Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Pro-Russian Separatism Rises In Crimea As Ukraine's Crisis Unfolds

Crimean parliament deputy and pro-Russian separatist Sergei Shuvainikov in his office in Simferopol.
Crimean parliament deputy and pro-Russian separatist Sergei Shuvainikov in his office in Simferopol.
By Robert Coalson
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- From the dingy basement of a decaying apartment block on the outskirts of Simferopol, Crimean parliament deputy Sergei Shuvainikov is leading the fight to defend the ethnic Russians of this strategic Black Sea peninsula.

In an office festooned with banners showing a map of Crimea overlaid with a World War II medal featuring the communist hammer and sickle and the slogan "In union with Russia," the voluble Shuvainikov spills out a litany of alleged assaults on the Russian language and Russian culture in Ukraine.

"This is the result of a political position to deny Russians, for whom the language is the main identifier of their Russian ethnicity, of their Russian nation, Russian people," he says. "To deny them the right to remind children and young people that they are Russians. It is in fact the destruction of Russian nationality, of the concept of the Russian people of Ukraine."

The piles of megaphones and rolled up banners in the corner of Shuvainikov's self-proclaimed "bunker" attest to the stepped-up activity of the organizations he heads, the Congress of Russian Communities and the Russian Front. Since the political crisis erupted in Kyiv in November, his organizations have repeatedly held demonstrations in Simferopol and elsewhere, burning EU flags and blaming U.S. and NATO interference for Ukraine's time of troubles.

The people of Crimea are watching with nervous expectation as the political and economic crisis in Ukraine drags on.

Crimea is Ukraine's only region where ethnic Russians are a majority, comprising approximately 60 percent of its population of 2 million. From the 18th century until just 60 years ago on February 19, the peninsula was part of Russia. And as Ukraine's turmoil shakes the region's ethnic and religious fault lines, there is increasing talk that perhaps it should be again.

Staying In Moscow's Orbit

Although it is illegal to openly advocate separatism in Ukraine, many pro-Russian organizations are calling for "bolstering Crimea's autonomy" in the event the government of President Viktor Yanukovych strikes some compromise agreement with what they call the "fascist" opposition.

The goal of the pro-Russian groups is to keep Ukraine in Moscow's orbit and prevent its integration with Europe. But to drum up support for their efforts, they are openly manipulating tensions and fears between Orthodox Russians and Muslim Crimean Tatars, who make up about 12 percent of the population. Hundreds of thousands of Tatars have returned to their Crimean homeland after being deported by Soviet authorities during World War II.

About 40 kilometers northeast of Shuvainikov's Simferopol bunker is the dusty, crumbling town of Belogorsk. It's hard to guess it was once a lively trading center of the Silk Road with the Tatar name Karasubazar. Today its population of some 18,000 is nearly evenly divided between Russians, Ukrainians, and Tatars.

The town's mayor, Albert Kangiyev, an ethnic Tatar and a member of President Yanukovych's Party of Regions, says his town is peaceful and relations among different groups are good. But he worries about the potential for outside forces to disrupt this fragile harmony.

"This is a multiethnic city," Kangiyev says. "Today the percentage of formerly deported citizens in our city is more than 30 percent -- that is, a quite significant number. And lighting a match -- in a manner of speaking -- in our city would be very easy."

In November, Shuvainikov's Congress of Russian Communities held a march through downtown Belogorsk to mark the Russian holiday of National Unity Day. A few dozen participants listened to speeches glorifying the Tsarist-era conquering of Crimea and adopted a resolution claiming "today Russians are again in a state of feudal fragmentation, spiritual decline, and despondency. Our rights to our history, our culture, our Orthodox faith, and the Russian language are being brazenly restricted. More and more often we see and hear insulting attacks aimed at Russia and the Russian people."

