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07KYIV1418, UKRAINE: CRIMEA UPDATE – LESS TENSE THAN IN 2006;

June 8, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV1418 2007-06-08 08:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO9581
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #1418/01 1590850
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 080850Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2648
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 001418 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2017 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI KDEM PREL UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: CRIMEA UPDATE - LESS TENSE THAN IN 2006; 
INTERETHNIC, RUSSIA, LAND FACTORS REMAIN CENTRAL 
 
REF: A. 06 KYIV 4489 
     B. 06 KYIV 4558 
 
Classified By: Ambassador, reason 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1. (C) Summary: During Ambassador's May 29-30 visit to 
Simferopol, Crimea and an earlier poloff visit May 17-18, all 
of our interlocutors agreed that the situation in Crimea 
appears less tense than it did six months ago (reftels).  The 
primary issues in play remain control/ownership of land; the 
Russian factor in Crimean politics and society; interethnic 
relations between Crimean Tatars and Slavs; and a general 
lack of interest in and detachment from events going on in 
Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine.  Both government and NGO 
interlocutors downplayed fears of extremism among 
traditionally moderate Muslim Crimean Tatars, who are no 
longer as politically unified behind the Mejlis as they once 
were. When asked about extremism in Crimea, about half of our 
contacts mentioned fringe Russian groups rather than Islamic 
radicalism.  In general, it appears that the new Party of 
Regions leadership in Crimea, led by Speaker Grytsenko, has 
forged a good working relationship with Crimean Tatar leaders 
in the interests of social and economic stability in the 
peninsula, even if their comments in private reveal enduring 
anti-Tatar biases.  This lower level of tension offers the 
USG more opportunities to engage with all Crimeans on issues 
of importance to the bilateral relationship.  End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Ambassador met May 29-30 with the Speaker of the 
Crimean parliament Anatoliy Grytsenko, generally acknowledged 
as the most important political figure in Crimea; the 
Chairman of Crimea's Council of Ministers (also known as 
Crimean PM) Viktor Plakida; and leading Crimean journalists 
and civil activists Liliya Budjurova, Shevket Memedov, 
Volodymyr Prytula, Lenur Yunusov, Yan Sinitsky, Alexander 
Pylypenko, and Andriy Shchykun.  We had previously met the 
latter five journalists and activists plus Crimean Tatar 
leader Mustafa Jemiliev May 17, as well as attended the May 
18 commemoration of the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars 
and other nationalities into exile in Central Asia. 
 
Crimea calmer in 2007 than 2006 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) All of our interlocutors agreed that after a 
tumultuous 2006, marked by the Feodosia SEA BREEZE 
controversy, interethnic conflict in Bakhchiserai and Sudak, 
and lower tourism levels due to sensationalist Russian media 
coverage of the SEA BREEZE standoff which drove many Russians 
to avoid Crimea for summer tourism, Crimea seemed much less 
tense in 2007.  The confidence is reflected in higher booking 
rates for Crimea's short three-month summer high season this 
year than during a sub-par 2006. 
 
4. (C) National Security and Defense Council (NSDC)'s 
Oleksandr Lytyvynenko, who follows Crimea and helped draft 
two 2006 Presidential decrees intended to stabilize Crimea, 
offered three reasons on the margins of the May 23 EUR DAS 
Kramer-NSDC Secretary Plyushch meeting: the clear 
consolidation of political power in Crimea in the hands of 
the Regions' team; the work of the Security Service of 
Ukraine (SBU) to dampen down the activities of the more 
radical pro-Russian elements stirring up trouble; and 
progress on resolving land issues.  Like the journalists, 
however, Lytvynenko did not rule out a renewed flare up of 
tensions this summer, depending on what happens elsewhere in 
politics, both in Ukraine and in Russia. 
 
5. (SBU) Journalist/civic activist Prytula detailed the 
individuals within Regions which had consolidated control 
over Crimea since the 2006 elections.  PM Yanukovych and 
Regions' financier Akhmetov had delegated overall "control" 
of Crimea to Regions Verkhovna Rada MP and fellow Donetskan 
Anton Prykhodsky.  Grytsenko was the de facto on-the-ground 
manager for Regions; he in turn had hand-picked Plakida. 
Crimean Rada MP (and former Crimean gangster from the 1990s) 
Oleksandr Melnyk pulled the political strings locally; 
economically, Regions' interests are pushed by Crimean 
Regions first deputy chair/Yalta city council secretary 
Oleksey Boyarchuk, the director of the Chernomorets 
Sanatorium owned by Prykhodsky and housing Yanukovych's 
Crimean dacha. (see para 17 for the interplay between 
politics and the group's business interests). 
 
