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08KYIV2172, UKRAINE: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH CRIMEA’S POLITICAL

October 30, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KYIV2172 2008-10-30 11:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #2172/01 3041115
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301115Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6646
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 002172 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/UMB 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL EINV RS UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH CRIMEA'S POLITICAL 
LEADERS 
 
REF: A. KYIV 1947 
     B. 2007 KYIV 3101 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Taylor 
for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
 1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador, along with a small American 
business delegation, traveled to Crimea October 19-20 for an 
annual investment forum.  The Ambassador also met with 
Crimea's political leadership while there.  Local leaders 
characterized the September 19 vote by the Crimean Rada 
(parliament) urging Kyiv to recognize the independence of 
South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a moderate step that carried no 
real consequences.  Crimean officials complained of a lack of 
GOU interest in Crimea's problems and a lack of communication 
with Kyiv on issues like NATO membership and issues of 
concern to the Crimean Tatar community.  President 
Yushchenko's representative to Crimea made a strong argument 
for a more tolerant GOU position toward the use of the 
Russian language in Crimea and for a TV station that could 
provide objective news in Russian.  Crimean Tatar leaders 
lamented that there had been no real progress on issues of 
importance to their community and asked the Ambassador to 
help engage GOU officials.  The Ambassador's visit helped 
enlarge USG visibility in Crimea and expanded our dialogue 
with Crimean leaders.  End Summary. 
 
2. (U) The Ambassador traveled to Yalta, Crimea October 19-20 
to participate in an annual investment promotion forum held 
by the Crimean authorities.  Emboffs, President of the 
American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine Jorge Zukoski, and 
representatives from American firms Microsoft, 3M, and IMTC 
accompanied.  The Ambassador also conducted interviews with 
popular Crimean TV station Chernamorka and with a Tatar 
community station Radio Maidan. 
 
3. (U) While in Yalta, the Ambassador met privately with 
Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Speaker of the Crimean Rada, Viktor 
Plakida, Crimean Prime Minister, and Leonid Zhunko, 
Representative of the Ukrainian President to Crimea.  The 
Ambassador also met in Simferopol with Tatar Mejlis Chairman 
Mustafa Jemilev and Deputy Chairman Refat Chubarov, the 
Crimean Tatar community's key political leaders.  The 
following were the main topics of discussion raised during 
the Ambassador's meetings. 
 
Crimean Rada Vote on South Ossetia/Abkhazia 
------------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Regarding the September 19 vote by the Crimean Rada 
urging Kyiv to recognize the independence of South Ossetia 
and Abkhazia (ref A), Hrytsenko argued that the Rada took a 
moderate step by not actually recognizing the breakaway 
regions' independence, but only requesting that the Verkhovna 
Rada (Ukrainian parliament) closely examine the issue. 
Zhunko agreed that the resolution had been successfully toned 
down and stressed that it had no substantive implications. 
 
5. (C) The Ambassador asked if the September 19 vote had been 
pushed by any external forces.  Hrytsenko responded that it 
had been a purely domestic Crimean initiative, noting that an 
overwhelming majority of the Crimean people strongly 
supported the vote.  The Ambassador asked if this public 
support for South Ossetia and Abkhazia meant that Crimeans, 
too, wanted independence.  Hrytsenko ducked the question, 
instead saying that public opinion was driven by fears that 
Kyiv wanted to revoke Crimea's autonomy.  Zhunko argued that 
the situation in Crimea was completely different than in 
South Ossetia and Abkhazia and said he was confident that, if 
a referendum were held today, a majority of Crimeans would 
vote to stay as part of Ukraine, not to join Russia. 
 
Lack of Attention from Kyiv 
--------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Hrytsenko complained throughout the meeting that the 
GOU did not pay appropriate attention to Crimea's legitimate 
needs and did not engage in serious dialogue with Crimean 
leadership on issues of mutual importance.  He repeatedly 
criticized President Yushchenko and the GOU for not rebuking 
calls from some politicians in Kyiv to revoke Crimea's 
autonomous status.  Hrytsenko said that GOU leadership should 
have come out forcefully to defend Crimea's special status 
and commented that Yushchenko's silence on the issue was 
perceived as support for calls to revoke autonomy. 
 