PHOTO GALLERY: Ukraine's Ethnically Divided Crimea Region
  • Pro-Russian graffiti in the town of Belgorosk ("We are with Russia")
  • Crimean parliament deputy and Russian nationalist Sergei Shuvainikov in his office in Simferopol. 
  • A sign in Shuvainikov's office advocating unity with Russia.
  • The Tatar community in Simferapol is seeking to build a cultural center in this ruined building, although their application has been challenged by an organization of Russian women.
  • Exiled Crimean separatist Yury Meshkov adresses a meeting of pro-Russian separatists in Simferopol via Skype from Moscow.  
  • A Christian message, a mosque, and an anti-Maidan billboard ('No to foreign interference!') on the road from Simferopol to Yalta.
  • The roads of Crimea are blanketed by thousands of Stop maidan billboards installed by a mysterious, lavishly funded nongovernmental organization. 
  • Dolls in traditional costumes at a Tatar art and culture museum in Semferopol. 
  • An World War II veteran leaves the Russia Cooperation Organization in Simferopol.
  • A cemetery outside Belogorsk with Christian graves on one side of wall and Muslim on the other.
  • An old Soviet war memorial in Simferopol, in front of the Crimean parliament.
  • A statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in Yalta
  • Another Lenin monument in front of the Crimean government building in Simferopol. 

Mayor Kangiyev's fears about the potential for instability seem well-founded. About 100 kilometers to the south, in the coastal resort of Yalta, a middle-aged Russian who asked to be identified only as Irina expressed frustration about the Crimean Tatars, who were deported from the peninsula by Stalin in 1944 and have been returning in large numbers since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The Tatars.... Supposed Tatars who were repressed and deported," she says. "Some sort of Uzbeks came back who had nothing at all to do with any of that, you understand. 'I'm a Tatar [they say]. I was repressed! Give me some land!' They buy some land and then resell it at a huge profit. They end up with a lot of money from nothing. Some sort of pathetic Uzbek -- 'I'm a Tatar.' He comes and says, 'Gimme.' You see how it is."

The Congress of Russian Communities and Russian Front are far from the only or the most radical pro-Russian organizations that have been activated in Crimea. On February 12, in a stuffy press center funded by the U.S. Embassy in the Simferopol labor-union building, representatives of nearly two dozen pro-Russian organizations gathered to discuss the plight of Crimea's ethnic Russians.

The meeting was hosted via Skype by Yury Meshkov, a pro-Russian separatist who served as Crimea's president in 1994-95. Meshkov was deported from Ukraine for his separatist activities in 2011 and now lives in Moscow.

Participants in the roundtable spoke with an impassioned mixture of fear and anger, seasoned richly with nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Viktor Golovin, representing the Committee to Support Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, captured the mood by saying: "We are not urging a war. We are calling for what is ours. The only thing we are urging is that no one tries to stop us from returning to the big Russian world. Don't stop us from returning home." 

A featured speaker of the roundtable and a rising star of the pro-Russian movement in Crimea is Valery Podyachy, head of a group called the Popular Front. The Popular Front's logo shows the flags of Russia and the Russian Navy crossed against the silhouette of the Simferopol monument to the Russian conquest of Crimea in 1783.

Skirting open calls for separatism, the affable and energetic Podyachy is pushing for Kyiv to lease the entire peninsula to Russia in exchange for the cancelation of Ukraine's debts to Moscow. With a wry smile, he compares this scenario to the U.S. lease of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Asked what would become of Crimea after the proposed lease expires, Podyachy has a quick answer.

"After 99 years, I don't think Ukraine will last that long as an independent country," he says. "Russia will exist because Russia is after all a leading global player on a par with the United States, China, and the European Union. So it is obvious that Russia will exist. But will Ukraine exist...? That's why, in principle, this solution would satisfy everyone."

But such a solution -- or any solution that would see Crimea move more tightly into Moscow's orbit -- is unlikely to satisfy the Crimean Tatar community.

