Thursday, August 20, 2015

Putin’s Comments on Foreign Threats to Crimea Point to Increased Repression There

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 20 – Vladimir Putin’s suggestion in Stavropol yesterday that “external forces” threaten to destabilize the situation in Crimea by playing the nationalist card or exploiting the mistakes of officials almost certainly presages new repressions against the Crimean Tatars and a new purge of Russian occupation officials.

            In summarizing the Kremlin leader’s remarks, the full text of which is at, suggested that he raised three concerns, all of which point to more repression and more official firings in the coming weeks (

            First of all, noted, “the president warned that in certain capitals people are talking about conducting undermining activity, forming corresponding structures, recruiting and preparing cadres for the carrying out of diversions, acts of sabotage, and the dissemination of radical propaganda.”

            It has long been a hallmark of Putin’s reign that he does not believe that peoples are capable of speaking for themselves but must be led by outside agitators and that he posits the existence of such agitators in order to justify repressive actions of his own. Thus, the future of the Crimean Tatars almost certainly is bleak at least in the short term.

            Second, Putin said that it was critically important that officials by their mistakes not provide an opening for such outside groups. He noted that since the Anschluss, more than 1500 cases had been opened against officials accused of corruption and that “more than 60 senior officials had been removed.”

            He said that it was necessary to “cleanse the organs of power from those who are corrupt and who have compromised themselves by doubtful connections,” thus reprising an argument he has often used that those who are corrupt are guilty of more than economic crimes: they are guilty of political ones.

The invocation of that argument suggests in turn that the future of many occupation officials may not be bright either. Clearly, Putin will not wipe out all corruption: in his government, there would be no one left if he in fact did. But a new witch hunt will have consequences, and many of those now serving in Crimea may lose their jobs.

And third, according to the summary, “Putin called for strengthening customs and other types of control at border posts.” He cast this as an effort to prevent drug trafficking and the importation of “low quality or prohibited products,” but in fact, it will further isolate occupied Crimea and further drive down the standard of living there.

In brief and despite his ostensible goals, all three of Putin’s calls are likely to increase tensions on the Ukrainian peninsula, leading to the greater use of force by Russian occupiers and less support for them among the population there.

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