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07KYIV702, UKRAINE: THE STRUGGLE FOR SEVASTOPOL

March 29, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV702 2007-03-29 08:46 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO8620
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0702/01 0880846
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 290846Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1715
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KYIV 000702 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/UMB 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/27/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RS UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: THE STRUGGLE FOR SEVASTOPOL 
 
REF: A. KYIV 4558 
     B. KYIV 4489 
     C. 06 MOSCOW 13074 
     D. 06 KIEV 738 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  Sevastopol continues to be in the middle of 
a tug-of-war between Ukraine and Russian for the hearts and 
minds of its residents.  Moscow Mayor Luzhkov visited 
Sevastopol February 21, to open a renovated Moscow-funded 
Russian Culture and Information Center, to visit the Russian 
Black Sea Fleet's Moskva missile cruiser, and to take part in 
other ceremonial events.  While there, he referred to 
Sevastopol as the "city of Russian glory" and made 
inflammatory remarks suggesting that the Crimean peninsula 
was still an integral part of Russia.  Sevastopol still 
struggles with its Ukrainian identity, and its ethnic 
Ukrainian minority, 22 percent of Sevastopol's population, 
feels insecure about its freedom to speak Ukrainian. 
Although virtually all Sevastopol schools provide instruction 
primarily in the Russian language, with Ukrainian studied as 
a foreign language, most Sevastopol residents do understand 
and support the importance of Ukrainian language fluency for 
their children's future.  The Sevastopol city administration 
is poorly prepared to cope with a future without the Russian 
Black Sea Fleet, which directly provides 18 percent of the 
city budget and employs 23,000 Sevastopol residents (or 12.7 
percent of the employed population), but Sevastopol Mayor 
Kunitsyn and other Sevastopol residents are skeptical that 
the Russian fleet will actually leave in 2017, when the 
current Russian-Ukrainian agreement is scheduled to expire. 
End summary. 
 
2. (U) We visited Sevastopol and Simferopol to gauge local 
attitudes toward the Russian Black Sea Fleet and its possible 
departure in 2017, relations between the ethnic Ukrainian and 
Russian communities, and regional political issues.  During 
the February 20-23 trip, we met in Sevastopol with Mayor 
Serhiy Kunitsyn; Institute for Geopolitical and Euro-Atlantic 
Integration Studies Director Serhiy Kulyk; Euro-Atlantic 
Choice director Ivan Shulga; Ukrainian Culture and 
Information Center director Oleksandr Korotun; Timofei 
Nikityuk of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU), and 
others.  In Simferopol, we met with Oleksandr Shevchuk, 
director of the Simferopol affiliate of the National 
Institute for Strategic Research, and his colleagues.  We 
spoke with Volodymyr Protsenko of pro-Ukrainian language 
organization Prosvita in Kyiv just before the trip. 
 
Luzhkov Plants a Flag 
--------------------- 
 
3. (U) As we left our hotel February 21, we encountered the 
rather jarring sight of a group of mostly pensioners holding 
up Russian flags and a banner proclaiming "Russian 
Sevastopol."  They and a Russian Navy honor guard were 
assembled before Sevastopol's World War II memorial, awaiting 
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's arrival to lay a wreath.  Luzhkov made 
a one-day visit to Sevastopol to open "Moscow House," the 
Russian Culture and Information Center funded by Moscow city 
in Sevastopol.  While in Sevastopol, Luzhkov also visited the 
Russian Black Sea Fleet's Moskva missile cruiser, the Crimean 
branch of Moscow State University, and the dedication of a 
Moscow city-financed housing complex for Russian Black Sea 
Fleet sailors and their families.  According to further media 
accounts, the Crimean Autonomous Republic's parliament 
adjourned so its leaders could meet Luzhkov on his arrival in 
Simferopol and signed a "treaty" with him to transfer part of 
Lenin District -- 23,000 hectares of salt marsh along the Sea 
of Azov bordering Russia -- to the Moscow city 
administration's control. 
 
