Interview with Gennady Sivak, the head of the "Social Patriotic Assembly of the Slavs" about the situation on Crimea (by Natalya Bazhenova/Manuel Ochsenreiter)
Mr. Sivak, since in Kiev the so called “Maidan Movement” took power, the people in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine started organizing to defend themselves against the new pro-Western government in Kiev. What can you tell us about the situation in Crimea?
Sivak: Citizens of the Crimean Republic will never recognize the violations of the Constitution of Ukraine, the result of which was that the armed bandits came to power. On February 27 the Supreme Council of the Crimean Republic voted for this statement. Crimea does not recognize the Verkhovna Rada (National Parliament) of Ukraine.
You are head of the “Social Patriotic Assembly of the Slavs” (SPAS) in Crimea. What role does your organization play in the conflict?
Sivak: The party SPAS has always strictly condemned all cases of violent excesses in the Crimea and Ukraine. The main goal of our activists in the present confrontation is to unify the Slavs and to keep peace and stability in Crimea. In order to achieve this goal we control the city Simferopol and all entrances to the Crimean Republic. And in the current conflict we abandoned our party´s symbols because we believe that people should not be divided by political parties – in opposite, we must unite all the people of Crimea.
The conflict in Crimea shows shocking images: Tatar extremists shouting “Allahu akbar” and Islamist claims in their fight against the Crimean Russians. What is behind this conflict?
Sivak: The majority of peaceful Muslims living in Crimea are fooled by a bunch of different kinds of radicals funded by Turkey and a number of Islamic countries that are always happy to recruit militants among Tatars to send them to different hotspots. As we know about 1.500 Tatar militants are fighting in Syria against the Syrian army. The Ukrainian legislation allows extremists to rapidly increase the number of their supporters. Therefore it is necessary to immediately eliminate the legal gaps in our legislation in order to stop the spread of extremism!
What gaps in the Ukrainian legislation provoke the spread of the extremism?
Sivak: You see, the “Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People” (central executive body of the Kurultai of Crimean Tatars) always acts as a legal entity but it is not even officially registered. Therefore, we can’t even make a claim in cases of ethnic hatred incidents as this “Mejlis” does not officially exist. This makes the “Mejlis” a political entity which does not exist “de jure” but acts like a political power “de facto”. We tried to resist this absurd situation since we can’t solve the problem in an official way.
The problem of Tatar extremism in Crimea arose long time ago. What political forces in Kiev support and encourage it?
Sivak: Unfortunately the Kiev government consists of officials who are totally mired in corruption and therefore extremists on Turkey’s payroll can wade into power through different parties. Their business is deeply connected to oligarchic clans and they mainly use the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) as a propaganda platform for acquiring the deputy status or to buy the deputies in order to lobby the required laws.
Did Tatar extremists take part in the Maidan movement?
Sivak: Of course. Tatar nationalist symbols were from the very beginning on the Maidan square and the former leader of the Tatar radicals Mustafa Dzhemilev is always present on the Maidan podium. They are closely related because of the fact that the Maidan opposition does not have support among the Slavs in Crimea but part of the Tatars supports them. As we all know recently the leader of the Ukrainian radical nationalists (Right Sector) Dmitry Yarosh openly stated that according to his opinion it is necessary for the future prosperity of Ukraine to get rid of the Russians and to drive them away from Crimea. He also said that it is much better for the Ukrainian nationalist cause if Crimea becomes Tatar. So you can see that the communication between them is obvious. Those radicals are responsible for the inter-ethnic conflict in our region while the most residents of Crimea, Russians and Tatar, want to live in peace together.
You mentioned the Turkish role in the support of the Muslim extremism...
Sivak: Ankara´s financial support for the Tatars in Crimea seems to be for a good cause at the first glance. But when we calculate all the money pumped by Turkey for the last 20 years and compare the amount with the number of Crimean Tatars, it turns out that every person should have at least a new apartment for each family. But this is not the case. Therefore the whereabouts of that money causes us extreme anxiety.
Do you think that most of the money is illegally directed to support the Tatar extremism in the region? Do you see any connection to the Tatar militants fighting in Syria?
Sivak: There is no doubt that this money is not being used in a transparent way and no doubt as well about the presence of Tatar militants in Syria. There is also the radical Islamic organization, Hizbut-Tahrir, which is banned as an extremist organization in many countries of the world including Germany that acts absolutely legally in Ukraine. They have an office here and hold their congresses and their representatives propagate radical Islam freely through Ukrainian TV. And we have strong reasons to believe that they take an active part in the escalation of the ethnic conflict in Crimea. In addition to this, we have information that the Turkish-Islamic underground network is organized in Crimea since a long time. The leading roles in it belong not only to Crimean Tatars but also to Uygur Islamists from Sinndzyan Uygur Autonomy of China. There are also several dozens of Islamist inspectors from Turkey and Azerbaijan. So as you see, Crimean Tatar extremists have prepared different ways (Nationalist, Turkic, Islamic) to put Crimea under the jurisdiction of Ukraine and to make a proclamation of an own independent state. Therefore the question is: On what basis was the union of Ukrainian nationalists and Tartar radical extremists created?
Western mainstream media still speaks about a “revolution” in Ukraine...
Sivak: As many people know, during 60 years USA made countless “revolutions” all over the world. So the American scenario of this political performance is very obvious in my opinion. Americans muddy the water everywhere using the principle of divide and rule as well as the destructive elements of society. And unfortunately European Union is totally involved now in that process without realizing that the fire may spread to Europe.
Western media write about war scenarios. Do you see a political solution of the actual crisis?
Sivak: Absolutely! The referendum which must be held on March 30, 2014 is a political solution of the issue. If during this time Russia, USA and Germany are able to negotiate and resolve the situation in Ukraine, there will be no need for this referendum. But if there will be no agreement, Crimea will follow the fate of South Ossetia and Transnistria. In any case it is obvious that Russia is the only real guarantee of peace and stability in our region!
Special thanks to my colleague from St. Petersburg Natalya Bazhenova for the great cooperation!