World View: Ukraine's 'Separatist' Talk Threatens Ethnic Tatars

World View: Ukraine's 'Separatist' Talk Threatens Ethnic Tatars

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Ukraine’s ‘separatist’ talk threatens ethnic Tatars
  • U.S. expels three Venezuela diplomats in tit-for-tat reprisal
  • Nigeria’s Boko Haram kills 39 school students after army mysteriously withdraws
  • China considers two new anti-Japanese national holidays

Ukraine’s ‘separatist’ talk threatens ethnic Tatars

As we’ve discussed several times, western Ukraine is mostly populatedby Ukrainian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians, while eastern Ukraine ismostly populated by Russian-speaking ethnic Russians. However, eveneastern Ukraine isn’t entirely Russian, and although the Russianlanguage is spoken there, it’s spoken with a Ukrainian accent.

The exception is the Crimea, the body of land at the bottom ofUkraine, jutting into the Black Sea, and connected to mainland Ukraineby a narrow strip of land. This is the most Russian part of Ukraine,and the most Russian part of Crimea is the port of Sevastopol, astrategically important naval port hosting Russia’s Black Sea fleet.This is the place to which deposed Ukrainian president ViktorYanukovych fled over the weekend, and he has not been seen publiclysince then. It’s impossible to predict what will happen to Ukrainefrom the current crisis, but one thing is certain: Russia will not letgo of Sevastopol.

Talk of “separatism” is high in Sevastopol. And we’re not talkingabout separatism of east Ukraine from west Ukraine. We’re talkingabout separation of Crimea from the rest of Ukraine. Sevastopol’scity council on Monday already demanded a referendum on rejoining whatthey call “The Motherland.”

The situation has become sufficiently alarming that even Moscow isbacking down a bit. Two days ago, Russia’s prime minister DmitryMedvedev referred to the situation as “an armed uprising” by “peoplewith black masks strolling through Kiev with Kalashnikov rifles.”

But on Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov wasconsiderably more subdued:

“We are using our contacts with the various politicalforces at play in Ukraine in order to calm the situation down.

[It is] dangerous and counter-productive to try to force uponUkraine a choice on the principle of ‘you are either with us oragainst us’. We want Ukraine to be part of the European family inevery sense of the word.”

Whether this reference to the “European family” represents a change inpolicy remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a change in rhetoric.

The possibility of Crimea rejoining Russia is of greatest concern tothe Tatars, a mostly Turkic language speaking Sunni Muslim ethnicgroup, currently numbering around 300,000. Russia’s dictator JosefStalin, who had already engineering the massive famine in Ukraine inthe 1930s, in 1944 deported 200,000 Tatars from Crimea, where they hadlived for millennia, to central Asia, accusing them of collaboratingwith the Nazis. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that the Tatarsreturned in large numbers to Crimea, particularly after the collapseof the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s independence.

Tatars are concerned that a return to Russia rule would mean “the endof the Crimean Tatars,” according to one activist:

“If the violence in Ukraine were to spread to Crimea,300,000 Crimean Tatars would come face to face with approximately2 million Russians living there. Soldiers in Russia’s Black SeaFleet in the port of Sevastopol are ready to invade Crimea. Theparliament of the Autonomous Region of Crimea is under the controlof Russia, is predominantly of Russian ethnicity and is againstthe Crimean Tatar National Assembly and CrimeanTatars.”

CS Monitor and Telegraph (London) and Zaman (Istanbul)

U.S. expels three Venezuela diplomats in tit-for-tat reprisal

The U.S. State Department said that two first secretaries and a secondsecretary at Venezuela’s embassy in Washington had been declaredpersonae non gratae, and have been given 48 hours to leave thecountry. The expulsion is tit-for-tat reprisal for Venezuela’sexpulsion of three American diplomats last week. Venezuela’spresident Nicolás Maduro expelled three U.S. diplomats last week onaccusations of recruiting students to hold violent, rock-throwingprotests against him. The U.S. Washington has rejected the claims asbaseless. Reuters

Nigeria’s Boko Haram kills 39 school students after army mysteriously withdraws

Gunmen from Nigeria’s Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram (“Westerneducation is forbidden”) stormed at 2 am Tuesday, and killed 29pupils, all boys, many of whom were burnt to death by a fire. Thegirls were spared, and were told to go home, get married, and abandonWestern education. The school was secular, and students were bothChristian and Muslim.

Outrage is growing in Nigeria because Boko Haram has killed thousandsof civilians, but the armed forces are failing to protect them, oreven respond to raids. In this case, there had been soldiers guardinga checkpoint near the government school, but they were mysteriouslywithdrawn hours before the attack. And then the terrorists were ableto continue their massacre for five hours, no troops or securityagents intervening. It’s believed that the soldiers knew the attackwas coming, and then withdrew either because they wanted to supportthe terrorists, or because they were afraid of being killedthemselves. BBC and CBS News

China considers two new anti-Japanese national holidays

Laws have been submitted to China’s National People’s Congress to addtwo new holidays to the list of China’s national holidays:

  • September 3 would be “Victory Day of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression,” marking the end of World War II for China.
  • December 13 would be a “national memorial day to commemorate those killed by Japanese aggressors during the Nanjing massacre,” which took place on December 13, 1937.

The proposed law is expected to pass. BBC and Bloomberg

Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.