Sunday, October 12, 2014

Window on Eurasia: If Kyiv Created a‘Ukrainian Crimea’ in Kherson, Might Moscow Respond by Declaring an Independent 'Eastern Ukraine'?

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 12 – Mustafa Cemilev, the longtime leader of the Crimean Tatars, has proposed transferring part of the territory of Kherson Oblast to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, a step that would mean that part of Crimea would be under Ukrainian control and thus lead to even more obvious comparisons between the meaning of Ukrainian and Russian rule.


            At a briefing in Kyiv, Cemilev noted that approximately 12,000 Crimean Tatars live in the Kherson oblast, most of whom being people who tried to return to their national homeland from exile in Soviet times but were blocked from entering the peninsula by officials (


            Cemilev said that both the Ukrainian president and the Ukrainian prime minister like the idea but it “contradicts” the Ukrainian constitution and so cannot go forward now. But “perhaps,” he said, “we will return to this question after the elections,” because such a move would make it easier “to defend this part of Ukraine from the Russians.”


            The potential utility of such a step is highlighted by the angry reaction of one Russian commentator who argues that any move in that direction would show that Kyiv has no interest in resolving the current crisis and in fact is taking steps which “in the final analysis will end with another bloody tragedy.”


            Anatoly Baranov, editor of the portal, suggests, however, that Cemilev’s proposal could be useful if it leads Moscow to “correct” what he describes as two of the many major mistakes the Russian government has made in dealing with Crimea and Ukraine over the past months.


            On the one hand, he says, Moscow should stop talking about autonomy for the Crimean Tatars in the occupied peninsula and instead “immediately create two Crimean Tatar autonomous districts, in Bakchisaray and Stary Krym, thus dividing the Crimea Tatars and taking away from Kyiv any chance to play “’the Crimean Tatar card.’”


            And on the other, Baranov continues, Moscow should correct an error which already has a name: Novorossiya.  That territory “strictly speaking” includes Krasnodar kray, Stavropol, Rostov, and even the Transdniestria. Kharkiv in contrast was never part of “historical Novorossiya.”


            If Cemilev shows what can be done by playing with maps and creating “yet another ‘Crimea,’ then Russian should be equally clever. What it should be talking about is creating an independent Eastern Ukraine on the model of East Germany, something that would give Moscow a legitimate claim on Kharkiv, “the former capital of Soviet Ukraine.”


Correcting the first mistake is easy, Baranov says, but “unfortunately, correcting the second is already very difficult.” Russian forces would have to take Kharkiv, “and Yanukovich is no longer president of Ukraine” and thus in a position to help. But such a division of Ukraine and such a nomenclature would make much more sense.




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