7. (C) Hrytsenko pointed to the Ukrainian Cabinet of 
Ministers' efforts to appoint Crimea's police chief, "in 
clear violation of the Constitution," as an example of Kyiv 
creating ill will in Crimea.  Hrytsenko also accused Kyiv of 
 
failing to properly fund the Crimean Economic Plan, which 
sets funding targets for economic development programs until 
2017, saying that the GOU had provided UAH 700 million 
(approximately USD 120 million) less than promised this year, 
and five times less than that provided by the previous 
Yanukovych government. 
 
8. (C) Jemilev and Chubarov similarly complained of a lack of 
dialogue with Kyiv, in their case on issues of importance to 
the Crimean Tatar community.  They said that und
er former 
President Kuchma there was at least a formalized dialogue, 
and Kuchma himself came to Crimea several times a year to 
participate.  They said they expected President Yushchenko to 
expand this dialogue with Tatar leadership when he took 
office, but in reality the opposite occurred.  Jemilev 
specifically asked the Ambassador to stress the importance of 
dialogue with the Tatar community to GOU leadership.  The 
Ambassador said he would take this message back to Kyiv and 
during his interview with Radio Maidan called on the GOU, the 
Crimean government, and Tatar leadership to engage in a 
serious dialogue on Tatar-related issues. 
 
NATO 
---- 
 
9. (C) Hrytsenko complained that when the Presidential 
Secretariat organized a NATO outreach event in Simferopol in 
August, the Secretariat failed to coordinate with Crimean 
officials.  Motorcades of Kyiv-based GOU participants 
unnecessarily disrupted traffic, he said, and there were 
clashes between upset Crimean residents and special police 
brought from Kyiv.  Then, when the Crimean Rada later held 
open, public hearings on NATO accession, the GOU failed to 
send anyone. 
 
10. (C) Zhunko called local opposition to NATO membership 
"artificial," although he clarified that he did not see any 
political interference by outside forces, including Russian 
government or Black Sea Fleet officials.  The problem was a 
lack of information, said Zhunko, and radical elements were 
successfully appealing to fears that Ukrainian soldiers could 
get sucked into fighting foreign wars if Ukraine joined the 
Alliance. 
 
Ties to Russia 
-------------- 
 
11. (C) Hrytsenko described the reasons for Crimea's strong 
ties to Russia, noting that 58% of Crimeans identified 
themselves as ethnically Russian, 100% were Russian-speaking, 
and the roughly 600,000 retirees living in Crimea felt 
particularly close to Russia.  He said that 92 of the 100 
member Crimean Rada, while coming from a variety of parties, 
were united on a few core issues, namely, support for 
official status of the Russian language, support for closer 
ties with Russia, and opposition to NATO membership. 
Hrytsenko was quick to emphasize that he and Crimean PM 
Plakida were "pro-Ukrainian" and did not support any 
"anti-state actions," but noted that maintaining this line 
could be difficult in Crimea's political climate. 
 
Russian Passports 
----------------- 
 
12. (C) Hrytsenko said that reports of the Russians handing 
out passports to Crimean residents were untrue.  He suggested 
that such rumors originated with the Kyiv political elite and 
cited this as another example of how provocative statements 
from Kyiv could have negative consequences in Crimea. 
 
Russian Language 
---------------- 
 
13. (C) Zhunko made a convincing argument for the need for 
greater "tolerance" by the GOU toward Crimea on the language 
issue.  Trying to force Ukrainian on the Crimean population 
would have a negative result, said Zhunko, and indeed such 
policies already made language the go-to issue for radical, 
pro-Russian political parties.  He noted that Ukrainian is 
still not widely used or socially acceptable in Crimea, and 
there is a lack of qualified teachers, meaning changes cannot 
come overnight.  A transition period for schools should 
involve parallel classes in Russian and Ukrainian to allow 
choice, said Zhunko, who noted that he had tried to convince 
Kyiv to pursue this kind of softer policy, with only very 
limited success. 
 
