In Crimea, thousands of Tatars have marked the 70th anniversary of their mass deportation by Soviet leader Josef Stalin
The Muslim Tatars – who are strongly opposed to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine – defied a ban on mass gatherings by the new Russian-backed rulers.
As Russian military helicopters circled overhead, the crowd chanted “People, homeland, Crimea!” and heard speeches calling for greater autonomy for Tatars, who make up 12 percent of the region’s population.
In Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, hundreds of Tatars also gathered to commemorate the anniversary.
They have expressed a deep mistrust of the Russian authorities, many associating Moscow’s rule with oppression, exile and suffering.
One of them, Susanna Islyamova, complained of recent harassment in Crimea: “My Tatar relatives there have been humiliated. In the markets they don’t want to sell them anything. The locals have become very aggressive. Responding to Putin’s authority, they’re rude to the Tatars, saying things like: ‘You deserve to die, there’s no place for you in Crimea’.”
Maria Korenyuk, a euronews reporter in Kyiv said recent events have reawakened memories of what happened in 1944: “When Russia invaded Crimea, about 8,000 fled to mainland Ukraine. Most of them were Crimean Tatars. They have settled in Kiev and western regions. But all of them hope this relocation is temporary, and in future they, as their grandparents who were deported from Crimea in 1944, will be able to return to their native land again.”