Lithuanian ambassador in Ukraine: Crimean Tatars see themselves part of united Ukraine

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Petras Vaitiekūnas | DELFI, Photo by J. Markevičius

Petras Vaitiekūnas | DELFI, Photo by J. Markevičius

Crimean Tatars hope to avoid bloodshed, but see their future in a united Ukraine and demand the return of Russian military to their deployment locations, says Lithuanian Ambassador to Ukraine Petras Vaitiekūnas, currently in Crimea.

“Crimean Tatars see their place only in a united Ukraine without violated sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Ambassador, who served as Lithuania’s foreign minister in 2006-2008, told BNS on Tuesday.

While in Crimea, currently controlled by Russian forces, Vaitiekūnas met with Refat Cubarov, a member of the Crimean parliament and one of the leaders of the local Tatar community.

According to Vaitiekūnas, the situation remains tense and dangerous after Russia’s aggression and occupation of Crimea, although acts of provocation have been avoided. Tatars, who make 15 per cent of the Crimean population, are trying to avoid provocation but “underline that there cannot be any talk on a united Ukraine without Crimea”.

“They are not putting their people before Russian troops and are trying to avoid any acts of provocation, any clashes with Russian troops. They want to avoid bloodshed and hope that, perhaps, a commission of Crimean and Kiev deputies on the resolution of the crisis could be set up once the Russian army gets back to its bases,” Vaitiekūnas said.

“Tatars are not some card that could be changed, or thrown out, or used for manipulation. The return of Russian troops to their permanent deployment locations is the key condition,” the Ambassador said.

The Lithuanian Ambassador also underlined that the conflict could be resolved and “such ventures of the Kremlin, now being executed against Ukraine, will not pass without consequences.”

“Russia must take its army back to the bases and get back to the negotiating table,” Vaitiekūnas said.

According to the Lithuanian Ambassador, he and the Latvian ambassador are yet the only international representatives in Crimea and expressed hope more diplomats would come.

“We will, perhaps, make a small contribution of our own to the peaceful regulation of the conflict, without, first of all, letting bloodshed to take place,” Vaitiekūnas said.

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