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27 February, 2014 11:37   ▪  

Financial Times: Russia-Ukraine tensions seethe in Crimea

Thousands of pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine demonstrators duelled in Crimea’s capital on Wednesday, heightening concerns about unrest in the region following the change in government in Kiev, Financial Times reports.

“While the peninsula’s pro-Russia activists have said they will fight the new Kiev leadership, others in the region, including Crimea’s native Tatars, have voiced support for it. Their allegiance is stirred by fears that their centuries-old homeland could be wrested from Ukraine back to Russia,” FT says.

On Wednesday, thousands of Tatars gathered outside Crimea’s parliament building in Simferopol to stake their claim a day after rival demonstrators managed to fly a Russian flag over the building.

They were soon met by thousands of pro-Russians, many of whom had travelled in from Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea naval base.

For four hours, the two sides yelled, chanted and whistled at each other, with the Tatars waving Ukrainian and Crimean flags and yelling “Ukraine is not Russia!” and the Ukrainian-language slogans of the Maidan opposition protests in Kiev.

Crimea’s ethnic Russians, in turn, chanted “Russia! Russia!” and “We won’t let the fascists in!” – the latter a reference to Ukraine’s nationalist Svoboda party, a strong element in the new Kiev government.

While the Ukrainian opposition appears to have consolidated control over most of the country, it faces a daunting challenge in Crimea where new measures, such as removing Russian as an official state language, have enraged the local Russian population, especially the older generation.

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