A place apart? Detachment from events in Kyiv 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Crimea is the country's least Ukrainian region, an 
autonomous republic in what is otherwise a centralized 
country.  The Russian language dominates in Crimea, whose 
 
KYIV 00001418  002 OF 004 
 
 
population is majority ethnic Russian thanks to Stalin's 1944 
ethnic cleansing and re-population of the peninsula with 
people deemed loyal to Moscow.  The journalists and civic 
activists asserted that there is only limited interest in 
political events in Kyiv among ordinary Crimean citizens, 
even if intellectuals follow developments.  Budjur
ova and 
Memedov attributed this indifference to an ambivalent 
attitude towards Ukraine as an independent country as well as 
the overwhelming influence of Russian media sources that 
provide little and/or biased coverage of events in Ukraine. 
They lamented the lack of Ukrainian patriotism in Crimea. 
Sinitsky, Pylypenko, and Shchykun told us that Crimean Tatars 
remained Crimea's minority bulwark of progressive political 
thinking and pro-Ukrainian sentiment. 
 
7. (SBU) That said, the 1994-95 flirtation with separatism 
remains in the past.  Crimean Rada Speaker Grytsenko 
(Regions), widely seen as the most important political actor 
in Crimea, started his meeting with Ambassador by emphasizing 
that Crimea was an inseparable part of Ukraine.  When asked 
about extremism in Crimea, Grytsenko cited marginal 
pro-Russian groups pushing autonomy, not worries about 
extremist Muslim groups finding traction among traditionally 
moderate Crimean Tatars.   He regretted the lack of a working 
relationship with Yushchenko, whom he claimed had shown 
little interest in Crimean issues. 
 
Interethnic relations - okay, but old biases remain 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
8. (SBU) One of Crimea's enduring politicized issues is 
interethnic relations, particularly between the 250,000 
Crimean Tatar returnees from Central Asian exile and Crimea's 
Slavic population, 70 percent of whom arrived after the 1944 
deportation or were born to the new arrivals, who took over 
the homes and fields of the deportees.  Grytsenko delivered 
very positive, affirming comments in addressing the 15,000 
Tatars who attended the annual May 18 commemoration of the 
deportation on Simferopol's central, calling the deportation 
"Crimea's tragedy" and thanking all Crimean Tatars who worked 
constructively for a better Crimea. 
 
9. (C) Grytsenko's private comments to Ambassador a week 
later struck a starkly different tone, however, revealing 
attitudes which complicate reconciliation efforts.  He 
claimed interethnic tensions were the result of the Tatars' 
"betrayal" in 1945 (sic), and that a majority of Crimea's 
inhabitants viewed Tatars as traitors.   He claimed research 
into identifying the fates of soldiers killed or missing 
during WWII revealed two instances of German military units 
having almost 25 percent Tatars serving as military police. 
He mentioned that unlawful land seizures had fueled 
resentment towards the Tatars and concluded that the Tatars 
brought many of their problems upon themselves.  (note: the 
most recent squatter's movement is in fact multi-ethnic; 
while Crimean Tatars initiated it in March 2006, thousands of 
Slavic Crimeans frustrated by a decade-long wait for housing 
joined the movement). 
 
10. (SBU) Budjurova, Crimea's leading journalist as 
editor-in-chief of "First Crimea," and Memedov, associated 
with Crimean Tatar Radio and TV projects, expressed pessimism 
that the interethnic situation would significantly improve as 
long as Regions maintained its current dominant support among 
80-85 percent of Crimea's inhabitants and the legislative 
framework failed to addresses inequities for Tatars. 
Prytula worried that 2007 could still turn into another "hot 
summer" based on a planned pro-Russian convocation of a 
so-called Cossack festival in Feodosia to commemorate the 
2006 anti-NATO demonstrations; the Crimean Cossack Union had 
already held an event in Bakhchiseray to inflame tensions 
with the Tatar community, he noted, trying to reignite the 
flames of 2006. 
 
