Back in May, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky submitted a bill on indigenous peoples to the Verkhovna Rada. According to the text of the document, Crimean Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks are recognized as indigenous peoples of Ukraine. And the purpose of the bill is to determine the legal status of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine and guarantee their rights and freedoms in accordance with the Constitution. This was reported by DW agency.
This bill has drawn sharp criticism in Russia. The lower house of the State Duma has issued a statement saying that "millions of Russians, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians and Moldovans, who are among the three largest national minorities in Ukraine, are being deprived of the right to consider themselves indigenous peoples in Ukraine." Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented this, calling the bill on the indigenous peoples of Ukraine "absolutely unacceptable" and "inconsistent with international law," comparing it to " the theory and practice of Nazi Germany."
Council of Europe expert, former Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and Professor at the University of Verona Francesco Palermo explained the main feature of the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and whether Russians, Belarusians and Moldovans in Ukraine fall under this definition.
"There is no universal definition of "national minority," and this also applies to the concept of "indigenous people." However, the identification of indigenous peoples is somewhat simpler, as the criteria for this are stricter than those commonly used to identify national minorities. Indigenous peoples are such that have always lived in certain territories, but there they are in a minority, though not necessarily in number, and enslaved, if not exterminated, by the expansion of other peoples who have occupied their territories. Examples are well known - from the first peoples of America and Canada to the Andean peoples of South America, from the Australian aborigines to the Sámi of the Arctic Circle, 65 indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation, the Crimean Tatars. One of the distinctive but problematic characteristics of indigenous peoples is, in some cases, the incompatibility of their way of life with that of the majority," he said.
Answering what was the difference between protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and national minorities, the expert said:
“To put it very simply, indigenous peoples enjoy all the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, as well as some others. These include, in particular, the right to land and territory, as well as the recognition of customary law and one's own institutions, especially for the governance of internal communities. For example, the Sámi Parliament or the Crimean Tatar Majlis.”
On May 18, 2021, bill No. 5506 on the indigenous peoples of Ukraine was tabled by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in parliament as an urgent one.
The document defines "indigenous peoples," clearly separating them from ethnic national minorities, as well as defining the rights of such peoples (in particular, educational, linguistic or representative ones).
Thus, Russians, Hungarians or Romanians in Ukraine are national minorities since they have their own state outside the region of residence. At the same time, the Crimean Tatars, the Crimean Karaites and the Krymchaks are the indigenous peoples of Ukraine who were formed on the territory of the Crimean peninsula.