Russia is Destabilizing the Crimea

The Jamestown Foundation reports:

On September 29 the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) protested against an appeal made by the Russian delegation to the OSCE about the Crimea. “Methods and dirty technology created in the ’90s of the last century are being used to destabilize the situation in the ARK [Autonomous Republic of Crimea] by fomenting separatist movements in the territories of the former USSR… Such actions cannot be regarded as anything other than gross interference in the internal affairs of another state,” the MFA said (www.mfa.gov.ua, September 29).That Ukrainian-Russian relations are poor and deteriorating is increasingly obvious from mutual accusations, counter-accusations, and insinuations. Russian political technologist Sergei Markov, a Unified Russia deputy, described Ukrainian-Russian relations to all intents and purposes as non-existent (www.pravda.com.ua, September 24).

Even in the area of Soviet history the Ukrainian and Russian sides have diametrically opposite views. The Russian Foreign Ministry gloated over Ukraine’s failure to find support for a resolution at the UN to recognize the 1933 artificial famine as “genocide” conducted against Ukrainians. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded rebuttal. Writing in September’s Prospect magazine Arkady Ostrovsky said, “an old fashioned nationalism, in neo-Stalinist costume, has become the most powerful force in Russian society” (www.prospect-magazine.co.uk).

Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko has officially accused Russia of seeking to destabilize the autonomous republic of the Crimea. It is undesirable that “the Russian consulate in Simferopol distributes passports” (EDM, September 15). Meanwhile, Russian politicians, such as Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, travel to Ukraine and call for uniting the Crimea to Russia (Fokus, no.38, September 19).

Ohryzko also complained that Russia was attempting to block Ukraine’s entry into NATO by using, among others things, the Crimean card. Russia also disrespected Ukraine’s sovereignty (Fokus, no.38, September 19).

At a well-publicized press conference on September 25, the Security Service (SBU) provided extensive details of attempts by Russian intelligence to hire Ukrainian citizens to participate in conflicts in the Caucasus. The SBU gave details about recent attempts to hire Ukrainians for the August Georgian conflict. In August and September the SBU collected intelligence on many attempts by Russian intelligence to dispatch Ukrainians to the conflict. Ukrainians were offered $200 to $500 per day if they accepted the proposal. Candidates approached by Russian intelligence should have “specific training, including in the field of subversive activity.” Russian intelligence targeted those with existing connections to the Ukrainian military, including reservists (www.mfa.gov.ua, September 29).

The SBU warned Russia that it was carefully observing these approaches and was initiating counter-measures (www.sbu.gov.ua). “Every attempt at recruiting Ukrainian citizens in foreign games will receive a harsh rebuff,” the SBU warned. Russian intelligence had established and supported “extremist organizations” in Tiraspol, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia; but “We will never permit such activity on our territory,” the SBU stated. Following the Georgian-Russian war, Ukraine purchased its first unmanned drone from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (www.pravda.com.ua, August 29).

Senior Russian military officers have alleged that Ukrainians fought on the Georgian side during the August conflict. Such claims about “Ukrainian nationalists” are nothing new. In the first and second Russian interventions into Chechnya in 1995 and 2000, Russian officials and media alleged that numerous “Ukrainian nationalists” were fighting with the Chechens. The allegations revived Soviet ideological tirades against western Ukrainian “bourgeois nationalists.”

The nationalist group most often accused of training recruits for battle against Russia is the extreme right UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian Peoples Self Defense Organization). Russia’s intelligence on Ukrainian nationalists is, in fact, outdated, as the UNA-UNSO disintegrated in the late 1990s into at least three groups.

One wing of UNA-UNSO that remained committed to its nationalist ideology aligned with the radical opposition Yulia Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT) and Socialist Party in the “Kuchmagate” crisis. The radical opposition led the protests by Ukraine Without Kuchma and Arise Ukraine! from 2000 to 2003. UNA-UNSO members also acted as paramilitary stewards during the orange revolution. The UNA-UNSO was accused of organizing the March 2001 riots in Kyiv (in reality, this was apparently a provocation by undercover Interior Ministry personnel to discredit the anti-Kuchma opposition), and 20 senior UNA-UNSO leaders were charged and imprisoned. Following their release, many of the nationalist wing of the UNA-UNSO, such as Andriy Shkil, joined the BYuT. Shkil is still a BYuT deputy.

