First blood as Russia annexes Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin and representatives of Crimea's government signed a treaty March 18 incorporating the territory, including the autonomous city of Sevastopol, into the Russian Federation. The agreement follows a referendum two days earlier in which more than 95% of Crimean voters, largely ethnic Russians, elected to secede from Ukraine and request to join Russia. The US, EU and Ukraine all challenge the legitimacy of the referendum and refuse to recognize Crimea as either an independent nation or as a part of Russia. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the annexation "a robbery on an international scale." Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers reamin in Crimea, and are now facing off with Russian troops and pro-Russian paramilitary forces. At least one Ukrainian solider was reported killed in a clash at a base near Simferopol as Crimea's annexation was announced. Yatsenyuk said the base had been attacked, calling it a "war crime." Russian media said that a "self-defense member"—persumably, a pro-Russian paramilitary—was also killed. The slaying was blamed on a "sniper," who was reported to have been detained.

Russian media also emphasized that the treaty guarantees that all Crimea residents will have "the right to keep their native language as well as the means and conditions for learning it." Article 3 of the treaty states that there will be three official languages in Crimea and Sevastopol: Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar. (JuristCNN, RT, RTEuronews, March 18)

  1. Persecution of Crimean Tatars —already?

    Crimea's Tatars can be forgiven for not being assauged by guarantees for their rights under Russian rule. AFP reports March 18 that several hundred Tatars came out for the funeral of Reshat Ametov, 38, a father of three who disappeared two weeks earlier after a protest against union with Russia. The Crimean council of muftis said the body "had evidence of violence and torture."

    The below photo was posted on Facebook March 17. Little context is provided (who took it? where did it first appear?) but it is nonetheless very, very ominous. The caption reads: "In 23 years of Crimea being a part of independent Ukraine, there wasn't any attacks on Tatars. This photo is taken today in Crimea which says: 'Tatars, out of Crimea!'"

  2. Crimean Tatars face relocation

    Well, this isn't taking long. A March 20 report from Russian news agency RIA-Novosti says the Crimean government "will ask Tatars to vacate part of the land where they now live in exchange for new territory elsewhere in the region." Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev said that the new government wants to regularize the land unofficially taken over by Crimean Tatar squatters following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    "We have asked the Crimean Tatars to vacate part of their land, which is required for social needs," Temirgaliyev said. "But we are ready to allocate and legalize many other plots of land to ensure a normal life for the Crimean Tatars," he said.

    Perversely, many of the Tatars are "squatting" because they were unable to reclaim the land they had possessed before their deportation to Central Asia under Stalin. Some have only returned as recently as the 1990s, and settled on unclaimed land.

    Where's the outrage, folks? If squatters were getting evicted in Chiapas or the Lower East Side, all you "lefties" would be up in arms…