The Russia factor 
----------------- 
 
11. (SBU) Both government and civil society interlocutors 
made clear that Russia figures much larger in Crimean 
dynamics than Ukrainian dynamics nationwide, thanks to media 
coverage, ethnic and linguistic factors, and heavy Russian 
investment in Crimea.  Crimea's huge number of "Soviet" 
pensioners, particularly those who had retired from the 
military and security services, were another important factor. 
 
12. (SBU) Politically, the more extreme pro-Russian forces 
represented by the Russian Bloc party (which contested the 
2006 Crimean elections with Party of Regions in a joint "For 
Yanukovych" bloc) face somewhat of a dilemma, as Regions 
itself, now in power, favors stability and development rather 
 
KYIV 00001418  003 OF 004 
 
 
than pro-Russian agitation and interethnic discord.  Prytula 
predicted a split between the two forces may be brewing. 
Grytsenko himself professed opposition to the Russian Bloc, 
its 17 MPs elected under the list he headed, and its more 
provocative actions and statements (such as calling the 
Mejlis an organized crime ring).  In the May 30 session with 
Ambassador, Prytula estimated the relative weight in the bloc 
between pragmatists interested in stability as opposed to 
pro-Russian radicals at 75/25, with the pragmatists taking 
direction from Donetsk and Kyiv and the radicals from Moscow; 
in the May 17 meeting, he had noted that Regions had given 
the Russian Bloc undue political prominence in 2006 by 
forming a single Crimean electoral list, providing them with 
slots in the Crimean Rada they would not have won on their 
own.  Shchykin and Pylypenko questioned how much of a 
difference there was between the two wings, since the 
Regions' pragmatists seemed eager to cut investment deals 
with Russian money that undercut Ukrainian interests in 
Crimea. 
 
13. (SBU) Prytula and Shchykin maintained that despite the 
relative calm of 2007, Russia still viewed Crimea as a 
proving ground for political tactics for sowing ethnic 
discord that could move quickly from "soft" to "hard," with 
the Russian Bloc and its affiliated Crimean Cossack Union 
playing a key role.  However, over the past year, Moscow had 
diversified its support of pro-Russian actors, many of whom 
squabbled between each other.  The Sevastopol-Crimea-Russian 
Front, a fringe organization still advocating 
separatism/reunion with Russia, now had its offices in the 
building of the official Russian Cultural Center, for 
instance. 
 
14. (SBU) After two years of watching central power wane and 
respond ineffectively to the crises of 2006, the journalists 
saw recent evidence of more effective SBU action.  The 
radical youth groups Proryv (Breakthrough) and the Eurasian 
Youth Union (EYU) had dramatically lower profiles in 2007; 
the SBU had gone to court to deregister the particularly 
troublesome Bakhchiserai EYU branch.  Thanks to an SBU "black 
list," Eurasian movement leader and ideologue Aleksandr Dugin 
was refused entry at the Simferopol, Crimea airport June 6. 
Fellow Russian meddler in Crimean affairs, Duma MP Konstantin 
Zatulin, was also denied entry to Ukraine April 16 based on 
SBU concerns over his participation in the 2006 SEA BREEZE 
protests, SBU Acting Chief Nalyvaichenko told the press that 
day.  Proryv was suffering its own schisms between the 
Tirasp
ol and Moscow, Crimea, and Abhazia branches, with 
mutual accusations of being tools of various intel services, 
noted Prytula. 
 
Developing Crimea: The Land Game 
-------------------------------- 
 
15. (SBU) The major socio-economic factor in play in Crimea 
is ownership/control of land, and how best to develop Crimea 
in terms of attracting investment and creating jobs.  One of 
the major Crimean stories of 2006 had been the squatter's 
movement, born out of frustration of bureaucratic delays and 
corruption which allowed the rich and connected to acquire 
land while common Crimeans waited in vain for over a decade 
(ref B).  Most interlocutors, including Mejlis leader Jemilev 
and Crimean PM Plakida, complimented Grytsenko for his 
constructive role in trying to resolve the squatter's dilemma 
by pushing for tracts of land currently occupied by squatters 
to be legalized, first in Alushta, with an 800 hectare area 
around Simferopol also in the works.  Plakida also noted 
Jemilev had spoken out against land seizures in his May 18 
deportation commemoration address.  Grytsenko nevertheless 
complained privately that the Tatars had needlessly 
complicated the squatter issue with their actions, and 
downplayed the significant non-Tatar element among squatters. 
 
