Crimeans have far greater right to autonomy than Kosovo Albanians ever had - expert

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych on Friday said that the standoff in Crimea was a "natural reaction" to the "bandit-like" takeover of power by the new authorities in Ukraine. Speaking at a news conference in Russia, he said he still saw himself as the Ukrainian president and as such believed that Crimea must remain part of Ukraine. Meanwhile Srdja Trifkovich, foreign-affairs editor for the Chronicles magazine, discussed the issue in an interview with the VoR.

(kosovocompromisestuff) Sunday, March 02, 2014

How do you think people in Ukraine reacted to the statements Viktor Yanukovych made at the press conference in Rostov-on-Don?

The difference in reaction is indicative of the deep divide between eastern and southern parts of Ukraine and central and western parts. The problem with Yanukovych is that his credibility has been severely undermined by his failure to act decisively in the key moments of the crisis, so that he no longer enjoys much credibility or popularity even in the areas where traditionally he used to have a significant support – in the south and in the east of the country. I think it would be extremely important for those who do not want to be drawn into the nationalist scenario, into Ukraine that will be kind of a playground for NATO and that will escalate tensions with Russia, it would be very important to have a new leader emerged. A leader who can energize the Russian-speaking and Russia-friendly Ukrainians in the east and the south, whose credibility would not be undermined the way that Yankovych’s is.

In your opinion, are there any possible parallels or echoing similarities between Kosovo and the Crimea?

In effect, the Crimeans have a much greater right to self-determination than the Albanians of Kosovo had ever had, because in 1954 the transfer of the Crimean peninsula to Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic occurred literally by a stroke of a pen of Nikita Sergeievych Khrushchev. There was absolutely no consultation with the people and he had no mandate to do so. In fact, it was a brazen exercise of volunteerism by the Communist Party apparatus. In contrast, Kosovo has been an integral part of the Serbian state, both in the medieval times and after the end of the WW I in 1912, and as such was recognized by the international treaties as the Kingdom of Serbia and later on as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and in more recent times as an autonomous province within the Socialist Republic of Serbia under Tito, and after that as a part of the newly independent Serbian state. No such status attached to Crimea. And of course, it is entirely possible that the argument can be presented to the West, that if you allowed the secession of Kosovo, you should allow the secession of Crimea. But the point I’m trying to make is that in fact the Crimeans have much greater rights and legally better founded rights to self-determination than the Albanians of Kosovo.