The other two wings of the UNA-UNSO were co-opted by Russian intelligence. They continue to be available for provocations by Russian intelligence in attempts to portray Ukraine’s orange leaders (like their Georgian rose revolution counterparts) as “anti-Russian extremists.”

The two co-opted former wings of the UNA-UNSO played a highly provocative role in attempts to discredit the opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential elections. Political technologists close to Russia’s presidential administration (i.e., Markov and Gleb Pavlovsky) worked for the candidate supported by Russia, Viktor Yanukovych. They sought to portray Yushchenko as a rabid “anti-Russian, Ukrainian nationalist” to reduce his popularity in Russophone eastern Ukraine (see EDM, June 29 and September 23, 2004, May 13, 2005).

One of the two co-opted UNA-UNSO groups, led by Dmytro Korchynsky, was renamed Bratstvo (Brotherhood). Bratstvo and the Progressive Socialist Party are the only two Ukrainian parties in the Highest Council of the International Eurasian Movement and the Eurasian Youth Movement. Both of these organizations are devoted to the Eurasianist ideologist Aleksandr G. Dugin who has ingratiated himself with the Putin regime (see Andreas Umland’s detailed analysis in http://www.pravda.com.ua, July 20, 2007).

The SBU has also unveiled Russian intelligence’s attempts to recruit Ukrainians who would “testify” for money that they had undergone “subversive training” in UNA-UNSO bases in western Ukraine with the aim of undertaking “terrorist” attacks alongside Chechens in Russia. Recruited Tatars were also paid to speak on Russian television about the existence of alleged training camps for Islamic terrorists in the Crimea. The aim in both cases, the SBU believes, was to show that Ukraine was a host to training camps for religious and nationalist extremists.

Russia’s accusations are doubly ironic. First, the UNA-UNSO wing with solid nationalist credentials joined the BYuT in 2001-2002. Tymoshenko meanwhile has been accused of “treason” by the presidential secretariat based on an unfounded allegation that she has “done a deal” with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Second, the remainder of the former UNA-UNSO (i.e., Bratstvo) has long worked for Russian intelligence.

2 responses to “Russia is Destabilizing the Crimea

  1. According to reports Russia has been trying to play the tried and tested stunt of handing out Russian passports to ethnic Russians in the Crimea. So that they can play the same card they played in South Ossetia and are doing elsewhere. In their eyes it legitamises any military action taken ie ‘We will protect Russian citizens.’

    Thankfully the Ukranians parliament are now wise to this and are considering taking political measures to counter this. Something that I considered as a solution to this Kremlin game to nip it in the bud when I first read about Russian passports being doled out in the Crimea.

    The Ukranian parliament are considering enacting a law that dual citizenship taken in this fashion will become illegal with a potential sentence of 5 years. The simple message being if you don’t want to be part of the Ukraine you are freely welcome to pack your bags and go off to the Motherland your so keen to be a part of.

    Given that Putin not so long ago was offering financial inducement for ethnic Russians to return to the Motherland to stem the demographic crisis in Russia (low birth rate, infant mortality rate, high incidence of AIDS, alcholism and male mortality rate on a par with ‘third world’ countries) the choice is simple for those ethnic Russians in the Ukraine that want to play the Sudetens in this Russian version of playing the Sudeten German card.