Stop Maidan

Last year, Refat Chubarov was elected head of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar self-government body. He says that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has exploited regional tensions as a way of maintaining its influence in the post-Soviet space.

As the Soviet Union fell apart "Moscow was frantically looking for various tools to hold on to the [Soviet] territories," he says. "Nagorno-Karabakh -- Armenia and Azerbaijan; Transdniester -- Moldova; provocations in Tbilisi -- Georgia; attempts involving Interfront, the Popular Front, in the Baltic states.... The center, Moscow, viewed Crimea as one of these sort of hooks by means of which it could hold on to all of Ukraine."

The pro-Russian organizations deny they have ties to Moscow. However, Russia's presence in the region is felt everywhere. The Russian Consulate in Simferopol has been aggressively issuing Russian passports to ethnic Russian Crimeans, a policy that has provoked protests from Kyiv. The Russian state agency for cooperation with countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States countries operates out of a huge villa in the center of the capital.

Last week, Russian presidential adviser and leading Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov made an under-the-radar trip to Crimea, meeting behind closed doors with Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, and Sevastopol Governor Vladimir Yatsuboi. It was also announced that Konstantinov will travel to Moscow on February 20 for talks with Russian Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin.

The roads of Crimea are blanketed by thousands of billboards installed by a mysterious, lavishly funded nongovernmental organization called Stop Maidan. The billboards assert that Crimea is "for stability" and says no to "extremism" and "foreign interference." Stop Maidan has also sent hundreds of pro-government demonstrators to Kyiv, urging Yanukovych to uncompromisingly quash the protests.

WATCH: Crimean Stop Maidan protesters  rally in Kyiv.

Chubarov says that, although the Ukrainian government's policies have produced frustrations among Tatars and raised tensions among the region's ethnic groups, the local situation would be stable if not for provocations from outside of Crimea.

"There are no internal reasons for the sharp activation [of pro-Russian groups]," he says. "But there is the necessary background that can be aggravated if from the outside, -- from outside [Crimea], -- there are very strong, targeted manipulations. And we always see this when relations between Moscow and Kyiv become complicated."

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service correspondent Volodymyr Prytula contributed to this report
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 19, 2014 14:13
That's true: I had a (wonderful) vacation in the Crimea last Summer (Yalta and Sevastopol). Those who live there do not want to be a part of Ukraine. Every second private car carries either a Russian banner or something else indicating that the owner prefers Russia. Many buildings are also decorated with Russian banners.
But on a more "global" Ukrainian level: What's up with Victor Yanoukowitsch? The longer this circus goes on, the more he reminds me of Bashar al-Assad: Bashar's days are constantly "numbered", as we so well know from Hillary, and yet he keeps killing Hillary's friends for the third consecutive year already.
And Yanek also constantly "has to resign", "will be held accountalbe", "will have to sign the Association Agreement with the EU", "will have to call pre-term pres and parl elections" etc etc. And yet, the only thing he does is cooperating with Putin ever more intensively and kicking the ... of the German- and US-sponsored losers who have nothing better to do than spend the entire winter on the fresh air on the Maidan (which, however, is much healthier than sitting in front of the comp and reading RFE/RL "articles" :-))).
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 20, 2014 07:50
Eugenio gives no part to the people of Ukraine, or even Syria.
To him it is only up to Varanga-Prussian breeding cannibals
In other people land - practical-mean Neanderthal criterion.
Syria for millenniums known be populated by Caucasians,
Not by Arab, but from Lidia, Hetia, Troy, Mesh and so on.

If Assad cornered-violent, even more are genuine locals,
Defending their right exist from insurgent's "Brotherhood",
That is supported by new "Arab Halifat", forged by Russia
And manipulated by Russian influx USA, scared by hoods
Of terrorism, manipulating Arabs, scared by Shwartckovia,
Bombs, manipulated by seeking precedent, Russia, to loot.

