Crimean Tartars earlier this month launched an ongoing blockade of food deliveries to Crimea from Ukraine in protest of Russia's annexation of the peninsula. Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tatar leader who was banned from the peninsula by Russia after its March 2014 take-over, told the New York Times no trucks would be allowed through border crossings after barricades went up on Sept. 20. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed prime minister of Crimea, said the blockade would have little effect, as only about 5% of the goods consumed in the region come through Ukraine. "The trade blockade of Crimea begun by Ukrainian activists with the support of a number of Kiev politicians will not affect food supplies in the region," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 satellite TV. "Crimea will not notice this."
According to the Times, Russian TV has focused much attention on "the fact that roadblocks were being manned with the help of members of Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist organization banned in Russia, where the news media frequently portray it as neo-fascist." Now, Right Sector is sure enough neo-fascist, but we aren't convinced that Tartar cooperation with them is a "fact." The Times cites no other source than the very Russian TV stations it implicitly disses as less than objective.
However, the Ukraine Today website also reports: "Tatars and members of the nationalist Right Sector group, who are behind the 'economic blockade' say their aim is to highlight discrimination and harassment since Russia annexed the region last year."
So perhaps the Tatars are taking their allies where they can find them. Certainly the Western left has offered no solidarity, and is mostly rallying around Putin. So how messed up is this? Western leftists, the first to protest Islamophobia at home, cut slack for Putin's oppression of a Muslim minority. Meanwhile, that Muslim minority is left to form a tactical alliance with neo-fascists who assuredly are exploiting them for anti-Russian propaganda and ultimately have no greater love for Muslims than Putin does.
But we also feel the need to warn that propaganda charades abound in the Ukrainian conflict, and the Tartars have also been the target of such sleazy tricks. StopFake.org, a website dedicated to exposing "fake information about events in Ukraine," notes that Russian social media users—particularly in the Facebook group Nostalgia USSR—are circulating a photo of what is purported to be a Crimean Tartar SS unit formed by the Nazi occupation in World War II. The shot shows five young men in military uniforms, each wearing a fez emblazoned with a death's head and the Nazi eagle. But there was no such Tartar SS unit. In fact, the photo shows a Croatian SS unit made up of Bosnian Muslim volunteers. Writes StopFake: "Indeed, this photo is used by Wikipedia for its page on the Croatian SS division. The photo can also be found on a Serbian website about Muslim members of the SS divisions."
Now, despite much Russian (and idiot-leftist) hype about the fascist threat in Ukraine, Right Sector actually did very poorly in last year's first post-revolutionary elections. But the world's acceptance of Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea gives them a cause to rally around. And the world's betrayal of the Tartars to their historic Russian oppressors gives them desperate allies. So to acquiescence in Russian propaganda about a fascist threat in Ukraine paradoxically makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think about that.