Crimean Tatars demand recognition as strategic peninsula's "indigenous people"
KIEV - Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov assigned the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, to evaluate Crimean Tatars' demands for recognition as "Crimea's inhabitant people," the parliament announced in a press statement Tuesday.
The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, the minority group’s national assembly, had asked the Ukrainian government to recognize them as the strategic peninsula's indigenous people, the Mejlis' deputy head Nariman Dzhelyal told a local radio station Monday.
A Mejlis statement, addressing the Rada and Ukrainian people, strongly condemned the plan to annex Crimea to Russia, as well as Russia's military intervention in Crimea.
The statement also declared the March 16 referendum in Crimea "illegitimate" and rejected any attempt to determine the region’s future "without the free will of the Crimean people."
"The right of the Crimean Tatar people to determine their fate themselves should only be exerted within the sovereign and independent Ukraine," it said.
The Mejlis appealed to the Rada to adopt the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which covers indigenous peoples’ basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The statement also called on the Rada and other Ukrainian state institutions, as well as international bodies such as the U.N. and the European Union, to immediately enable Crimean Tatars to freely exercise their "inalienable right" to determine their future in “their historical land."
The Crimean parliament, dissolved by Ukraine's Rada on March 17, declared the region's independence from Ukraine as the "Republic of Crimea" just one day after a referendum on Sunday where 96.77 percent of the electorate voted for joining with the Russian Federation.
The United States, the EU, Ukraine and others have called the referendum "illegitimate" and have imposed sanctions against at least 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials linked to Crimea’s secession.The sanctions include visa bans and the freezing of assets.Crimean Tatars, who make up about 12 percent of the peninsula’s population, boycotted the referendum alongside Ukrainians, who constitute 24 percent of the population.
“Everyone knows that Crimean Tatars have been consistent defenders of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and this is why we turned to the Parliament of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people to give us the opportunity to enhance our status, the status of an indigenous people, and to recognize this status in Ukraine through a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. This would strengthen us and we could better defend the Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea,” the Mejlis’ Dzhelyal said.
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