Tatar leader says Erdogan pledged to solve his problem entering Crimea

Mustafa Abdulcemil Kırımoglu, a Tatar political leader who was prevented on Friday and Saturday from entering the Crimean Peninsula by pro-Russian forces, has stated that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to resolve the matter.

“I told the Turkish government that I was banned from entering Crimea on fictitious pretexts. In response, the Turkish prime minister pledged to get in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin as soon as possible in order to resolve the issue. After the promise I obtained from the Turkish side, I returned to Kiev in order to defuse tensions in the region and to prevent undesired problems against our people. I am waiting here [in Kiev],” Kırımoglu told a TV station in Kiev on Saturday night.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will reportedly bring the situation of Crimean Tatars to the agenda of the ministerial meeting of the Council of Europe that is scheduled to be held from May 5-6 in Vienna. According to the Hurriyet daily, Davutoglu will present a document to the Council of Europe on the difficulties that Crimean Tatars have been facing after Crimea’s annexation by the Russian Federation. The ban on Kırımoglu’s entry to Crimea is also likely to be discussed during the meeting, the daily says.

On Friday, Kırımoglu, who is also the former chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Assembly), returned to Kiev after he was denied entry into Crimea after flying to the peninsula from a Moscow airport. On Saturday, he again attempted to enter the peninsula by car. However, authorities once again denied entry to the Crimean Tatar leader.

After Kırımoglu went to the Ukrainian capital, thousands of Crimean Tatars, who had been waiting for him in Crimea, staged protests in order to call on the authorities to solve the problem of the Crimean Tatar leader. Tatars started climbing over roadblocks in order to pass the Armyansk checkpoint between Crimea and Kiev-controlled Ukraine to speak with Kırımoglu.

Pro-Russian troops fired into the air, not letting thousands of Crimean Tatars, including Crimean Tatars’ Mejlis leader Refat Chubarov and Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Lenur Islamov, pass the Armyansk checkpoint. Chubarov called on the protesters to stand back in order to avoid bloodshed. Despite the gunfire, thousands of Tatars managed to pass the checkpoint and reached the Ukrainian town of Novoalekseyevka, where they met with Kırımoglu. After the incident, pro-Russian soldiers reportedly called for back-up and closed the border gate.

Crimea’s pro-Moscow leader Sergey Aksyonov said that Kırımoglu had been banned from Crimea because he threatens the stability of the region, claiming that the Crimean Tatar leader is being backed by Western spy agencies.

Erdogan and Putin have discussed the issue of Crimean Tatars several times over the phone. Erdogan reportedly stated that Turkey attaches great importance to Crimean Tatars’ security as the crisis continues in Ukraine.

Tatars have called on Ankara to play a more active role in the crisis. Turkey, however, has urged that diplomatic measures be used to resolve the standoff between pro-Russian groups in the restive eastern sections of the country and the interim government in Kiev. Ankara has called on Moscow to exert the utmost efforts to ensure the safety of the Tatar community in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia after a referendum held in mid-March.

Through a controversial referendum, Crimea unilaterally decided to leave Ukraine and join Russia, but the indigenous Tatar population opposes the decision. Western powers also oppose the Russian annexation of Crimea; they accuse Moscow of violating international law vis-à-vis the annexation.

Turkey has chosen to act cautiously over the Crimean crisis that erupted when Russia dispatched troops to the peninsula during turmoil in Ukraine in late February. Although Ankara reiterated the importance of preserving Ukraine’s territorial integrity, political unity and sovereignty, the fact that it has made statements regarding the Crimean crisis without mentioning Russia’s name has showed that Ankara is refraining from confronting Moscow, one of Turkey’s key energy suppliers.


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