Ukraine about the same, only another way around, be free
Is like "serpom po" for Russian elite, Tyranny flees.
They planed, at list since 1947-49 and 1954-56 expansion,
To breed in other nations land and homes Varag-Prussians
And contingencies in case of CIS restoration, it is their blitz!

Our way - each nation is free and wise, prospering and help
Each other and the World at large. Negotiating contributions
To make, if necessary for common interests - not evil "weld"
Of "black hole" - expanding and breeding imperial Russians.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 20, 2014 14:05
Constantine, the armed guys on the streets of Kiev (or Alepo) are NOT the "Ukrainian people" or the "Syrian people". Those are US-, German- and Saudi-financed and armed terrorists and will be dealt with as such. And they have no chance at all of overthrowing the legitimate govts of either Syria or Ukraine.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 21, 2014 07:52
Lying Russian snitch, Russia started it all from invasion and
Genocide, blockades, again and again, planning in advance
The "tandem" of double-faced Russian "sterviatnik"'s hands.
A picture, Russia and British and German partners in crime
Publish everywhere, by "Roiter", is a Russia-GRU assassin.

If Ukrainians were overthrow Yanukovich, elected by froad,
Anywhere, they should come right away with help of police,
As did Saakashvili Georgians, not, taken by surprise, road
Of lambs, not be slave-Ukraine by Yanukovich-Putin "liss",
As Russia-Spethnaz infiltrate with the above provoker-fritz.
In Response

by: Ivan from: California
February 21, 2014 17:24
Eugenio, don't distort the facts. In both cases these started as peaceful protests and it was the police who started killing unarmed protesters. The protesters started fighting back after their friends were being shot dead in the streets. You got it wrong man.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 23, 2014 17:50
Ivan, Const., congratulations to you, guys: you have achieved the war that you both - coming from the country of Beavuses and Buttheads - are so good at starting. The war HAS started, and the video from the Crimean Peninsula that the RFE/RL posted today demonstrates it clearly and distinctly.
And I would also like to congratulate you both in advance for another "great victory" which is awaiting the Beavuses and their friends there: after having gotten your ... kicked in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba etc you and your friends are about to make a similar experience in Ukraine.
So, in this sense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Sikorski was absolutely right - your friends in Ukraine will end exactly the way he predicted they would.
In Response

by: Ivan from: California
February 24, 2014 16:30
Congratulations Eugenio, you missed the point AGAIN. If there were any comments about war it was yours when you encouraged the Iranian Basiji to come to the Ukraine.

Remember your comment?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 28, 2014 11:07 Reply I suggest that the Ukrainian govt would contact the govt of Iran and ask the latter to send a few Basij detachments to Kiev: those guys would calm the situation on the Euromaidan within a few hours :-)).

People with dirty hands shouldn't point fingers. Don't be such a hypocrite. Killing peacful protesters is not acceptable, I don't know why you are such a supporter of it.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 25, 2014 21:27
Well, Ivan, you come from the disgusting country of criminal Beavuses whose hands have SO MUCH BLOOD on them - that of children of Vietnam, Palestina, Pakistan or Iraq that your fascist nation is responsible for - and you still dare to talk about someone else's "dirty hands" :-). God, what a ... .... you are.
And as far as the Basijis are concerned: of course! This is the correct solution to this strategy of a "soft coup" (Gene Sharp) that you, Beavuses, are currently employing against the peoples of Ukraine, Venezuela and (apparently) Thailand. Just look at how efficient Basijis were at showing your friends their place in Iran during a similar attemps back in 2009, I think, it was. A couple of weaks of those pro-US roaches making noise, and the Basijis put an end to this entertainment. The same thing will happen in Venezuela now, as long as Chávez created similar units like 10 years ago already.
Had Yanek been paying more attention to this issue instead of ammassing property, the Nazis who currently control Kiew would have never been able to go that far. And now that he screwed up, Putin himself will have to spent his time on this .... And he has already started: starting from tomorrow (Wednesday) the Ukrainian pork will not be allowed into Russia. And it's just the first step, of course.
In Response

