The View From Russia: Crimea's Long-Awaited Return

Andranik Migranyan, the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, offers the pro-Russian view of the country's recent move to annex Crimea.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Well, now for a pro-Russian take on recent events, we turn once again to political scientist Andranik Migranyan. He's director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation. That's a Russian-funded think tank in New York. Welcome back to the program.

ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: Oh, thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: When we spoke just over three weeks ago, you raised the subject of Crimea. So first question: Is Crimea unique among regions of Ukraine? Or could you see what happened there happening elsewhere in that country?

MIGRANYAN: No. Crimea is unique. Of course, many things which are happening in eastern and southern part of Ukraine also is important, and they have their own logic and they are in the same context. But none of these regions like Odessa, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk - none of them had autonomous status and none of them had a city like Sevastopol, which even during Soviet time had a special status equal to Moscow and Leningrad at that time.

SIEGEL: President Putin said in his speech today, and this is a quotation, "Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people." He also said Russia doesn't want to further divide Ukraine. Is what you've just said and what the president said, does that mean that Moscow will not seek or welcome any other secession from Ukraine?

MIGRANYAN: You know, it depends on the people in Kiev and especially all those radicals from western Ukraine, among them some people who are considered to be neo-Nazis. This is not the definition of Moscow. This is the definition of European parliament, which passed the resolution in 2012.

SIEGEL: You think that their actions could lead to another secession and another breakaway movement that Russia would then annex such a district?

MIGRANYAN: That's quite possible.

SIEGEL: Possible, you say.

MIGRANYAN: If they'll really organize attacks, because as I told last time, Russia couldn't stay away when the lives of large number of people will be in trouble.

SIEGEL: Yes. When we spoke, it was on February 24th, you spoke of possible provocative acts against Russians by mobs and armed rebels. We were talking about Crimea. There weren't any such mob attacks on Russians in Crimea, were there? That wasn't - that didn't happen to provoke the secession.

MIGRANYAN: What really happened - the first acts of new government over there, which is illegitimate from point of view of Crimean authorities and from Moscow point of view, was the repeal of the language, which means Crimean people were always scared that it's a kind of forced Ukrainization and squeezing out Russian language and Russian identity from the peninsula. And that's very serious thing because to ban the language, it means to destroy the identity of the nation. This is the worst crime against humanity.

SIEGEL: What do you think happens next?

MIGRANYAN: Everybody was asking in this country and in the West, what is Putin's endgame? And I think that it's quite clear now. Crimea is gone but the situation now concerns the eastern and southern part of Ukraine. Russia's position is very clear. Return back to agreements which was signed on 21st of February.

SIEGEL: But what happens if they return to that agreement? Then Russia will refrain from encouraging any other secessionist movements in Ukraine?

MIGRANYAN: It's one option, and second is that, of course, Russia would like these fascists and Nazis out of government in Kiev and federalization of Ukraine and safe and secure life of Russians and Russian speakers in east and south of Ukraine. And Ukraine having a neutral status out of blocs and alliances in European system of security.

SIEGEL: That means - are you saying no NATO or are you saying no NATO or no EU?

MIGRANYAN: No NATO, no EU.

SIEGEL: No EU, yeah. Andranik Migranyan, thank you very much for talking with us and sharing a Russian perspective on issues in Ukraine and Crimea.

MIGRANYAN: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Mr. Migranyan is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation. That's a Russian think tank in New York. He's a political scientist.

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