  2. Crimea – the second Ossetia?
    Correctly or not the Russian management has decided, having “force Georgia to the world”, any more has no value. Whether there is South Ossetia and Abkhazia the separate states, whether will enter into structure of the Russian Federation, or remain with the uncertain status, also it is unimportant. The fact is the fact – the military conflict has led to loss of a part of the territory by Georgia. Also it is necessary to reflect, who can become the following victim of the similar scenario. Unlike a number of the European countries which won territories behind the seas (that has led to their further loss), Russia extended at the expense of absorption of the next territories. Such “internal colonization” not only has allowed mother country to supervise them, but also subsequently has provided preservation of considerable Russian influence after a parade of sovereignties – both in 1917-1918, and in 1990-1991. And claims on this influence only amplify recently. Including Ukraine.
    Some of the Russian politicians repeatedly declared necessity of revision of the status of the Crimean peninsula. Considering, that in the Kremlin similar demarches are invariably perceived with favourable silence, it is necessary to expect, that on this line pressure upon Kiev will amplify only. It is not necessary to forget, that Crimea till 1954 was in structure of RSFSR, and for today remains for Russia the important strategic base. It concerns as military sphere – the base in Sevastopol provides the control of Black sea, and political – thanks to a manipulation with moods of the population of Crimea.
    Russia renders essential moral and material support of activity of the Prorussian public and semimilitary organisations (for example, cossacks). Ostensibly at the initiative of the specified public organisations in Crimea the question of carrying out of a referendum on revision of the status of Crimea as making Ukraine is regularly brought up.
    Throughout last two years reception process by the Ukrainian citizens of the Russian passports considerably became more active. It is necessary to remind, that the pretext of protection of own citizens living in Ossetia (they received the Russian citizenship in the same way, as well as inhabitants of Crimea) became the justification for war against Georgia.
    Until recently hardly probable not a unique part of the population of Crimea, not captured by the Russian attention, were Crimean Tatars. However and this omission of the Kremlin is gradually corrected. And the rate becomes first of all on youth. Russia under own initiative has started to hold annual forums of the Tatar youth in Kazan which pass under the aegis of formation of national consciousness and preservation of cultural traditions of the people.
    Under this plausible excuse passes systematic ideological and political processing of the Crimean-Tatar youth for the purpose of rearrangement further national consciousness in the Prorussian direction.
    This work has already started to bear fruit. In the middle of September representatives of the Crimean-Tatar political organisation «Mele Firka» (“People’s party”) have addressed to the president and the prime minister of Russia, and also to the president of Tatarstan with the request to protect them from “the Ukrainian nationalist regime”.
    “Mele Firka” throughout September of this year, took part in quality of the claimant in a number of proceedings on business about genocide of the radical and small people in Ukraine. This organisation accuses the Ukrainian and Crimean authorities of genocide of the Crimean Tatars, and also oppressions of representatives of other radical and small people of the Crimean peninsula.
    Reaction to the reference has followed immediately. The vice-president of committee of the State Duma of the Russian Federation on affairs of compatriots Konstantin Zatulin, the known friend to the Ukrainian statehood, has promised, that Russia will understand with the specified problem. He has paid attention that from the end of reorganisation and till now the Crimean Tatars “have been engaged by the authorities of Ukraine” which considered them as convenient “leverage” of intimidation of the Russian-speaking majority on peninsula. However, Zatulin’s overall objective was Crimean-Tatar Majlis, which deputy has exposed hardly probable not a puppet of the Ukrainian authorities. This organisation really is the partner of Kiev, and Moscow tries to create for a long time the alternative centre of influence on the Crimean Tatars. So “Mele Firka”, most likely, is the provocative project which purpose is not only discredit of Kiev, but also split among Tatars.
    Certainly, their relations with the Ukrainian power far are not cloudless. To recollect at least the long train of self-captures provoked by enough that Kiev and has not managed to offer intelligible model of distribution of the land. However Tatars and Ukraine as more than once happened, have appeared again in one boat. Split will be only on a hand to the further strengthening of positions of Russia, whose relation to national minorities well-known. And who knows, whether it will intend to protect again the citizens in another’s territory.
    Force of any people in its unity. Only joint efforts and close cooperation with operating Ukrainian power Tatars can achieve the decision of present problems. Eventually, Ukraine itself initiated returning to territory of Crimea before the deported Tatars.
    Otherwise the situation in Crimea will be modelled under the scheme already tested on Southern Caucasus. Therefore the probability of similar results as Moscow continues work in this direction is high enough also.

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