4. (U) Luzhkov made comments while in Sevastopol that ignited 
controversy.  Referring to Sevastopol as the "city of Russian 
glory," he lamented that Sevastopol and Crimea had been torn 
away from Russia in a process that left "deep wounds" in 
Russian hearts "that are still bleeding."  Luzhkov also said, 
while shaking hands with the crowd, "We will not give 
Sevastopol away."  The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reacted to 
Luzhkov's "challenge" of the Crimean Peninsula's "status as 
belonging to Ukraine" by charging that Luzhkov had carried 
out "a planned action" aimed at undermining positive shifts 
in Ukraine-Russia relations.  The Ukrainian MFA hoped the 
Russian authorities would react appropriately and warned that 
Ukraine reserved the right to take "appropriate measures." 
Acting Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) chief Valentyn 
Nalyvaichenko told the media that Ukraine would react sternly 
with measures ranging from a verbal warning and entry ban to 
"more serious administrative or criminal penalties." 
 
KYIV 00000702  002 OF 004 
 
 
Luzhkov's office then fired back with its own statement that 
the Ukrainian MFA statement contained "crude fabrications" 
and that Luzhkov had merely expressed regret over the 
collapse of the Soviet Union.  Luzhkov's statement also 
asserted that "in terms
of its ethnic composition," Crimea 
remained "Russian territory." 
 
5. (U) The media reported on other events in Crimea that 
indicated at least some peninsula residents shared Luzhkov's 
sentiments.  When receiving Luzhkov, the Russian national 
anthem was played before the Ukrainian one and pro-Russian 
demonstrators trampled on Ukrainian flags.  After the MFA 
statement was issued, Crimean Communist leader and Ukrainian 
Parliamentary deputy Leonid Hrach derided Foreign Ministy 
officials for being "gigolos" for the U.S. Secretary of 
State.  On February 19, in Simferopol, Crimean pro-Russian 
groups -- Eurasia Youth Union and Sevastopol-Crimea-Russia 
People's Front -- burned the Ukrainian constitution and 
placed a sign with "occupation administration" before the 
presidential envoy building.  On February 23, about 1,000 
marchers in Sevastopol demanded that the city join Russia and 
that Russian be made an official language in Crimea. 
 
Embattled Ukrainian Language 
---------------------------- 
 
6. (U) Away from Luzhkov's over-blown rhetoric and 
demonstrators' slogans, the situation on the ground in 
Sevastopol was calmer, although the ethnic Ukrainian 
situation was still somewhat murky.  Prosvita's Protsenko 
said ethnic Ukrainians number 84,000 (22 percent) versus the 
270,000 ethnic Russians (71 percent) of Sevastopol's total 
population of 380,000.  Among ethnic Ukrainians, however, a 
sizable percentage, 52,000, speaks no Ukrainian, Protsenko 
claimed.  He complained that, due to ethnic Ukrainians' 
distinct minority status in Sevastopol, they lack political 
clout, with no representation in the city council and the 
highest ranking official in the city administration being the 
deputy mayor for cultural affairs.  "Orange" parties (Our 
Ukraine, Batkivshchina) also had no representation on the 
city council. 
 
7. (U) The status of the Ukrainian language suffers as a 
result, Protsenko continued.  Protsenko could speak Ukrainian 
only on the Ukrainian Navy Briz television station; the 
management of STV and Narodny specifically prohibited him 
from speaking Ukrainian.  Only one school on the outskirts of 
the city taught in Ukrainian.  The school, with only about 
120 students, was an orphanage boarding school, which now had 
only a handful of orphans, but to which parents of other 
students had to pay boarding fees.  Three other public 
schools, out of 63 total, taught in a combination of Russian 
and Ukrainian; the remaining schools taught Ukrainian as a 
foreign language.  Protsenko had petitioned the city council 
to convert one or two more schools in a downtown location to 
Ukrainian language instruction, but the request had been 
disregarded. 
 
