Staunton, June 15 – Under UN rules, neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians living in Crimea have the right to conduct a referendum on self-determination in Crimea, former Russian prime minister and now a Russian opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov says. The only nation which does, he says, is the Crimean Tatars.”
In an interview with Radio Liberty, Kasyanov says that “I do not consider that Russians or Ukrainians living in Crimea have the right to conduct a referendum in correspondence with the UN charter on self-determination. Russians have already self-determined themselves, they have their own state called the Russian Federation” (youtube.com/watch?v=4uUKTsVG7Rc partially transcribed at turkist.org/2015/06/self-determination-crimean-tatars.html).
The Ukrainians have already exercised their right of self-determination and have Ukraine, he continues. But “the Crimean Tatars have not had the chance to engage in self-determination. So that if in this case anyone has the right [to have a referendum on self-determination], it is the Crimean Tatars.”
Any territorial disputes among the countries of the region, Kasyanov says, should be resolved by negotiations. But he argues that despite Vladimir Putin’s claims, “Russia had no territorial claims against Ukraine, the basis [for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula] was false and invented.”
“Supposedly, Russians in Ukraine and in Crimea in particular were being discriminated against. [But] there was nothing of the kind. Over the course of the entire 25 years of the existence of Ukraine, there was not one registered case or complaint to any organization Ukrainian, Russian or international about discrimination against Russians and Russian speaking citizens,” Kasyanov says.
That means, the Russian politician says, that the entire world now recognizes that what Russia is doing in Ukraine is “an act of direct aggression and the illegal annexation of territory” and that “all decisions taken by the Russian parliament and president on Ukraine are illegal and do not correspond to international law however interpreted.”
By taking this position in support of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, Kasyanov would appear to be putting himself somewhere between those Russians who oppose Putin but support the Anschluss of Crimea and those who oppose both actions in the name of Ukrainian sovereignty.