Letters: If Crimea wants to be Russian, why not?

These letters appear in the Monday 3rd March edition of the Independent

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Before the Bolshevik revolution my grandparents owned an estate in Ukraine, not far from Kiev. Everyone there spoke Russian and thought of themselves as Russians. 

Like so many Russians, they often spent holidays in Crimea, where the only significant number of non-Russians were the indigenous Tartars and small populations of ethnic Greeks, Bulgarians, Germans and Romani. In the most recent census 77 per cent said Russian was their first language, 11 per cent Tartar and 10 per cent Ukrainian.

The only reason Crimea is currently part of Ukraine is that in 1954 Khrushchev transferred it for administrative convenience to the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union.

 The only fair and realistic solution to the present crisis is to hold a referendum and let the people of Crimea decide the future for themselves.  There’s not much doubt what the outcome would be.

John Landell Mills, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

While the politicians run around like headless chickens over the Ukraine-Russia-EU situation, they should take a look at a little piece of land sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

Like eastern Ukraine, it has a large Russian naval fleet, it has a predominantly Russian population, and its language is Russian. It is an exclave of Russia called Kaliningrad Oblast. Its railway system relies on co-operation with Polish Railways, and in particular with Lithuanian Railways, over whose tracks Kaliningrad’s trains have to pass to reach Russia. It works without threats of war.

If the people of eastern Ukraine want to be Russian, and the people of western Ukraine want to be allied to the EU and Nato, then let both halves of the country have what they want. Why force a war when 23 years of cohabitation in the Baltic States shows that it is possible for Russia and EU and Nato countries (all formerly under the control of the USSR) to live together?

Tony Olsson, Ilfracombe, North Devon

Before the British media start pontificating about sinister “masked men” seizing government buildings and darkening the utopian “new dawn” of the Kiev coup (“Masked men of the Crimea overshadow the country’s new dawn”, 28 February), they should recall that only a few days ago they cheered on the seizing of government buildings and the overthrow of an elected head of state – and managed to overlook the fact that some of those taking part in the revolution were armed, masked, and affiliated to neo–fascist groups.

Before our politicians start pontificating about restraint and international law, they should also recall the example they repeatedly set with brutal and illegal aggression against so many distant countries, from Iraq to Libya. It is western chickens, not Putin’s, that appear to be swooping in to roost in Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Peter McKenna, Liverpool

The price of a roof over your head

Concerning the rise in private rents (report, 27 February), I calculated some figures this week.

I started teaching in 1990. My gross pay was £15,000. My council rent was £9 a week, or something over £400 per year. A new colleague joined us this academic year. His gross pay is £27,000. His private rent is £200 per week, or £10,000 per year. Furthermore, my council rent stays in the local area, whereas my friend’s private rent ends up 6,000 miles away, in a now richer city.

Frank Jacobs, London E3

How to dry out the Somerset Levels

When looking for a cure for the Somerset Levels every winter, I think the so-called experts and politicians are mistaken to concentrate on dredging the Rivers Parrett and Tone.

These are half-empty for about half of each day and overfull for the other half. This is of course because they are tidal; in earlier centuries Langport was a busy seaport. They can dredge the waterways as much as they like but the rivers will continue to be full at high tides.

Therefore the “Thames Barrage Solution” is clearly the correct one. At its mouth the Parrett is about 600 metres wide, but there is also a new tidal bird sanctuary there and it might therefore make best sense to construct a barrage about three kilometres inland, where the river narrows to less than 200 metres.

Once the barrage is up, the Somerset Levels can drain into a river about five or more metres lower than at present. A single powerful pumping station at the dam can the lower the river even more if desired, and of course farther dredging would also be helpful. In summer the river could be kept full and this would aid groundwater levels during droughts (remember them?).

Professor R N Thompson, Blackford, Wedmore, Somerset

My medical history is not for sale

I am a retired geriatrician. I applaud the idea of my truly anonymised clinical data being used for medical and public health research.

Count me out, however, if the data is to be made available (for which read “sold”) to commercial organisations including private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. If as seems likely the supposedly anonymised information can be back-referenced to me, who legally holds that information and is responsible for its use or misuse? My GP? The Department of Health?  NHS England? A big pharma company? A chain of private healthcare providers (perhaps when I hit 80 they’ll try to entice me into one of their lovely retirement homes)?

All in all, I think I’ll keep myself to myself.

Shame about the probable benefits to society of knowing about my anonymous frailties (broken down by age and sex of course) – but my medical history is not for sale. The NHS should already have the information but it is so incompetent it can’t set up a national IT system or a call centre that works. So what hope for Care.data?

Dr D J Walker FRCP, Henbury, Cheshire

Brazen greed in the school holidays

Many may share my recent experience in booking my family’s summer holiday. Because my daughter’s school is expanding its buildings she will be starting her summer holidays two weeks before all the other schools, and returning a week later. Thankfully, we had not done what we usually have to do and book our summer holiday a year in advance. This has enabled us to take our holiday one week later, saving us a staggering £995.

Everything is the same: airports, flight times and apartment. The only difference is the date we travel. We would not stand for any retailer hiking their prices at a time of high demand; your local supermarket does not increase its prices on a Saturday because that is a peak shopping period.

Mr Gove’s plan for schools to determine their own term schedules will just encourage tour operators to extend their peak periods.

I do not know what the answer is, but I know that we would not stand for any other service so brazenly increasing their prices.

Vicki Mangan, Liverpool

Rational discussion on paederasty

David Crawford (Letter, 28 February) reminds us of the Ancient Greek distinction between paedophilia (good) and paederasty (bad). But Socrates was happy to describe himself as a paederast, even though he probably never had sex with boys. The Athenians were much more capable of discussing such matters calmly and rationally than the British popular press.

George MacDonald Ross, Leeds

Ulster ‘get out  of jail’ letters

A large part of the start of the Irish troubles stemmed from the inequities in the way Catholics were disadvantaged as against Protestants.

It seems from the way the amnesties were only given out to republicans that neither Sinn Fein nor the British Government saw a problem in creating a secret deal to undermine equality of treatment under the law by only offering such “get out of jail free” letters to republicans.

That the deal was enacted by that slippery ferret Blair is probably less of a surprise.

Clive Tiney, York

Graeco-Scottish independence deal

The recent involvement of George Clooney, Boris Johnson and others in the debate regarding the true home of the Parthenon Marbles made me realise that this will all be resolved when Scotland votes for independence and the marbles can finally be moved to Elgin.

Ron Bird, Pinner, Middlesex

Scientists! What do they know?

I have read in much of the media recently that “The brains of older people only appear to slow down because they have so much information to compute, much like a full-up hard drive, scientists believe”. It certainly makes me feel better, as my brain has certainly slowed down, but it is reassuring to know that is because I know so much. Who am I kidding?

Barbara MacArthur (87), Cardiff

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