1/11/2014 16:19
RIA Novosti

Analysis & Opinion

Ethnic Russian Rage Excites Secession Talk in Ukraine’s Crimea

Topic: Turbulence in Ukraine

1 / 2
Pro-Russian rally in SevastopolPro-Russian rally in Sevastopol
20:25 25/02/2014
Tags: Oleksandr Turchynov, Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin, Alexei Chaliy, Crimea, Sevastopol, Ukraine, Russia

SEVASTOPOL, February 25 (Howard Amos, RIA Novosti) – “A Russian mayor for a Russian town,” chanted the lively and irate crowd clogging the center of Sevastopol, a warm water port on the Black Sea.

Except that Sevastopol is, in actual fact, in Ukraine.

Since the opposition, much of whose ranks are occupied by unabashed Ukrainian nationalists, seized power, calls for secession have been spreading across the sprawling nation’s mainly Russian-speaking southern and eastern regions.

In Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, talk of greater autonomy turned to action Monday evening, when a throng numbering several thousand strong assembled outside the city hall.

Their first call was to demand that an extraordinary town council meeting recognize a local businessman with strong ties to Russia, Alexei Chaliy, as the city’s new mayor.

As some hotheads in the rabble threatened to storm the building, other waved Russian flags and brushed aside objections that Chaliy’s Russian citizenship made him ineligible for the job.

© RIA Novosti Vasily Batanov

Before long, the announcement filtered through that Chaliy had been voted head of a new coordination council, and within a few minutes, he appeared at a second floor window to the cries of supporters.

In a move that smoothed the process, the former mayoral incumbent Vladimir Yatsuba had earlier tearfully announced his resignation, thereby paving the way for the Russian town to get its Russian leader.

The day’s events marked the first stages in the establishment of an anti-Kiev administration amid tumultuous development that will cause headaches for the group of politicians that have replaced the administration of ousted fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych.

Similar expressions of popular anger have taken place across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent days, but nowhere is dissatisfaction with the new regime greater than in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula of two million people, which is the country’s only region with a majority ethnic Russian population.

Chaliy’s election, which has been widely covered by Kremlin-friendly media outlets in Russia, is unprecedented. Sevastopol has not elected a mayor by popular plebiscite since Kiev deprived it of that right in 1992.

Following up on their successful collective decision to install Chaliy as city head, the gathering in Sevastopol demanded that local security forces declare their allegiance to him and set up roadblocks to seal off the city.

Speculation, often feverish, has been rife that armed units are to be dispatched from western Ukraine to subjugate Crimea and bend them to Kiev’s will.

City police chief Alexander Goncharov, who went to Monday’s meeting to answer questions, said four roadblocks manned by armed officers would be set up around the city.

“If we receive criminal orders from Kiev, we will not carry them out,” he said, in what seemed like a qualified attempt at fence-sitting as the situation becomes clearer.

One of the people in the crowd, Fyodor, 26, a sailor from Sevastopol who travels around the world on merchant ships, echoed a common hope that Moscow could get involved.

“If there’s repression of Russians in Crimea then Russia will be forced to respond,” he said.

Alexandra, who declined to give her surname, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to take direct action.

“Putin and the Black Sea fleet should come,” she said. “We are not scared of bloodshed.”

Crimea’s ties with Russia go back a long way.

Until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 transferred the territory to what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Crimea was officially a part of Russia.

During Yanukovych’s tenure, which began in early 2010, Ukraine renewed Russia’s lease on the naval base in Sevastopol until 2042, cementing what was already a strong economic link between Moscow and the region.

Separatist sentiments surfaced following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and rumors have persisted ever since that the impulse is covertly encouraged by the Kremlin.

On Sunday, there was a wave of large pro-Russian rallies in Crimea. Some estimates put the turnout in Sevastopol upward of 20,000, far larger than the impromptu throng of the following day. Speakers variously condemned the new government in Kiev as fascist and openly called for secession.

“We will not submit to the regime in Kiev,” Dmitry Sinichkin, president of the local branch of motorcycle club the Night Wolves told the crowd in Sevastopol.

