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Head of Crimean Tatars public organization criticizes Ukraine’s policy

September 19, 2015, 8:30 UTC+3 GENEVA
Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great
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GENEVA, September 19. /TASS/. The Crimean Tatar people got an opportunity to restore its usurped rights only after the March 2014 referendum when Crimea reunified with Russia, chairman of Crimean public organization Milli Firka (People’s Party) Vasvi Abduraimov said Friday in the UN Office in Geneva.

Speaking at an information meeting of nongovernmental organizations on the topic of rights and freedoms violations in Ukraine, which took place on the sidelines of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Abduraimov recalled that in early 1990s Russia adopted laws on exoneration of repressed peoples and victims of political repressions.

But during the 23-year-stay as part of Ukraine, Crimean Tatars "were unable to use opportunities granted by Russian laws." "And only after March 2014, we got all opportunities for restoration of all usurped rights as an ethnic community," he said.

"Ukraine officially declared itself a unitary state and in all possible ways neutralized and universalized ethnic and religious communities for its so-called ‘Ukrainianness’," Abduraimov said.

"The apotheosis of that policy was the statement by President Viktor Yushchenko that the state doctrine is to build one country, one nation with one language and one faith," he said. "Now everyone sees what that mindless policy of universalization, when fundamental human rights are infringed upon, has led to."

"Kiev-style universalization, with total corruption of officials at all levels, when not law and the people rule but 20 oligarchs, could not but lead to a disaster, and it happened," Abduraimov said.

He added that "the Ukrainian state currently only exists de jure, and not de facto."

The Milli Firka chairman underscored that in 1954 Crimea was handed from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic "absolutely illegally", as Crimean Tatars in that period "were rightless in exile." "And no one then asked us or Crimean residents whether they want Crimea to be handed to Ukraine," he said.

Abduraimov said the rights of all Crimean residents are now violated by Western countries who imposed restrictions for the peninsula which in particular relate to business, foreign trips and tourism.

Due to those restrictions, Crimeans "are unable to conduct economic activity in a normal way." In a conversation with a TASS correspondent, Abduraimov assessed Western sanctions as "the clearest manifestation of a double standards policy." "Declaring sanctions against the policy of the Russian Federation, they actually tie the hands and feet of ordinary people, preventing them from moving freely and doing business," he said.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.

According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.

Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems has been actively underway since Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation.

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