The World Today for August 31, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

UKRAINE & RUSSIA

RealPolitik

Erfan Kudusov and many other Tatars fled Crimea when Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. To many in Kudusov’s community, the Russian takeover evoked Josef Stalin’s mass deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944. Their fears were not overblown.

Tatar friends of Kudusov who remained in Crimea have faced systematic persecution. Some have been charged and convicted of extremism, separatism and membership in banned organizations and sentenced to prison terms as long as 19 years.

“Russia is enforcing a concentration camp there behind a nice facade,” Kudusov told the Associated Press. “People in Crimea are very scared and fear talking aloud about it.”

Oppression of the Tatars was one issue raised at the recent Crimean Platform, a recent Ukraine-sponsored summit that seeks to address Russia’s internationally condemned occupation of former Ukrainian territory. “I will personally do everything possible to return Crimea so that it becomes part of Europe together with Ukraine,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the event, according to Al Jazeera.

Speaking to Euronews, Chatham House expert John Lough argued the Platform demonstrated how Ukraine has many allies in its struggle against Russia. Others aren’t so sure. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was absent, potentially due to Zelenskyy’s fears that leaders in Berlin and Moscow were becoming friendlier as they complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will bypass Ukraine to deliver Russian gas to Western Europe.

The need for the summit highlighted how the West has enjoyed little success in foiling the Kremlin’s plans on the Crimean peninsula, wrote Politico.

Russia, meanwhile, insists that historic and cultural links and a questionable pro-annexation referendum in 2014 legitimize its occupation. Russia has issued Russian passports to Crimean residents and spent billions on a new bridge connecting the peninsula and the Russian mainland. A Russian airborne assault unit is to be formed there.

Russian authorities are asserting their hold legally on the region, too. They have also launched an investigation into alleged “ecocide” following Ukraine’s decision to turn off water supplies to Crimea in retaliation for the Russian aggression, Radio Free Europe reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said participants at the Platform, which he called a “spectacle,” were divorced from reality. “This is a falsely understood solidarity,” he told Tass.

Some Platform participants appear to agree. A day after the Platform, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid told Radio Free Europe that she believed “strategic patience” was necessary on the issue.

Meanwhile, Tatars like Kudusov are tired of waiting.

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