Crimean Tatars announce blockade of the peninsula

A desperate response to persecution and discrimination

© Valerie Pizhanski via Flickr

The political leadership of the Crimean Tatars has announced a desperate action as a clear signal against persecution and illegal detention and for more freedom of the press in Crimea: Its intention is to block the import of products and goods to the peninsula. Activists are supposed to try and block the routes between the Kherson region in Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, starting at 12:00 noon on September 20.  The Crimean Tatars are aware that participating in the blockade might lead to arrests, court proceedings and even long prison sentences, said Sarah Reinke, CIS-expert of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), in Berlin on Thursday. However, they see no other way to get international attention. The Crimean Tatars are suffering from systematic persecution and discrimination since Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.

According to the Crimean Tatars, more than 80 percent of the goods that are delivered to Crimea are transferred to the Russian Federation. With the blockade, the Crimean Tatars want to emphasize the following five demands: Achtem Chijgoz, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis who has been kept detained without a trial since January 2015, and all other Ukrainians who are illegally detained in Russia, must be released – and the travel bans against the politicians Mustafa Dzhemilev, Refat Chubarov, Sinaver Kadyrov and Ismet Yuksel must be repealed. In addition, Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian media must not be obstructed, while foreign journalists and human rights observers must be able to access the peninsula freely. Further, there must be an end to the administrative penalties and prosecutions against Crimean Tatars and other people of Ukrainian nationality living in Crimea.

According to Reinke, the fact that the political representation of the Crimean Tatars, the Majlis, announced a blockade must be seen against the background of the planned talks of the Minsk Group in Paris in early October 2015. The Crimean Tatars fear that their situation will not be considered. Therefore, they have also sent an appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin of his obligation to respect the rights of the Crimean Tatars, and to advocate for an end to the systematic discrimination and persecution.