Will Ukraine accept the loss of Crimea?

July 13, 2020

Kharkiv Mayor Hennadii Kernes said in a recent interview that Crimeans “had the right to hold a referendum” on the status of the peninsula in 2014. At the same time, he did not mention a word about the fact that the so-called referendum was no longer held by the residents of Crimea, but by the Russian military who actually occupied the peninsula. The statement of the mayor of Kharkiv gave rise to a lot of laudatory comments in the Russian media and predictions that Ukraine, even if it maintains its official position on the annexation of Crimea, will actually come to terms with the loss of the peninsula.

At the same time, the Head of the board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, a member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Eskender Bariiev, believes that the instability in Ukrainian politics and the lack of a strategy on the Crimean issue in the country's leadership really create fertile ground for information injections from Russia. In his opinion, these stuffing is not able to radically change the position of Ukraine, but create a favorable environment for the further split of society and intensification of destabilization in the country.

“It is important to understand that Kernes is not one of the figures shaping Ukrainian politics. However, he quite skillfully captures the already existing tendencies that began since the presidential elections in Ukraine. Even before the vote, we conducted the campaign “Presidential candidate, tell us whose Crimea is”, and even then we noticed that all the rhetoric of candidate Zelensky was devoted not to the de-occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, but to ending the war. However, the main problem arose in connection with the conditions under which he planned to restore peace, and to what extent it is possible, given that the end of the war depends on the will of the aggressor, and not the victim of aggression”,- the Crimean Tatar activist explained.

Eskender Bariiev admits that the attitude towards peace at any cost appeals to the parts of Ukrainian society, which have already begun to adapt to the loss of a number of territories and continue to visit the so-called Russian Crimea.

“The danger lies in the fact that society is slowly getting used to the fact that Crimea is occupied, and in fact is no longer part of Ukraine. The first factor that contributes to this is moral war weariness. This fatigue affected the entire society to one degree or another, since the consequences of the war were expressed not only in the deaths of the military, but also in the fall in the standard of living, which affected everyone. The second factor is the professional crisis that hit the Ukrainian authorities after the elections. Not all representatives of the new government had work experience or at least professional skills in certain areas, and they are trying to compensate for this lack of professionalism with populist statements.

As a result, constant personnel changes and reorganization of entire ministries began, which reduced the efficiency of the government. A number of reforms launched by the previous government were also called into question. This led to the disappointment of a part of the population in the government's initiatives, which was reflected in the growth of support for opposition forces, including pro-Russian ones. The third important factor is the unrelenting work of the Russian special services, sabotage groups and agents of influence. For example, ideas are constantly being thrown into the information space of Ukraine about the possibility of supplying water to Crimea, language issues or the inexpediency of European or Euro-Atlantic integration. All these factors influence the social psychology of people”,- the Crimean Tatar expert explained.

According to him, pro-Russian forces began to actively buy up shares in Ukrainian television broadcasting.

Putin's best man Viktor Medvechuk has his own percentage in the popular 1 + 1 TV channel and is actively buying up other popular channels. In parallel with this, the oppression of opposition channels, such as Priamyi and Espresso, began. It is clear that various political forces are trying to influence President Zelensky, including within the Servant of the People party itself, there are frictions between different political groups of the party.

However, the system of political parties and party building in Ukraine as a whole is rather weak, many parties do not carry a clear ideology and position and are created before the elections, or purposefully for certain individuals. The Servant of the People party is a good example here. Even the position of President Zelenskiy also differs from case to case. All this uncertainty disorients people”,- Eskender Bariiev believes.

The Head of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center believes that Volodymyr Zelensky is sincerely trying to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine, but the problem of Crimea is increasingly falling out of both rhetoric and tactics of actions to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“For example, the Ministry for the Reintegration of the Occupied Territories underwent a reorganization, as a result of which the department dealing with the issues of Crimea was liquidated. This is alarming, since the issues of Crimea should be dealt with by a central executive body capable of forming and implementing state policy in this direction. And no matter how much they publicly declare about the de-occupation of Crimea, real actions are evident”,- the expert notes.

At the same time, Eskender Bariiev also notes the correct actions of the new Ukrainian authorities, for example, the termination of the agreement with Russia on cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“In cases where Russian saboteurs operate on the territory of Ukraine, and dissidents in Crimea are labeled as terrorists, there is no point in this agreement. It is another matter that in the information space Russia remains a strong side, and it will try to use any statements of Ukrainian officials in its interests, and part of the Ukrainian society succumbs to this propaganda”,- he says.

The Ukrainian expert notes that such an information campaign is fruitful.

 “When more and more Ukrainian media fall under the influence of pro-Russian political forces, the topic of Crimea inevitably begins to drop out of their agenda. In addition, against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and growing economic difficulties, people are increasingly concerned with their own problems. All this affects the state of Ukrainian society, and it is not at all safe. People, more and more engaged in only their own survival, receiving information from already engaged media and regularly encountering information injections, begin to succumb to them. We try to inform people that there are our citizens in Crimea who need support, but our efforts are limited”,- Eskender Bariiev admits.

Another problem of this tendency, the Crimean Tatar expert calls the more relaxed attitude of the Ukrainian society to security issues, which is especially dangerous against the background of the activation of Russian sabotage groups. So, on July 8, the SBU announced the arrest of an agent of the FSB of Russia, who arrived from the temporarily occupied territories to carry out an assignment to commit a terrorist attack in the Luhansk region. According to the intelligence service, the saboteur planned to blow up the ammonia tanks with a capacity of 3,500 tons on the territory of the Severodonetsk Nitrogen Association. Eskender Bariiev fears that one of the next tasks of the Russian terrorists may be to blow up the dam, which would ensure the supply of water to Crimea.

“That part of the North Crimean Canal, which is located on the mainland of Ukraine, has never been really concreted. Yes, it is a little overgrown, but this will not prevent the water from finding a direction along the channel and reaching Crimea. In conditions of a relaxed society, the possibilities of sabotage groups increase. Conversely, the activity of civil society can stimulate the authorities to pay more attention to the protection of strategic facilities and increasing the combat capability of the army”,- he emphasizes.


Kseniya Kirilova's interview