara.
"Turkey has now redoubled its efforts in a bid to enhance its influence on Crimean Tatars, in this way building up pressures on Moscow. Apparently, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fancies himself a successor to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. But Russia has the strength and means to curb these neo-Ottoman ambitions," Klimov told TASS.
He dismissed as futile Ankara’s attempts to extend assistance in forming a volunteer battalion on the border with Crimea. Turkey’s current anti-Russian policies are a "shoot in the foot," he said.
"I know many politicians in Erdogan’s inner circle who don’t like his anti-Russian provocations. Should these continue, Turkey’s ruling class will be doomed to split. The boomerang Erdogan has thrown will certainly come back," Klimov warns.
"I would strongly advise Kiev to stop to think if it really needs Ankara’s doubtful intervention that may cause the emergence of yet another group of saboteurs alongside the already existing extremist organizations. The recent blackout that some saboteurs have staged in Crimea by blowing up several high voltage power line pylons in Ukrainian territory merely discredited the authorities in Kiev. Everybody was able to see that Kiev does not control the situation in the country," Klimov said. He recalled that most of the Crimean Tatars resident in the peninsula were critical of the extremists and slammed the blockade of Crimea as "genocide," Klimov said.
The deputy director of the CIS Countries’ Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, has warned against exaggerating the influence of Lenur Islyamov and Ukrainian parliament member Refat Chubarov, although both enjoy support from both Ankara and Kiev. "After their deportation from Crimea very few Crimean Tatars agreed to follow. Islyamov’s promises he will gather up to 600 men in his volunteer battalion are nothing but a public relations campaign launched in an attempt to get financing from Turkey. As for the combat fatigues and boots of Turkish manufacture Islyamov is allegedly getting from the Turkish Defense Ministry, they are easily available from any retailer selling fishing gear," Zharikhin told TASS.
"In fact, Islyamov and Chubarov are agents on the payroll of the Turkish intelligence service. But both are generals without an army. The Tatars who reside in Ukrainian territory next to Crimea need no extremists. Yet these two will keep trying to foment unrest with Ankara’s support," he warned.
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