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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

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“Crimean fiasco”: administrative power versus people’s power
10 August, 2010 - 00:00

The refusal of the Crimean Tatar People’s Mejlis to participate in a meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych has upset not only the head of the Presidential Administration (PA) but also the president himself. And things were just looking so splendid for the Ukrainian “elite”: the majority bowed their heads and many have even lain down…

“I do not understand this position. The attitude of the Mejlis leadership — I stress the Mejlis leadership — has no prospects at all. A position like this leads to nowhere,” Yanukovych said. The PA head Serhii Liovochkin was even more incensed: “The decision of [Mejlis leader Mustafa] Dzemiliov not to take part in a meeting of Crimean Tatar representatives with the president was caused by his ambitions and does not meet the standards of democracy. The attempts to dictate one’s own conditions are closing, rather than opening, the door to negotiations. It is very bad. It is politicking.”

What caused the embarrassment was the invitation to the meeting with the president of some Crimean Tatars whom the Mejlis considers provocateurs or Russian agents hired to split the Crimean Tatar movement. “The meeting between Mejlis leaders and the president will only take place in the format of a meeting with the Presidential Council of the Crimean Tatar People, not with the so-called Crimean Tatar representatives,” Mejlis representatives had announced. “The government is opting for organizations other than the Mejlis in order to split the Crimean Tatar community,” Mejlis leader Dzemiliov explained. In his words, contrary to previous agreements, those invited included people who had requested that Rus-sian President Dmitry Medvedev render similar “assistance” to the Crimean Tatars as that given to South Ossetia. “They were in fact inviting Russian tanks to Crimean territory,” Dzemiliov added.

Thus, according to the Mejlis, “those invited to this reformatted meeting were not the leaders of influential Crimean Tatar civic organizations but rather the representatives of two or three highly scandalous sociopolitical associations run by individuals who are ready for any destructive actions to achieve their ambitions.” As a result, the Mejlis presidium reports, members of the Presidential Council of the Crimean Tatar People were forced to decline the invitation to a meeting “to which odious persons were invited.”

People in general, and Tatars in particular, do not like being spit in the face. Paradoxically, this natural reaction appeared to be unexpected for the authorities. Perhaps they judged people by their “political class” and, luckily, were mistaken. Dissident Dzemiliov stood his ground, and he has the right to do so. Some people do not bend their knees.

Is inviting a few marginal and extremist organizations to a meeting with an organization that represents the absolute majority of the Crimean people, i.e., the Mejlis, the constructive spirit about which the authorities keep trumpeting? Meetings between the president and the Crimeans have already discussed what the government wanted: economic relations, promises of redistribution of Crimean land, etc. What the government needed in the relations with Crimean Tatars is TV footage, not a constructive spirit. When the show was foiled, nervousness began. To achieve an even greater “constructive spirit,” the government might have invited some NKVD veterans who used to deport Crimean Tatars from their homeland.

“The politicians who are clinging to their chairs by pursuing a policy of confrontation, lies, and manipulation of people’s attitudes, are doomed to failure,” the PA head said. Very good words, indeed, although they would be more applicable to somebody other than those they were addressed to.

The Tatars also once had a propensity to splitting. But this was a long time ago, in the 18th century. They have gone through a lot of ordeal since then to understand the importance of unity, especially for such a small group of people. Nowadays, about 80 percent of the Crimean Tatars support the Mejlis, just a few percent opt for alternative associations, and the rest is a mere “slough.”

According to Dzemiliov, Presidential Administration Head Lio­vochkin said during a phone call that if Mejlis representatives refused to take part in the meeting with the president, “adequate measures” would be taken. “What are these ‘adequate measures’? I do not know what this means. Maybe Soviet ones? We are used to it. Even the Soviet authorities failed to browbeat us, although they had a far more powerful repressive machine,” the politician said. Besides, Dzemiliov did not rule out that the Crimean government would “mobilize the obedient press to malign the Mejlis.” “But we have got used to this, too, and will not die of curses. Don’t scare us, we are not afraid,” he added.

President Yanukovych said that offices would be offered to representatives of all the peoples who support the popularly elected party. It is very strange to hear this from a leader for whom an absolute minority of the electorate voted, not to mention the current Cabinet which does not reflect the parliamentary election results. Obviously, the true “Crimean fiasco” is the failure of the government to understand that even a small people can be a key to legitimacy.

By Oleksandr PALII, special to The Day