14. (C) Zhunko also argued that the GOU should create a 
serious state TV station for Crimea, in Russian but with a 
"pro-Ukrainian" position to provide objective news about 
 
Ukraine.  (Note: Most people in Crimea currently get their 
news from Russian TV stations.  End Note.) 
 
Crimean Tatar Issues 
-------------------- 
 
15. (C) Hrytsenko argued that there were no outstanding, 
serious disputes with the Crimean Tatar community.  On land 
issues, he argued that the vast majority of returning Tatars 
had already received land/housing or were building housing, 
leaving only some 4,000 or so remaining.  This was a small 
problem that could easily be resolved once and for all, 
Hrytsenko said, by using a register of deported Tatars to 
identify those who have not received land/housing, and then 
have the relevant local city council allocate land. 
Hrytsenko also noted that some Tatars had illegally seized 
some property, and the government had to oppose such actions 
regardless of their motivation. 
 
16. (C) Jemilev and Chubarov gave a much more pessimistic 
view, lamenting that no real progress had been made in recent 
years on issues of importance to Tatars.  Jemilev noted that 
the Georgia crisis had polarized the situation, with the 
Tatars the only force in Crimea condemning Russia's actions 
(ref A).  Regarding land restitution, they complained that 
corruption throughout the entire land issuance process meant 
that local officials were giving land to themselves but 
denying the legitimate claims of Tatars, or forcing Tatar 
applicants to accept land in a less desirable area.  They 
called for a publicly available register of all land in 
Crimea but claimed that Hrytsenko and other Crimean 
politicians opposed such a register because they themselves 
were the largest beneficiaries of the corrupt land deals. 
 
17. (C) Jemilev and Chubarov lamented problems surrounding 
the construction of a new mosque in Simferopol.  Although 
land had already been properly allocated, court cases now 
prevented construction from going forward, with powerful 
businessmen and politicians hoping to claim the valuable land 
for themselves.  They also described the Tatar community's 
anger that pro-Russian, "paramilitary" Cossack groups were 
allowed to operate, claiming that such groups were guilty for 
the recent desecration of two Crimean Tatar cemeteries. 
Jemilev suggested that the Tatars might consider forming 
their own paramilitary group to counter the Cossacks, 
although he noted that he appreciated the potential 
consequences of such a move. 
 
Development Priorities -- Infrastructure 
---------------------------------------- 
 
18. (SBU) All political leaders seemed to agree that 
improving basic infrastructure - particularly water/gas 
supply for citizens - was critical for Crimea's economic 
development.  The Ambassador asked about the status of the 
Kerch bridge to connect Crimea with Russia.  Hrytsenko and 
Plakida said the bridge would dramatically increase travel to 
Crimea from Russia, and help bolster Crimea's potential as a 
major trading route.  The MFA, however, was blocking the 
project until the border with Russia was fully demarcated. 
The project would be expensive, with an expected price tag of 
USD 480 million.  A second major roa
d project was a new 
Simferopol-Yalta highway, which would involve a series of 
tunnels through the mountains and cut down the trip from 
about 90 minutes to 30 minutes.  That project would be even 
more expensive, costing several billion dollars.  Both 
projects, said Hrytsenko, required the adoption of enabling 
legislation by the Verkhovna Rada. 
 
Expanding USG Presence in Crimea 
-------------------------------- 
 
19. (SBU) Although the investment forum did not result in any 
immediate new U.S. investment in Crimea, the Ambassador's 
visit proved a useful opportunity to expand our visibility 
there.  Crimean political leaders welcomed the opportunity 
for dialogue with the Embassy, despite the relatively more 
anti-American attitudes of the Crimean population.  We will 
continue to look for ways to expand this dialogue in the 
future. 
TAYLOR

Wikileaks

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