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Crimean tensions spill over into clashes between Crimean Tatars and pro-Russian supporters

Crimean tensions spill over into clashes between Crimean Tatars and pro-Russian supporters
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Clashes broke out on Wednesday at the parliament building in Simferopol between Crimean Tatars and pro-Russian supporters.

The Tatars have an ugly history with Russia after being deported from the Black Sea peninsula by Soviet leader Khruschev, under the pretext they collaborated with the Nazis.

Euronews correspondent Sergio Cantone in Crimea said:

“Crimea is turning into a hotbed of major tensions in the Ukrainian crisis. The Tatars are afraid ethnic Russians could request Russia to either intervene or even separate from Ukraine”.

Crimea was transferred to Ukraine by Russia in 1954 and many in the region feel closer to Moscow. Russia still runs a naval base in Sevastopol.

The other main town is Simferopol. Pro-Russian self-defence groups set up road blocks between the two towns as a display of strength and opposition to the Tatars.

One member of the Sevastopol defence group told euronews:

“Russia can enter their peacekeeping troops if the Crimean parliament requests it. We shouldn’t confuse this with military intervention but at least nobody will oppose Russian troops.”

A delegation of Russian MP’s is still in Crimea after delivering the message that Moscow would fast track applications for Crimeans wanting Russian citizenship.

Ethnic Russians in the region are afraid of being caught up in the pro-Maidan wave that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych.

But Kyiv is on edge at the mounting tensions and remains fearful of separatism.

All eyes are now on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who put Russian troops on high alert for a drill, close to the border with Ukraine.