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Russian Ban on Crimean Tatar Leader Enforced

Mustafa Jemilev stopped at Moscow airport and prevented from travelling to Crimea.

On Friday [April 2], Mustafa Jemilev, veteran leader of the Crimean Tatar people and Ukrainian member of parliament, was stopped at Moscow airport after arriving from Kiev. He was not allowed through passport control and was informed that he is prohibited from entering the Russian Federation. He was planning to fly on to Simferopol, but was forced to return to Kiev.

He was accompanied by the deputy head of the Mejlis [Assembly] of the Crimean Tatar people, Aslan Omer Kirimli, who is also on his way back to Kiev.

As reported, Mustafa Jemilev was informed of a five-year ban on entry to the Russian Federation on April 22, three days after arriving in Simferopol for the first time since Russia’s annexation of his homeland. Claims were made the following day both in Russia and in Crimea that the document was a fake and that no ban had been imposed.

Today’s events in Moscow show the worth of such assurances. They are as false as all other promises handed to the Crimean Tatars following Russia’s intervention.

No attempts were made to discuss the so-called Crimean constitution with Crimean Tatar representatives, nor to recognise their specific needs. Jemilev reports that repressive measures have been taken against Crimean Tatars who refuse to take out Russian citizenship, and that Russian Federal Security Service are fairly openly watching Crimean Tatars in mosques, “taking note of whose beard is longer, how religious people are, so that [those more religious] automatically are categorised as Islamic radicals”.
A representative of the Mejlis has already received an official warning over the reinstatement of the Ukrainian flag over the Mejlis building following Jemilev’s return on April 19. The warning asserts that the flag was raised “for propaganda and public demonstration purposes, with this serving to arouse social and ethnic enmity and constituting propaganda of exclusiveness”.

Sergei Aksyonov, leader of the puppet government installed after armed soldiers, believed to be Russian, seized government buildings on February 27, stated on April 23 that Jemilev can come to the Crimea when he chooses but “only with good intentions” and a willingness to support those actions which the government of the Crimea is now carrying out”.

The ban is thus in place, since those actions and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea are not, and cannot be, supported by the Crimean Tatars, Kiev and democratic countries.

Aksyonov’s words reflect the calibre of the people the Kremlin has used for its territorial aggrandisement.

Russia and its puppets seem woefully unaware of the calibre of those they see as antagonists. It is no accident that Mustafa Jemilev has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Jemilev was just six months old when the Crimean Tatars were deported from their homeland [in 1944], and he has spent his life defending the rights of the Crimean Tatar People, and supporting democracy and freedom for all people of Ukraine.

His steadfast commitment to non-violence played a vital role in enabling the return of the Crimean Tatars following Ukraine’s independence and countering forces in the Crimea seeking to stir up conflict. It was largely thanks to Jemilev’s influence and his positive legacy that attempts by pro-Russian groups to provoke violent resistance from Crimean Tatars, in particular following the Russian intervention, proved unsuccessful.

There is every reason for Ukrainian and international organisations to add their voices in support of Mustafa Jemilev’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

With the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars just weeks away, voices of protest from European Union and United States structures against this barbaric decision to ban Jemilev are also urgently needed.  

Halya Coynash is a journalist and a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. This story was originally published on the group's website.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of IWPR.