To: Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People
My dear friend Refat,
We met in Riga 33 years ago, during the establishment of the People’s Front and the Singing Revolution. You stood by our side during the struggle for the restoration of Latvia’s independence. At that time, you worked in Riga because Crimean Tatars were banned from returning to their homeland after Stalin’s deportation and reprisals. I remember feeling uplifted when Ukraine also regained its independence, allowing you and your family to finally return home.
I was also proud and happy to meet you in Kyiv in 2003, when you were a member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. We talked about the future of Ukraine and the challenges that still needed to be overcome.
Our next meeting took place on a TV screen, when Refat Chubarov, the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, called on the Crimean Tatar people to boycott the 16 March referendum and urged the UN to deploy a peacekeeping mission in Crimea. The worst nightmare has become a reality: Kremlin’s “little green men” who seized the government buildings and airports on the Crimean Peninsula on 28 February 2014. With minor alterations, Putin copied a “page from Stalin’s textbook,” applying the same methods and tactics used during the occupation of the Baltic states in 1940: military force, regime change, election fraud, and a subsequent request for “protection” from the USSR / Russia.
Refat, I am absolutely sure that the Ukrainian people will never give up and will not tolerate the annexation of Crimea. This cruel act will never be recognised by the Crimean Tatars who were forced to be deported for the second time over a century. You must remember that you are not alone as this act of aggression and violation of international law by the Russian regime has been condemned by the EU, the US, Canada, and other members of the international community who call for the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Tough sanctions on Russia will remain in place until the territory is returned.
In conclusion, may the fate of the Baltic States give you strength and hope! We regained our independence only after half a century of oppression. I sincerely believe that Crimean Tatars will also someday return to their homes in freedom and peace.
Sandra Kalniete, Member of the European Parliament
Editor’s note: Other MEPs, Ukrainian politicians, and opinion leaders have also joined the campaign to support Crimea