Accessibility links

Breaking News

Crimean Tatar Leader Calls For UN Peacekeeping Troops

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev addresses fellow members of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv last month.
Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev addresses fellow members of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv last month.
The veteran leader of the Crimean Tatars has called on the UN Security Council to send peacekeeping forces to Crimea.

Mustafa Dzhemilev told VOA correspondents after an informal Security Council meeting on Crimea on March 31 that the insufficient pressure on Moscow over the annexation of Crimea might lead to bloodshed on the peninsula.

"We have serious fears about what can happen there, and that's why I asked for UN peacekeeping forces. But since this is something that's decided by the UN Security Council, where Russia has the right to veto, this is quite unlikely," Dzhemilev said.

"The second option was for sending NATO troops, as was done in Kosovo. But the problem with that is that NATO only comes once a sea of blood is shed."

According to Dzhemilev, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union are not sufficient to make Russia leave Crimea.

"My fears are these: first, we think that the sanctions taken now against the aggressor are kind of like a tiny pinprick in an elephant's skin. If this is the case, it's unlikely that Russia will leave the occupied territory," he said.

"And if such an approach prevails, then Ukrainians rightfully will consider themselves deceived, and there is already this opinion: 'We were deceived, so we should return to our nuclear status.'"

WATCH: Mustafa Dzemilev spoke to VOA after the UN meeting.
Veteran Crimean Tatar Leader: 'We Don't Believe Russian Promises'
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:52 0:00

The veteran leader of the Crimean Tatars reiterated his people's stance on the situation, saying that Tatars had always stood for Crimea's being a part of Ukraine.

"We find it outrageous that Russia thinks in 19th-century terms: 'We once conquered this territory, and that's why it has to be Russian.' This is a very unhealthy approach and it could have deplorable consequences, if implemented," Dzhemilev said.

"In this case there is no respect for people's right to self-determination. What's more, the fact that they came up with the idea that Crimean people have a right to self-determination -- this is absurd. There is no 'Crimean people,' as such."

Kremlin: 'Propaganda Show'

The UN Security Council's informal session on Crimea was organized by Lithuania. Lithuania's deputy UN ambassador, Rita Kazragiene, said the meeting gave members their first opportunity to hear the Crimean Tatars' concerns about media impartiality and minority rights.

Russia, which sent troops into the Crimea and ultimately annexed the Black Sea peninsula through a controversial referendum organized by the peninsula's pro-Russian authorities, boycotted the council session.

In a statement, Russia's UN mission said the March 31 meeting was designed not to give an objective account of events in the region, "but to stage a biased propaganda show."

Kazragiene countered that many Security Council members consider the referendum on Crimea's status illegal and don't recognize its annexation.

"According to the majority of the Security Council members and the UN General Assembly, that is not the case -- the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is still a part of Ukraine and the referendum was illegal and there is support for Ukraine's territorial integrity," she said.

Dzhemilev, 70, who is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, is a well-known Soviet-era human rights activist who served six sentences in Soviet prison camps from 1966 to 1986. He is also known for going on a 303-day hunger strike -- the longest in the history of the Soviet human rights movement. He survived due to force feeding.

Mejlis Agrees Work With New Government

In related news, the Crimean Tatar self-government body has agreed to be a part of the territory's new government.

However, the resolution adopted by the Mejlis today said the Tatars still do not recognize Russia's annexation of the peninsula.

The resolution said Lenur Islyamov will serve as deputy prime minister in the government, and Zaur Smirnov will be chairman of the Committee on Nationalities and Deported Citizens.

The resolution emphasizes, however, that the Mejlis does not recognize "political, legislative, economic and other changes taking place in Crimea without the consent and approval" of Crimean Tatars.

According to the document, the Mejlis will in two weeks again consider whether to cooperate with the government.

The Mejlis said most Crimean Tatars boycotted the March 16 referendum in which Crimeans were asked whether the territory should join Russia.
With reporting by VOA, AP, and ITAR-TASS

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Crimea?

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Crimea?

Test your knowledge!

  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.