Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea wants Kiev to stay out of its business, and put its own house in order first, the Crimean parliament speaker has said, adding that local authorities can meanwhile take care of local business.
“You in Kiev sort it out between yourselves, and we will deal with the republic’s problems,” Vladimir Konstantinov told a news conference.
The top priority for Crimean authorities is to hold a referendum on whether it should have greater autonomy, the speaker said. Such a referendum has been scheduled for March 30.
Konstantinov said the self-proclaimed government in Kiev discredited itself by breaking an agreement it signed with ousted President Viktor Yanukovich. It started chaos in the country and is busy abruptly changing legislation instead of calming down the situation.
“The situation in southeastern Ukraine is very tense. People are trying to protect themselves. We all know what that Nazi gang [in Kiev] is capable of. I am sorry that respectable politicians in Kiev decided to settle their scores with the help of that terrible force,” he said.
Most of the Crimean law enforcement and military share this point of view, Konstantinov said. They also support the local self-defense forces, who are basically people who were scared for their lives and their families in the wake of the violence in Kiev and the anti-Russian gestures of the new authorities.
Konstantinov said Crimea would give asylum to anyone persecuted elsewhere in Ukraine for their political views and beliefs.
The speaker advised Kiev against using force to attempt to take control of Crimea or any other region resisting it. He said such a move would end with the new authorities having no region to call their own in Ukraine.
He thanked Russia for agreeing to help Crimea in a difficult situation.
“We turned to Russia for help in ensuring law and order, and providing financial aid in this difficult period. This request was granted. Now a working group in Moscow is talking about the technical details of this issue,” Konstantinov said.
The speaker declined to identify armed men in uniforms without insignia, who had been guarding key locations in Crimea for several days. Kiev alleges these are units of the Russian military invading Ukraine.
Konstantinov said that Crimea was part of “the Russian world” and does not welcome NATO. He also stressed that despite this pro-Russian leaning, the people of Crimea don’t have problems with Ukrainians, but have problems with radical nationalists and neo-Nazis, who played a big role in ousting President Yanukovich.
The speaker said the Crimea needs self-governance by an inclusive government, which would take into consideration the interests of all its people, be they Ukrainians, Russians or Tatars. The latter groups are a substantial minority in Crimea, and local Russians, being a minority in the whole of Ukraine, can sympathize with the Tatars, Konstantinov said.
“We are prepared to offer Crimean Tatars a level of authority that they never had before,” he said.