Interview: Crimean Tatar Leader Attacks Ukraine's Black Sea Fleet Deal
April 28, 2010
On April 27, the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments ratified an agreement to extend Russia's lease of the Crimean port of Sevastopol for its Black Sea Fleet until 2042.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, spoke today with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service correspondent Landysh Kharrasova from Strasbourg about the new Russian-Ukrainian deal.
RFE/RL: What was the Crimean Tatars' reaction to the ratification of the Black Sea Fleet agreement and what impact is it going to have on the future of the Crimean Tatars?
Mustafa Dzhemilev: Of course, our reaction is very negative, and we made a statement in this regard, because the Black Sea Fleet is a source of destabilization and a permanent threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Let's recall the Black Sea Fleet's participation in the Russian-Georgian war. It delivered strikes against Georgian towns and, according to the rules of war, Georgia, had it had the capability, could have retaliated not only against the warships but also their bases -- in other words, against our territory, the territory of Crimea, the territory of Ukraine.
And this time Russia waged a war against a weak Georgia, which basically doesn't have a navy of its own. Imagine a similar adventure against our neighbor across the Black Sea. They wouldn't think too much about [Crimea] being [a foreign base] if their own towns came under fire.
Secondly, at a time when high-ranking [Russian] officials constantly make territorial claims on Ukraine and say that Crimea will sooner or later become part of Russia again, hosting that country's navy on our territory is absolutely unwise.
And thirdly, this goes against the Ukrainian Constitution, whose Article 17 states that no foreign military bases must be permitted on Ukrainian territory. Yes, we allowed [the Black Sea Fleet] to remain there, as an exception, until 2017 because there was an agreement. But this 25-year extension is simply astonishing. These people signed [the deal] on behalf of entire generations to come. I think it is outrageous.
RFE/RL: You said you made statements. What kind of statements did you make?
Dzhemilev: We made a statement in the press protesting the signing of an agreement prolonging the Black Sea Fleet's stay. In fact, we had been saying that it was necessary to shorten its stay so that Russia would begin pulling its navy out. And now we have something completely opposite.
I know that Ukraine is, of course, in a bad economic situation. But I don't know any other country that would pay its price for gas by accepting such a threat to its territorial integrity and stability in such an important region.
RFE/RL: Are you going to take any further measures?
Dzhemilev: Of course the Crimean Tatars are not strong enough to have any determining influence, but, together with all the democratic forces, we will definitely seek a revision of this agreement. We categorically oppose this ratification. Not only do we oppose the ratification, but we oppose the extension of the Black Sea Fleet's stay [in Crimea] in general.
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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