MOSCOW- Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Tuesday that his government was prepared to recognize an independent Tatar state in the event of a yes vote in that territory’s upcoming referendum. The referendum on independence was announced on Monday after armed men calling themselves the “People’s Liberation Army of Tatarstan” seized key government buildings and police arsenals in and around the regional capital of Kazan.
“Obviously we believe in self-determination and the preservation of language, which are two of the demands the rebels have mentioned,” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It would be ridiculous for us to support measures such as the referendum in the Crimea or the federalization of Ukraine while denying those same ideas in our own country,” the minister added.
The uprising in the Russian Federal subject of Tatarstan started one week ago in Kazan and quickly spread to other cities. Local Tatar TV stations showed videos of cossacks and Russian nationalists holding rallies in Moscow, claiming that they would soon be on the way to Tatarstan to “Russify” its institutions and population. In response, the Tatar-speaking population formed “self-defense” groups and started raiding police and military depots in the region. Some Russian sources have repeatedly alleged that Turkish special forces personnel have been arming and training the rebels, a claim which Ankara has repeatedly denied. Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that it was satisfied with Ankara’s explanation.
President Putin has yet to comment on the uprising, but Dmitry Peskov did field reporters’ questions at an impromptu press conference held on Monday.
When asked about the possibility of a Russian military campaign to put down the rebellion, Peskov called the idea “preposterous.”
“You must be confusing us with the Ukrainian government,” Peskov said. “We are not going to mount some kind of punitive military campaign against our own people even if they start an armed uprising with the help of foreign military forces and outside funding, all for the purposes of separating part of our country or at best, radically changing our constitution.”
Meanwhile in Kazan, the self-proclaimed “Khan” of the provisional government, Marat Abdullaev, announced that the referendum on independence would be held in three weeks.
“Soon we will make our voice known as one people,” Abdullaev told reporters while holding a Turkish license built G3 rifle. “We shall decide whether we wish to become a part of the Turkish Republic, or if we want full independence with the option of joining Turkey at a later date.”
Meanwhile spokespeople from the US State Department could not be reached for comment, but a receptionist told our correspondent that upon hearing the news numerous US diplomatic officials began drinking heavily, having “existential crises,” and “generally questioning the very concept of reality itself.”
When asked to comment on the State Department’s strange response to Russia’s reaction, Lavrov told reporters that he was surprised by it.
“What is so strange about our response to this crisis in Kazan? It’s almost as if they are shocked that Russia’s position could be so consistent, and I find that personally offensive.”