SIMFEROPOL – As Ukraine takes a new turn away from long-time Russian alley, reports about Russia’s plans to actively encourage secession of autonomous Crimea have sparked rival protests between pro-Moscow activists and Ukraine Muslim-majority Crimean Tatars.
“We have gathered here to ensure that the Supreme Council [of Crimea] is no longer a center of destabilization,” said Refat Chubarov, the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, addressing demonstrators, Russia Today reported on Thursday, February 27.
“We may be different in our approach, but we are one in blood and in our love for Crimea. Our task for today is not to let any clashes happen here on this square.
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“We are trying to find a common approach to building the future of Crimea,” Chubarov added.
Chubarov was addressing thousands of protesters who took to the streets in a rally to stress that Crimea shall not be divided.
Tensions escalated after clashes erupted between rival groups rallying next to one another, with people wielding Russian, Ukrainian, Crimean and Crimean Tatar flags getting involved in clashes.
The rival groups protested for and against the new national authorities in Kiev, with some supporting autonomous Crimea’s independence from Ukraine while the local Muslim community of Crimean Tatars expressed support for the new Ukrainian authorities.
While pro-Russian protesters shouted “Russia-Russia!” and “Berkut!”, the name of the special police task force disbanded yesterday by the new Ukrainian authorities, the Muslim community protesters were shouting “Ukraine-Ukraine!” and “Crimea is not Russia!”
“We warned them not to arrange a [parliamentary] session. Do not explode the situation in Crimea. We know they need that session to tear Crimea away from Ukraine,” Chubarov said, speaking about plans to held a session to declare the region’s official position toward the new authorities in Kiev.
“We warned that Crimea Tatars will not allow this to happen. Tatars will not allow the fate of this land to be decided without them.” Russian Troops
The crisis in Ukraine have escalated dramatically after Vladimir Putin ordered an urgent test of combat readiness of the Russian military’s western and central command which include 150,000 personnel.
“The Russians, they have respect for no one,” Ramzi Zagaliev told The Independent at Sevastopol’s demonstration.
“They treat other people with contempt. Look what they did to us: they took us away from our homeland and it took us 70 years to get back.”
Ukraine’s interim President, Oleksandr Turchynov, warned of his “grave concern” of the “serious threat of separatism” ahead of emergency talks with security chiefs.
“We discussed the question of not allowing any threats to territorial integrity and punishing people guilty of this,” he said.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, warned that Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a “huge, grave mistake”.
“For a country that has spoken out so frequently against foreign intervention in Libya, Syria, elsewhere, it would be important for them to heed those warnings as they think about options in the Ukraine,” he added.
The issue has even sparked divisions inside families in Crimea.
“My mother is Russian and she wants us to belong to Russia. But she is an older generation,” Lilia Kerimova, 19, a university student of mixed Tatar- Russian parentage, said.
“I cannot understand how young people could also feel the same way. We will gain nothing by joining Russia; but then if we join the European Union our farmers will suffer and prices will go up.
“My friends and I can’t see anyone who is going to be a good leader: most of our politicians are corrupt. It is depressing being a Ukrainian at the moment.”
The Tatars, who have inhabited Crimea for centuries, were deported in May 1944 by Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis.
The entire Tatar population, more than 200,000 people, was transported in brutal conditions thousands of miles away to Uzbekistan and other locations. Many died along the way or soon after arriving.
The Soviets confiscated their homes, destroying their mosques and turning them into warehouses. One was converted into a Museum of Atheism.
It was not until perestroika in the late 1980s that most of the Tatars were allowed back, a migration that continued after Ukraine became independent with the Soviet collapse in 1991.
More than 250,000 Tatars now live in Crimea, about 13 percent of its population of 2 million people.
The Tatars’ return has repeatedly touched off legal clashes over restitution of land and property, much of which is now owned by ethnic Russians.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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