Russia to Crimean Tartars: You’re Either With Us, Or Against Us
Crimea’s prosecutor, Natalia Poklonskaya, has formally warned the Crimean Tartar leaders that they face criminal prosecution if they persists in organizing protests against regional government policies, and their chief civil organization, the Mejlis, will be banned.
Refat Chubarov, the head of the Crimean Tartar Mejlis, was summoned to the prosecutor’s office on May 4 after Tatars staged several rallies across Crimea in support of Mustafa Jemilev, a Tartar community leader who was exiled in late April.
One of the May 3 rallies occurred near a checkpoint on Crimea’s border with Ukraine at Armyansk, where Jemilev was at that moment attempting to reenter Crimea. The rallies were peaceful and no violence or property damage occurred. Nevertheless, the authorities denied Jemilev entry and charged Chubarov and a number of other Crimean Tatars who participated in the rallies with violating Russia’s law on assembly.
Prosecutors claimed that Armyansk rally participants were engaged in “publicly inciting other citizens to unlawful activities,” including participating in similar rallies “in support of Jemilev” in violation of “Articles 4 and 5 of the federal law [of the Russian Federation] on assembly, meetings, demonstrations and picketing.”
Poklonskaya then stated that “based on the aforementioned facts, under Article 7 of the federal law [of the Russian Federation] on fighting extremist activities … I warn Chubarov Refat Abdurakhmanovich, the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, that extremist activities are prohibited, and I demand that extremist activities be stopped immediately.”
If the protests do not stop, she stated, “the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars will be eliminated and banned on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Poklonskaya promised to present Chubarov with written notice of the charges, but has yet to do so. Numerous participants in the recent protests have been served with writs charging them with violating the law on assembly. Chubarov stated after the meeting with Poklonskaya that he expects to be charged, or even arrested, in the next several days.