by: Ivan from: California
February 26, 2014 05:46
Well Eugenio you still don't get it. Thanks for the history lesson but trying to pin what happened in Vietnam to me is absurd and childish. It would be like me calling you a Nazi. You and your comrads are on the wrong side of history. Killing peaceful protesters is wrong no matter how hard you try to justify it by going on a diatribe about what the US did 60 years ago. You support the killing of protesters and those are the dirty hands. Your dirty hands. Grow up.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 20, 2014 12:56
What an idiot is questioning in video the Crimeans!
They said they are for unity and peace - all Ukrainians are too!
Mistake - be Ukraine - not slavery to Russia, or to Germany!
The idiot, or a provoker, mock them: "You are pure bumps,
Europe will give you money! Go to Europe" Smart ass.
Russia ruining Ukraine, while the provocateur trying
to divide Ukraine - be slave of Russia or Germany!
In Response

by: Epsilon
February 20, 2014 15:49
"Europe will give you money! " - Europe has spare money to give? Doubt. Galicia that was with Austria for 700 years never had strong economy, South and East of Ukraine on the other hand was always super strong economically because Russia was pouring tons of money. Millions of Russians moved to these back then Russian territories. Russia basically built Ukraine from scratch (cities, factories etc). Soviets created this Ukrainian SSR and gifted her lands that just recently belonged to Romania, Hungary, Poland, Russia. Ukraine should give these stolen lands back.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 21, 2014 08:31
I didn't touch the "Europe will give money", your provoker did,
Why boast about something wasn't call for - lying as Ivan-pig?
All problems of the World economy - Russia, using "good will"
Of the West and East - betray both - steal from others and kill,
Promise West "empires" share loot, ruin them, gloat and stink.

Russians were Nazi occupiers of creating them nations "then"
And after. Lying Russia annexing and plundering neighbors -
Since Varaga invaded, as "dream of Haldeyka" snick in door,
Lying tribe that like Levite-"Judas" betrayed God, two lambs,
As offering, out of millions He gave them, they used enslave
The very God, saying like you: You are a beggar, our slave!

So are the Russian "Judas" - Ukraine had largest industries.
During WW2 Ukraine moved it to East, working for the war.
In 1941-1947 Russia usurped it by treachery, didn't return,
Neither industries nor people, and influx Russia occupiers.
All USSR republics budgets were sucked by Russia, 70%.

Even oil-gas money are result of stealing from Tatars and
Turkmen, blockade CIS with help of Western "podel'niks",
Organizing Global energy war of treachery and terrorism
To bankrupt manipulated by Russia proxies-apparatchiks
USA and Europe - expand Russia to breed in our homes!

by: Nils Bohring from: Kerguelen I.
February 22, 2014 02:06
The people of Ukraine will be much happier if it splits into 2 or 3 countries. This is a step forward, not a defeat.

Crimea has nothing to do with Ukraine. It should be an independent country; its symbols and ceremonial language should be Crimean Tatar, but its working language would be Russian. I still hope that the "real" Ukraine achieves real independence.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 23, 2014 01:26
Where are my comments?
Playing Russia-Prussia censorship, Eugenio?
Using my freedom of speech as stolen by KGB-CIA-HELENA
information to supersede events, hiding my comments?

