Mustafa Dzemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatar community, Speaking at the UN Security Council.
MUSTAFA: The topic of the meeting is “Human Rights in the Occupied Territories”.
Mostly we focused on this issue, and particularly Valentina Samar. I spoke about the situation in general, about the legal grounds of the occupation, about Russia’s faulty reasoning, and about my concerns. Among them, first of all, is the fact that sanctions against this aggressor are like pinpricks to an elephant. If nothing changes, it is highly doubtful that Russia will leave the territory it occupied. Should this approach prevail, Ukrainians will feel cheated, and rightfully so. There is already a growing narrative that we were cheated and we need to return our nuclear status.
JOURNALIST: What more assertive actions would you like to see from the West? Military actions?
MUSTAFA: Military actions are definitely included. I spoke about it in Brussels at the NATO headquarters where I was invited to speak before all 28 NATO ambassadors. First of all, we have serious concerns about the events and I asked to introduce UN peacekeeping troops to Ukraine. But since such a decision is up to the Security Council, Russia has the right to veto it. So it is highly unlikely to happen. The second option is NATO military intervention, like it was in Kosovo. The problem is that NATO agrees to such actions when only a lot of blood is already shed, but we would prefer it to happen before we are slaughtered. As far as I understood, they do not discuss the possibility of such a military intervention yet.
JOURNALIST: Is that true that there is a divide among the Crimean Tatars? One camp is negotiating and considering the possibility of Crimea as an autonomous part of Russia, and another camp would like to see Crimea as autonomous part of Ukraine.
MUSTAFA: I wouldn’t quite call it a divide. It’s more like a difference in approach. I personally was not present at that meeting, but there are such opinions. Look, nobody is going to protect us. The highest demonstration of courage of the Ukrainian units was singing the Ukrainian anthem while surrendering. If this is how Ukraine is going to protect
its territorial integrity, we have nothing to count for. That is why it is obvious that the occupation will last many years, and we need to exist somehow during these years.
Maybe it is reasonable to participate in the government structure of Russia. But there is another side of the issue. Collaborating with the illegal authorities, and even with bandit authorities, is very disturbing. The opinions are divided. Around nine members of Medzhlis said that if we will collaborate with the invaders they will exit the Medzhlis. Others argued that we need to assemble another Kurultai. But in general, you were right. The decision was made that the Crimean Tatars need to exercise their right for the self-determination. But we did not decide in what form such a right will be exercised. At the same time, I personally believe that we need to affirm what we decided 23 years ago, that we see our future as a part of Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: What arguments do you have against joining Russia?
MUSTAFA: First of all, we do not trade with our loyalty expecting whose bid will be higher. We have decided a long time ago. To say the least, we don’t have a great deal of trust in Russians. We have a lot of historic memories. When Russians occupied Crimea for the first time, it was substantiated with the Manifesto of Catherine II that promised us a glorious life with the Russian Empire. Instead, the first thing they did was that they gathered all the Tatar dignitaries, such as the military and religious leaders, and cut their throats. This followed by systematic ousting of the Tatars from their lands. As a result of this policy, we became the minority on our own land. In 1944, we experienced a total deportation. We are totally dissatisfied when Russia thinks in the terms of the 19th century. They think that if they once conquered the territory, it has to belong to them. This is a very unhealthy approach. It can bring very detrimental outcomes. They don’t have the respect to a nation’s self-determination. They came up with this notion of Crimean people. Such a notion does not exist. There is the native population and there are those who relocated from Russia. This false, illegal approach to this problem is alarming.
JOURNALIST: My last question is about your conversation with the President Putin.
MUSTAFA: We spoke for about half an hour. First of all, I was under a big impression that he recited the lines from his own propaganda. That Ukraine has the illegal, benderovskaya [nationalist] government. And that the Russians need protection. My attempts to explain that it is not true and that is probably one of the most democratic governments Ukraine ever had, were not successful. So were not successful my attempts to explain that Russians in Crimea need no protection, that it is absurd, because everything is in hands of Russians anyway. Actually, Crimean Tatars experience the worst discrimination. He said that there is a need to determine the position of the Crimean people. I tried to explain that there is no such thing as Crimean people. There are native people. And their position is already determined. He finally said that he did not expect any other answers from me, that any patriotic person should speak the way I did. But nonetheless he said that we needed to wait for the results of the referendum. He also mentioned that Russia could solve all our problems, such as legal problems, land disputes and social issues, much faster than Ukraine.
JOURNALIST: Do you trust him?
MUSTAFA: Not that I don’t trust him. We would be appreciative to Russia if they could resolve our problems. Considering that during the deportation and genocide of the Crimean Tatars, Crimea was a part of Russia, it bares the responsibility for such a crime. But I would like to resolve these issues after their troops depart and without compromising Ukraine’s integrity.