Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma has denied news reports that he is about to sign a decree allowing Crimean Tatars resident in Crimea but not yet Ukrainian citizens to vote in next Sunday’s general election. (Ukrainian agencies, March 26) Kuchma told journalists yesterday that he has no power to make such a ruling: Ukraine’s constitution, Kuchma pointed out, specifies that only citizens have the right to vote. Kuchma was quoted as saying that it is largely the Tatars’ own fault that many of them have not yet received Ukrainian citizenship. The president deplored the violence that erupted during a demonstration by some 5,000 Tatars in Simferopol on March 24. Commenting on Tatar threats to disrupt Sunday’s voting if they are excluded from the ballot, Kuchma said the authorities will take the necessary steps to ensure that order is maintained. Crimean Tatar leader Refat Chubarov has said that he hopes to meet with Kuchma prior to the election to negotiate a solution to the problem.
The Crimean Tatars were exiled from their homeland by Stalin in 1944, mostly to Uzbekistan. Many returnees have been prevented from acquiring Ukrainian citizenship by the strictness of Ukraine’s legislation (which bars dual citizenship) and the difficulty and expense involved in obtaining the necessary proof of noncitizenship from Uzbekistan. Of the 167,485 Crimean Tatar potential voters (over eighteen years old and currently resident in Crimea), only 97,000 (58 percent) have managed to qualify for Ukrainian citizenship. The Tatars are also upset that they have lost the preferential quota of fourteen specially assigned seats in the Crimean parliament they were granted by the Crimean parliament in 1993. They lost this right last year, when the Ukrainian parliament overruled Crimea’s electoral arrangements on the grounds that lawmakers in the autonomous republic must not be elected on a different basis from those in the rest of Ukraine. The Tatars are now in serious danger of being grossly underrepresented when Crimea’s new legislature is elected on March 29.
Leniency Offer to Zviadists Reaffirmed.