8. (U) Protsenko and other contacts, however, were agreed 
that Sevastopol residents were not opposed to Ukrainian 
language instruction, per se; everyone understood the 
importance of Ukrainian language proficiency for their 
children's futures.  In fact, Sevastopol school children, who 
largely studied Ukrainian as a foreign language, had excelled 
in a nation-wide competition of Ukrainian language competency. 
 
Ethnic Tensions 
--------------- 
 
9. (U) Although the major ethnic group in the Crimean 
peninsula are Russians, about 72 percent of Crimea's 2.25 
million inhabitants, with ethnic Ukrainians second largest 
with 22 percent, over eighty other ethnic groups reside on 
the peninsula, including Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, 
Armenians, and Georgians.  Sevastopol reflects this ethnic 
diversity.  A Bulgarian representative of the Association of 
Cultural and Ethnic Societies of Sevastopol, consisting of 36 
groups, said the Bulgarian group was the most active in the 
association and that Bulgarians had lived for 200 years in 
Sevastopol. 
 
10. (U) Ukrainian Culture and Information Center (UCIC) 
director Korotun said, after the collapse of the fishing 
industry, UCIC had taken over a house of culture for sailors 
during the Soviet period.  Korotun contrasted attitudes of a 
decade ago, when UCIC was founded, to the current broad 
acceptance of the Ukrainian language and culture today. 
Those who argued differently were simply trying to make a 
political issue of the Ukrainian language's official status. 
When UCIC was first established, only a handful of the 150 
 
KYIV 00000702  003 OF 004 
 
 
UCIC employees could speak Ukrainian; now virtually all did. 
UCIC sponsored 600 events annually in Sevastopol to raise 
awareness of Ukrainian history, culture, and traditions. 
Ukrainian choirs and dance groups often performed at UCIC's 
capacious auditorium, and large numbers of Sevastopol 
residents participated in commemorations of Tara Shevchenko's 
birthday before his monument. 
 
11. (SBU) Union of Ukrainian Women representative Bohdana 
Protsak and others painted a different picture of the status 
of the ethnic Ukrainian community in Sevastopol, however. 
Protsak, who wears the same traditional braid favored by 
opposition politician Yuliya Tymoshenko, said she was often 
derided as a "Tymoshenko-ite" and had been assaulted twice 
for speaking Ukrainian in public while riding public 
transportation.  She blamed Moscow for nurturing aggression 
against ethnic Ukrainians and funding the activity of 
extremist, pro-Russian organizations.  Prosvita members who 
gathered in the UCIC library to speak to us aired similar 
complaints.  A Greek Catholic priest echoed Protsak's 
complaint that the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow 
Patriarchate, maintained an iron grip on Sevastopol.  The 
Greek Catholic congregation had a property in central 
Sevastopol, but could not get city council permission to 
build its church.  The Kyiv Patriarchate of the Orthodox 
Church also did not have a church in Sevastopol.  In a 
separate meeting, Sevastopol Human Rights Group's Olha 
Vilkova said she had been impressed with the positive police 
follow-up to her complaint regarding a person whom the police 
had detained for speaking Ukrainian. 
 
Life After the Russian Black Sea Fleet 
-------------------------------------- 
 
12. (C) According to some press reports, Sevastopol Mayor 
Kunitsyn and city assembly chairman Valeriy Saratov, 
accompanying Luzhkov, were displeased by his controversial 
comments, but Kunitsyn had little to say regarding 
Sevastopol-Russian relations when we met with him just before 
he greeted Luzhkov.  Noting that he had filled the position 
of Sevastopol mayor for just eight months, Kunitsyn said the 
Russian Black Sea Fleet presence in Sevastopol was a 
national-level issue regarding which he would offer no views. 
 Kunitsyn noted that, in July of 2006, the Cabinet of 
Ministers had approved a 10-year Sevastopol development 
program, "Program for Sustainable Socio-Economic, 
Environmental, and Cultural Development of Sevastopol."  (The 
10-year plan, rather than emphasizing private investment, 
envisions national and local gover
nment expenditures on city 
infrastructure and state-owned enterprises.  Kunitsyn told us 
the plan would cost U.S. $1.2 billion, with half provided 
from the national budget.)  When we pressed him for specific 
plans to prepare for departure of the Russian Black Sea Fleet 
(BSF) in 2017, the date the current Russian-Ukrainian 
agreement on the BSF expires, Kunitsyn spoke vaguely about 
tourism development and promotion of port and maritime cargo 
services. 
 