by: PermReader
February 23, 2014 10:11
" the language is the main identifier of their Russian ethnicity,of their Russian nation.." - that is right. Absorbing the multitude of the peoples the empire promoted the Russification by means of the Russian language first because it had not enough of the other cultural resources.
In Response

by: Reynard
February 23, 2014 16:47
You don't seem to take into account that Crimea never was Ukrainian-speaking in first place.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los angeles
March 01, 2014 15:47
Two front war, but both illegal and unjust.
One is the old Russian "Varag-Prussak" bestial bust,
Invade, genocide and repopulate other nations as territories.
Another one is necessity of common case of the CIS,
Mutual trade, help and an industrialization
Of neighbors, tempered by bestialization.
Answer to both - independence, dignity
And open World for precious human life
Create and own it for friends and family,
Even fight as Ukraine in WW2, outright,
Disarmed by Russia, but saved Humanity.
It isn't what Russia wants, "fronts" forged
By contingencies, Russia, Germany, Brits
Austrians and Bechtel with1954-56 Borsh,
Made to divide and repopulate East-greed
By Germany-Austria and Russia evil deed.
Ukraine is a nation that wants stay that way,
With few adjustments, after Russia damage
To all ethnic groups, like some village spree
Of Hungarians, Checks and an arrangement
Of "Russian-Speaking" - most non-Russians.
Russia force to play the game, as separatists,
Some sentenced after WW2 "Bandera's" men,
Enslaved by military pledge servicemen, East,
And now trying create a quorum, busting vane
Of Ukraine's valid nation livelihood - to Rain!
Yanukovich and alike - contingencies of Russia
And its Feudal elite, as Bolsheviks and "Whites"
Usurping Ukraine, acting as old bloody Prussia.
The real future of Ukraine - united, staying right,
As Ukraine's Citizens - not the Russian "lazha".

by: Natalie from: Southern US
February 23, 2014 23:06
Considering what's been happening in the past few days in Ukraine, I don't blame Crimeans for wanting to leave. A coup against a democratically elected president is serious business.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 25, 2014 21:33
Good point, Natalie, and the issue here is that Yanek was the only LEGITIMATE President whose presence until the next election (that was scheduled for March 2015) was a guarantee that the rules of the political game were being respected in Ukraine.
And now that all the possible rules have been broken by the currently de facto Kiew authorities, there is no reason for anyone at all to respect any rules in Ukraine.
Another factor here is that the de facto authorities in Kiew right now do not have any possibility to control the situation in the provinces: they could try to send the hooded terrorists from the Maidan to Sebastopol, but I am afraid they would not have a particularly warm reception there :-).
So, this inability to control the regions is another reason for the people in Crimea to take advantage of the moment and try to separate from Ukraine that they never wanted to be a part of in the first place.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
March 01, 2014 15:50
Yanukovich was elected illegally as President.
Party of Regions is mafia of former Russian occupiers
of Ukraine and their enforcers in the Eastern provinces.
Most of population is Ukrainian, but in the country side
of East Ukraine, many murdered by forged "Golodomor",
Created by Russian occupiers, many evacuated East
with Ukraine industries during WW2, didn't allowed
return back - slaves of Russia, many killed or lost
in WW2 or deported after the War - Russians
intimidate them and other non-Russians and
make them talk Russian and vote for them,
or simply don't allowed to vote, like USA
Africans before "Civil Rights". The irony
of that - Ukraine is whiter than Russia,
the very ancestry of Saxons in Europe,
are treated in eyes of Brits as "non-white"
by Russian "Papua-Magog", mixed with the
Viking Neanderthals Mongols - and you buy it!
Isn't it an Irony? Yanukovich simply stole more
Billions for Russia, even after Russia early robed Ukraine,
To please his Russian imperial masters. What a “Prince Igor”!

by: American Tolerast
February 24, 2014 10:42
This is all just Putin lulling us into a false sense of security. So's the ruble exchange rate. And the gas prices. And the Lenin statues. Also, he's six-foot-two and has a full head of blonde hair.

by: PermReader
February 24, 2014 15:35
Nobody understands the psychology of RFERL leftists not being the leftist himself. The presence of the "portianki" (foot-bindings) is the main feature of this website.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 25, 2014 21:34
Yes, Perm, you got it. Their second obsession is the Eurovision contest, and the third one is the sad fate of belugas in the Black Sea :-)).

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