Debate Intensifies On Status Of Crimea After Russian Occupation Ends – OpEd


The long-running debate about what the status of Crimea should be is intensifying now that there are real prospects that the Ukrainian military will drive out the Russian occupiers, a debate in which there are a variety of diametrically opposed positions, Yuliya Tishchenko says.

The researcher at Kyiv’s National Institute for Strategic Studies points out that this debate has a long history with various groups staking out a variety of positions about what to do once Russian occupation forces have been expelled and Ukrainian authority restored (  

Some in Ukraine are arguing that the autonomy should be liquidated because what is there is “a purely Russian territorial autonomy in which has been preserved ‘the Soviet people.’” Others are calling for the creation of a genuine autonomy in which the rights of the Crimean Tatars and all other indigenous peoples would be respected.

But almost all of these positions would require not only changes in Ukrainian law but in the Ukrainian constitution, something that the current state of war makes impossible, although that does nothing to prevent the dbate from intensifying given that there has never been a better prospect than now that Ukraine will succeed in putting an end to the Russian occupation.

Refat Chubarov, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, is among those who want to see the Crimean autonomy be transformed from its fake nature under Moscow into something genuine within Ukraine. “The autonomy should not be eliminated; it should be filled with content which will allow the Ukrainian state to ensure the development of Crimea as one of its unique regions.”

The constitutional changes that will be required, he acknowledges, can come only after the war is over. “But now it is possible to implement the Law on Indigenous Peoples” and to draft and then pass a Law on the Status of the Crimean Tatar People within Ukraine, Chubarov says. 

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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