13. (U) In reality, Sevastopol needs to plan seriously for 
Russian BSF departure if it is to minimize the negative 
economic repercussions.  According to an article in "Black 
Sea Security," authored by Kulyk and his colleague, Dmytro 
Shtyblikov, 23,000 Sevastopol residents (12.7 percent of the 
employed population) work at Russian BSF enterprises and 
organizations, with an additional 2,000-3,000 at BSF 
facilities in other Crimean cities.  Russian BSF payments in 
2005 to Ukraine amounted to U.S. $98 million, with the 
Russian BSF also supporting financially the Sevastopol city 
budget.  In November 2005, Russian BSF staff agreed with 
Sevastopol administration on joint construction and 
renovation of city infrastructure, with the Russian BSF 
providing U.S. $7.2 million in 2005-2006. 
 
14. (U) The article notes, altogether, the Russian BSF 
directly contributes 20-25 percent of Sevastopol's budget. 
(Kunitsyn, however, said it was declining year-by-year and 
was now 18 percent.)  In addition, the Russian BSF's 
contribution to Sevastopol's economy includes purchases of 
food and other supplies from local businesses (8.5 tons of 
food for $8.4 million in 2004) and, from 1992-2004, 
renovation of 44 houses (for U.S. $23.8 million) and 
construction of a secondary school (U.S. $2.46 million). 
Private expenditures of Russian BSF personnel stationed in 
Crimea also benefit the economy. 
 
Here to Stay? 
------------- 
 
15. (C) Although Kunitsyn and the city administration should 
be planning seriously now for the Russian BSF's departure, 
 
KYIV 00000702  004 OF 004 
 
 
the fact is that neither he nor other Sevastopol residents 
seriously believe that the Russian BSF will leave in 2017. 
(CVU's Nikityuk and others also accused Kunitsyn of being an 
extremely corrupt individual, concerned only with his 
personal enrichment and advancement.)  Pro-NATO activist 
Kulyk argued that the Russian BSF simply did not have the 
time to relocate or construct from scratch the necessary 
infrastructure to house the Russian BSF elsewhere by 2017, if 
it began immediately.  In Georgia, for example, the Russian 
military had taken more than a year to withdraw just soldiers 
and tanks.  Russia also needed the Russian BSF presence to 
maintain its political dominance over Ukraine because it saw 
Ukraine as part of a greater Slavic homeland.  Kulyk opined 
that Russia would agree to begin the withdrawal in 2017 with 
the relocation of non-essential elements, but it would never 
agree to relocate the Russian BSF's core units and ships. 
 
16. (C) Kulyk said Russia works actively to foster Sevastopol 
residents' sense of allegiance to Russia and feelings of 
economic dependence on the Russian BSF.  Twenty Russian 
institutes of higher education had branches in Sevastopol 
(including a campus of Russia's elite Moscow State 
University, MGU) and the Russian MoD funds the operation of 
Sevastopol public school No. 8 for the children of its navy. 
CVU's Nikityuk said Russia provides funding to pro-Russian 
organizations such as Russia Bloc, which use the funding to 
provide social welfare support to needy residents such as 
obtaining low-cost or free medical supplies and treatment. 
Euro-Atlantic Choice Director Shulga agreed that Moscow would 
never permit the Russian BSF's withdrawal from Crimea and 
said Russia hoped Sevastopol's residents would turn out onto 
the streets to protest and prevent any departure. 
 
17. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

From → CONFIDENTIAL

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