Russian President: Crimean Tatars cannot be used as pawns

Friday, May 16, 2014

Russian President meets with Crimean Tatar representatives to allay their fears of history repeating itself as a UN report says that there are serious problems in Crimea

Russian President meets with Crimean Tatar representatives to allay their fears of history repeating itself as a UN report says that there are serious problems in Crimea

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Crimean Tatars cannot be used as pawns in disputes and debates.

"This goes especially for disputes between Russia and Ukraine," Putin said. "We cannot let the Crimean Tatars be reduced to this role. People have suffered enough over the last decades and it would be completely unacceptable to entangle them now in disputes of whatever sort."

Putin met with Crimean Tatar community representatives Friday on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Crimean Tatars’ mass deportation, said the Kremlin press office. 

The Russian President said what was done in May 1944 was 'the inhuman act of deporting an entire people from the Crimea'. 

"The Crimean Tatars perhaps suffered more than others in that they had to wait longer to be able to return to their native lands than the other minorities deported during Stalin’s repressions," he added. 

Putin continued saying that they will do everything to ensure that Crimean Tatars feel genuinely and completely at home in their own land. "This is why I wanted to meet with you today. I wanted to take this occasion to stress Russia’s commitment to resolving all of the problems that have built up over the past decades, and I hope for your understanding and for cooperation between us."

Referring to an executive order on rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars that he signed April 21, Putin said systemic measures for cultural and political rehabilitation and steps to organize a normal life would meet the conditions for the Crimean Tatars to develop steadily in their own homeland. 

However, a UN report on Ukraine, released Friday, indicated an alarming human rights situation developing in eastern Ukraine and serious problems in Crimea. 

The report highlighted instances of killings, torture, abductions and sexual harassment carried out by separatist groups in eastern Ukraine and noted that Crimean Tatars are facing physical harassment and restricted freedoms of movement including some of their leaders who “were denied entry when trying to go back to Crimea from other parts of Ukraine.”

The Soviet Union under Stalin forcibly deported the Crimean Tatars from Crimea in 1944 as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. 

Over 230,000 people were deported, mainly to Uzbekistan, including the entire, ethnic Crimean Tatar population as well as a small number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians. A large number of deportees died from starvation or disease as a direct result of deportation.

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