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    » 03/07/2014, 00.00

    UKRAINE - RUSSIA

    Crimea: Church and pro-Ukraine Crimeans demonstrate for peace



    The Orthodox Metropolitan of Simferopol prays for Ukraine's territorial integrity. Crimean Muslims also demonstrate. Tensions persist between pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine Crimeans. As US and EU threaten Putin with financial sanctions if he does not accept negotiations with Ukraine, fears rise in the Baltic republics.

    Simferopol (AsiaNews) - Tatars and pro-Ukraine Crimeans gathered today in Simferopol at the foot of the monument dedicated to Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's national poet, to demonstrate and pray "for peace and the integrity of Crimea", following the local parliament's vote yesterday for annexation to Russia.

    The issue is of particular concern to the minorities living in the historically pro-Russian peninsula, like the Muslim Tatars (12 per cent) and ethnic Ukrainians (about 26 per cent), now that a referendum is scheduled for 16 March to ratify the parliament's decision, which has already been backed by Moscow.

    Away from the watchful eyes of Cossacks and pro-Russian militia patrolling most of the city centre, a few dozen demonstrators gathered in the park, summoned via Twitter by the "Euromaidan of Crimea" movement.

    Holding white balloons and Ukrainian flags, they briefly prayed for peace alongside a delegation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate.

    The Church delegation was led by the Metropolitan of Simferopol Kliment, who released some doves to emphasise the peaceful nature of the initiative.

    "This is not a political rally," said Archimandrite Feodor. "We only want the calls for peace and Ukraine's integrity to be heard," he explained.

    The religious leader had just arrived from Poltava in Eastern Ukraine where he says many people are afraid of possible annexation to Russia.

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate did not back the gathering. "We did not ask them to join us because for them it is much more difficult," the archimandrite noted.

    Among ordinary people in the square, fear prevails. "If you express a pro-Ukrainian position in the Crimea today, you could be literally killed or at least attacked," the Archimandrite said. "It was not like this before. This is the consequences of propaganda coming from the Russian Federation."

    On one thing the priest said he was optimistic, namely the process of dialogue and reunification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate with the Kyiv-based Church.

    Both communities have been very active with respect to Maidan (Independence) Square, backing peaceful protests and acting as mediators when they turned violent.

    "Talks have started again," the Archimandrite said. "A committee has been set up to speed up the process, so there will be a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

    Meanwhile, Crimean Muslims held Friday prayers today in the region's mosques for "peace and harmony across the Crimea."

    At the same time, international pressure is growing against Russia and the Crimean parliament's decision to hold referendum on annexation to Russia.

    The United States and European Union have unveiled a co-ordinated set of sanctions against Russia if it does accepted a negotiated solution in the Ukraine.

    The United States announced that visa bans would affect a number of Russian officials. US President Barack Obama also signed a number of financial sanctions. The EU has blocked visas and trade.

    As a result of tensions in the Crimea, the rouble lost 10 per cent of its value. Russian companies also risk losing US$ 8 billion in international loans.

    For its part, China continues to favour a diplomatic solution, noting, "that the legitimate rights and interests of all ethnic groups in Ukraine should be accommodated in handling the Ukraine issue".

    Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said Kiev is also ready to talk to Moscow, ready that is, for "co-operation, but not surrender".

    Moscow's intervention and tensions in Crimea have raised fears in other former Soviet republics, especially in the Baltic states.

    Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite called on the European Union to counter Russia's "open and brutal aggression". In her view, "If we allow this [Crimea's annexation to Russia] to happen, next will be somebody else." (MA)

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    See also

    29/07/2014 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
    As US and EU prepare sanctions against Russia, Moscow gets ready to respond
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    17/07/2014 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
    Moscow reacts angrily to new US sanctions, calling them illegal, pledging reaction
    Washington adopts new measures against certain individuals and companies, including top energy companies Rosneft and Novatek, which are close to Putin. The EU is also set to take a hard-line. Russia accuses the EU of being blackmailed by the US.

    19/05/2016 12:16:00 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
    Prayers but no protests: Crimean Tatars commemorate the deportation

    Public gatherings are banned on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow, but Muslims have been joined in prayer even by Christians "so that such tragedies never happen again." The EU’s concern about the "deterioration of human rights".



    30/01/2015 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
    Greece does not oppose extended EU sanctions against Moscow
    Sanctions apply to Russian officials and Ukraine's pro-Russian separatists. For now, new economic sanctions have been avoided. As diplomatic efforts continue in Minsk, fighting resumes on the ground.

    16/05/2016 10:52:00 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
    A song about the Crimean Tatars wins 2016 Eurovision. Russia outraged

    Ukrainian singer Jamala won the song contest with a song about mass deportations wanted by Stalin, with an implicit condemnation of the annexation of the peninsula by Moscow and the pressure that the Tatars are currently experiencing. The Russian competitor, great favorite, finishes third. For Moscow it is a "political victory".





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