The Night Wolves are closely linked to Russia’s political elite. Putin has visited the group in the city several times, on one occasion in 2010 riding a three-wheeled Harley Davidson alongside the bikers.

After his speech, Sinichkin told RIA Novosti that fresh bloodshed in Ukraine’s ongoing political crisis was inevitable.

Rally-goers waved the Russian red, white and blue tricolor and yelled the football fan-style chant of “Ros-si-ya, Ros-si-ya, Ros-si-ya,” as they endorsed calls to create self-defense squads with police cooperation and withhold taxes from Kiev.

© RIA Novosti Vasily Batanov

“Sevastopol is a Russian town and will always be a Russian town … we will never surrender to those fascists in Kiev,” said Anatoly, who was wearing a sweater bearing the logo of the United Russia party that dominates the political landscape in Ukraine’s eastern neighbor.

United Russia, he said, had signed a cooperation agreement with the Sevastopol Russian Community, a local society of which he was a member.

Purported moves in Moscow in recent years to push for granting Russian passports to ethnic Russians abroad has drawn fierce criticism from Kiev and sparked allegations of an attempted backdoor land grab.

While Putin had as of Tuesday refrained from making any public pronouncements on the unfolding situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry was more forthright in describing the acting government as gaining power through “dictatorial and sometimes terrorist methods.”

In remarks that hinted at possible future pressure from the Kremlin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed particular concern about Russians living in Ukraine.

Indeed, fears are rising that southern separatists will use the current crisis to provoke Russians into lending their muscle and peel Crimea away from Ukraine.

Some experts have raised the possibility of a scenario in which the peninsula becomes trapped in a frozen conflict and becomes wholly dependent on Russia, as has happened in other former Soviet nations such as Georgia, which lost control over the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in large part because of Moscow’s involvement.

“It’s easy to imagine that the Crimea calls a referendum and gets special status within the Ukraine,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The natural next step would be to secede … and that could turn Ukraine into an unrecognized state like Abkhazia.”
Not all in Crimea back secession, however.

The local ethnic Tartar community, a mainly Muslim population that numbers about 250,000 people, has been vocal in support of the incoming government in Kiev. That adds a potentially explosive strand to the region’s ethnic mix of Russians and Ukrainians.

How the new regime in Kiev will act is also hard to predict.

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov warned Tuesday that he recognized that separatism was a “serious threat” and said he would liaise with security forces on how to resolve the issue.

In statements that can only have served to sow alarm, leaders from the nationalist Svoboda party, which played a central role in the opposition’s ascent to power, reportedly said Monday that Russia was dispatching extra naval forces to Crimea.

In Sevastopol, Viktor Neganov, an advisor to acting Interior Minister, told RIA Novosti that the new government was for now trying to settle the situation without the use of force.

But Neganov warned that what Chaliy is doing in the city amounts to a local coup.

“If he stays, he will go to jail as a traitor to the state,” he said.

  • Add to blog
  • Send to friend
  • Share

Add to blog

You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.

Publication code:


RIA NovostiPro-Russian rally in SevastopolEthnic Russian Rage Excites Secession Talk in Ukraine’s Crimea

20:25 25/02/2014 “A Russian mayor for a Russian town,” chanted the lively and irate crowd clogging the center of Sevastopol, a warm water port on the Black Sea. Except that Sevastopol is, in actual fact, in Ukraine.>>

Send by e-mail

All fields are required!