16. (SBU) Both Plakida and Grytsenko formally stressed the 
need to invest in infrastructure--the Simferopol airport, the 
major Kyiv-Simferopol highway, south coast facilities--that 
would be critical to continued development of tourism, 
Crimea's primary economic lifeline.  But the real action 
continues to be allocation of land controlled by the state. 
 
17. (U) The Crimean Cabinet under Plakida quieted allocated 
113 hectares of land, worth an estimated $250 million, to the 
Antal-Krym company to build a golf course and a condominium 
in the Crimean forest reserve near Yalta, for a mere 20 cents 
per hectare per year for 49 years, reported Chornomorets TV 
May 19; inhabitants of a village in the plot will be forcibly 
relocated.  Antal-Krym's owner?  None other than Regions MP 
Pryhodsky.  The Crimean prosecutor at the time (and now 
Deputy General Prosecutor of Ukraine) Viktor Shemchuk stated 
May 19 that the Crimean cabinet had no right to allocate the 
 
KYIV 00001418  004 OF 004 
 
 
plot, since only the Ukrainian cabinet could allocate nature 
reserve lands.  Shemchuk estimated that 29,000 trees would be 
cut to build the golf course. 
 
Crimean Tatar integration = political fracturing? 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
18. (SBU) Crimean Tatars are currently conducting their own 
informal communal elections to its national assembly (the 
kurultay), which will then pick the 33 member executive 
(mejlis) to serve for five years.  While the Mejlis and its 
long-time leader Jemilev have long spoken for and commanded 
the loyalty of the vast majority of Tatars, that tight 
political identity started to break down recently, as Tatars 
find increasing success in integrating into life in Crimea 
and develop their own political preferences.  Some of the 
journalists and civic activists expressed some concern about 
the political fracturing, since a unified Crimean Tatar 
community had proven the strongest bulwark in Crimea in 
support of democratic values and the Ukrainian state. 
Indeed, for at least one day a year, May 18, a day of 
commemoration of the "national tragedy" of the mass 
deportation of Crimean Tatars and other ethnic minorities in 
1944, Crimea's capital Simferopol seems truly Ukrainian, 
awash in the blue and yellow of both Crimean Tatar flags and 
Ukrainian flags, with the Russian tricolor and communist red 
flags frequently used in street protests out of sight and 
mind. 
 
19. (SBU) Since Ukrainian independence, the Mejlis has 
affiliated itself with Rukh and therefore with Our Ukraine. 
However, in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Tymoshenko's 
bloc BYuT made significant inroads among Tatar voters and 
other "pro Ukrainian" Crimeans, matching the Mejlis/Rukh 
vote.  A new Tatar political project called Milly Firka, 
started by Soviet-era Tatar intellectuals who accommodated 
Soviet authorities while in exile in Uzbekistan rather than 
taking Jemilev's dissident route, has made a media splash 
with a more pro-Russian, pan Tatar approach, even as it seeks 
a political sponsor. Journalists Prytula and Yunusov 
speculated BYuT, Regions' Akhmetov (a Volga/Kazan Tatar), 
Tatarstan, and Moscow were possibilities.  More significant 
is the grass-roots threat to Mejlis authority posed by the 
squatter movement and its Danyal Ametov, who organized the 
biggest non-Mejlis organized convocation of Tatars ever in 
January when 5000 gathered to protest the lack of action on 
land rights.  Subsequent gatherings were much smaller after 
Jemilev/Mejlis made pleas against the actions to avoid 
provocations, with only 500 rallying behind Ametov. 
 
20. (SBU) Jemilev and his deputy, fellow OU MP Rifat 
Chubarov, face a dilemma if Rukh chooses to run in a 
nationalist "Pravytsya" (Rightist) bloc separate from OU. 
Jemilev told us May 17 that if Pravytsya and OU did not reach 
agreement on a joint list, he and Chubarov would run with OU 
to ensure Crimean Tatar inclusion in the next Rada. 
 
21. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

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