Leave a comment
  • ruypenalvaI hope Russia can do soon the job
    00:58, 26/02/2014
    I hope Russia can do asap the job of seize Crimea and free russians citizens from the european nazi-fascism. Crimea and Sevastopol should return to Russia.
    • zoran.jelinicno
      03:49, 26/02/2014
      enemies wish that Crimea join Russia, than they get rest of Ukraine without any dificulties, 1% to Russia 99% to nacis, NO all Ukraine go home to Rusian world, fight can last 100 years but East will be united again, President Putin have strength and wisdom to break this threat to the survival of the Slavic people
    • zoran.jelinicdefend the homeland
      02:03, 26/02/2014
      after 20 years of indoctrination, propaganda story about Europe and democracy, it come into people subconscious and not react to the death threat, it seems that this is happening in Russia itself,
      This is a historic moment, Russia is ATTACKED, it should respond immediately with all available resources, what Ukraine what non-interference, that is Russian land, Ukrainians and Russians are one people, (the western part of Ukraine only lost it culture, the last 20 years systematically poisoned with western poison) for centuries people give lifes for that land it can’t be non-interference or lack of interest, the Nazis should once and for all time defeated and not with negotiations (didn’t with negotiations came to power) but with armed force at full strength, they should be driven out from Russian Ukraine, it is big mistake to speak with West about Ukraine, it is Russian home and West should be kicked out from there after these what they organize there, they will never speak with Russia about Scotland, why do we speak about our land with them?
      with the attacker is not negotiating, Alexander Nevsky defeated them then, again there are here
      • R.Deus-von HomeyerRE:Defend the homeland
        18:21, 26/02/2014

        Dera Zoran,
        the ancuient Romans used to say;"UBI BENE ,IBI PATRIA!" "Where I have a good life,there is MY homeland!"

        That is what the Ukrainians are thinking.They want to join the EU,because they WANT to be able to move to Germany,UK;FRance or Italy and make MORE money than they earn in UKRAINA.

        The problem is,they do not comprehend WHAT PRICE they have to pay for this"freedom of movement"

        They will be forced by the IMF and European Central Bank (which is in Frankfurt/Main) to take huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge loans and PLENTY of conditions will be attacehed to them.
        Reply | Comments: 1Expand branch
      • bielecThe agenda is strictly economic
        05:29, 26/02/2014
        Ukraine is wanted by the West to deliver, with pipelines, oil and natural gas from the Persian Gulf and Baku region to Europe. Western investors and bankers will profit from it, not the Ukrainian people. Such pipelines would put out of business Russian projects, such as the South and the North Stream, and this would have serious implications on Russian economy and the standard of living of all Russians.

        At present time, oil and gas from Persian Gulf cannot compete with Russian supplies. Transportation with tankers is much more expensive than transportation with pipelines and this reflects on the final prices on European markets.

        In addition, Russia, as a supplier of energy resources to Europe, has some leverage on European politics which, in recent years, has become dangerously close to the aggressive and arrogant violations of international law by the U.S. and Israel.

        This is why Europe is so involved in opening alternative sources of energy resources, mainly from the Persian Gulf (Qatar, Saudi Arabia). This is why former Yugoslavia was attacked and partitioned, this is why color revolutions targeted countries and regions along these planned pipelines, this is why other oil-rich countries in the Region were targeted.

        Just like Syria, Ukraine is needed to run these new pipelines. Crimea is the only place where they can be blocked. Russia simply cannot afford having its cities and its infrastructure in Crimea fall into the hands of Ukrainian Neo-Nazis. This is why the current developments in Ukraine are so dangerous. We are looking at a possibility of a global military conflict that will swallow the new and self-appointed authorities of Ukraine before the conflict escalates internationally. Perhaps justice is coming faster to the Ukrainian traitors than to President Yanukovich. Tymoshenko knows why she wants to temporarily park herself in Germany. The only people who will lose are the ordinary Ukrainians who have blindly followed the foreign agents and criminal neo-Nazis.
      • cheruskGo Russia ... till the Atlantic
        14:58, 26/02/2014
        Many West-europeans are looking forward to being liberated.
      • IncognitovTurchynov is a hypocrite
        22:47, 26/02/2014
        It seems to me that Turchypv is denying ethnic Russians 'freedoms' that initially took Ukranians to the streets of Kiev.
      • jgIrony/hypocrisy
        02:45, 03/03/2014
        "But Neganov warned that what Chaliy is doing in the city amounts to a local coup.
        “If he stays, he will go to jail as a traitor to the state,” he said."

        This guy obviously doesn't do irony. He is an advisor to acting Interior Minister who came to power last week in a violent coup.

      © 2014  RIA Novosti
      Some material may be inappropriate for those under 18