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Posts tagged ‘Tatar Land of Crimea’

Russia to deploy more anti-aircraft missiles in Crimea

November 28, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — A military official says Russia will boost the defense of the occupied Crimean peninsula with more anti-aircraft missiles. The Interfax news agency on Wednesday quoted Col. Vadim Astafyev, the top Defense Ministry official in Russia’s south, as saying that Russia will add one S-400 anti-aircraft missile system to the three already deployed in the peninsula.

The announcement comes three days after Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian vessels and seized them and their crews. The first overt military confrontation between the two neighboring countries has raised the specter of a major conflict.

Ukraine said its vessels were operating in line with international maritime rules, while Russia alleged they had failed to get permission to pass.

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Student gunman kills 19, wounds 50 at school in Crimea

October 17, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — An 18-year-old student strode into his vocational school in Crimea, a hoodie covering his blond hair, then pulled out a shotgun and opened fire on Wednesday, killing 19 students and wounding more than 50 others before killing himself.

It wasn’t clear what prompted Vladislav Roslyakov, described as a shy loner, to go on the rampage. A security camera image carried by Russian media showed him calmly walking down the stairs of the school in the Black Sea city of Kerch, the shotgun in his gloved hand.

“He was walking around and shooting students and teachers in cold blood,” said Sergei Aksyonov, the regional leader in Crimea. Officials said the fourth-year student killed himself in the library of the Kerch Polytechnic College after the attack. His mother, a nurse, was helping to treat victims at a local hospital after the shootings, unaware yet that her son was accused of the rampage and was already dead.

Such school shootings are rare, and Wednesday’s attack was by far the worst by a disgruntled student in Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. The bloodbath raised questions about school security in the country; the Kerch Polytechnic College had only a front desk with no security guards.

By the end of the day, Crimean authorities said the death toll stood at 19, apparently not including the shooter. Fifty-three people were wounded, including 12 in serious condition. It was the greatest loss of life in school violence in Russia since the Beslan terrorist attack by Chechen separatists in 2004, in which 333 people were killed during a three-day siege, many of them children, and hundreds were wounded.

The announcement that the shooter in Wednesday’s attack was a student who acted alone came after hours of rapidly shifting explanations as to what exactly happened at the school. Officials at first reported a gas explosion, then said an explosive device had ripped through the cafeteria during lunchtime in a suspected terrorist attack.

Witnesses, however, reported that victims were being killed by gunfire. The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top crime investigation agency, eventually said all the victims died of gunshot wounds. Reflecting the daylong confusion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the victims were killed by an explosion just as the Investigative Committee was announcing they were fatally shot.

A somber-faced Putin deplored the attack as a “tragic event” and offered his condolences to the victims’ families at a news conference in the southern city of Sochi, where he was meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The Investigative Committee said the explosive device rigged with shrapnel went off in the school lunchroom and Sergei Melikov, a deputy chief of the Russian National Guard, said it was homemade. Officials later found a second explosive device and destroyed it.

It was not clear what the explosive was, if the attacker detonated it, or how many people it wounded. Guns are tightly restricted in Russia. Civilians can own only hunting rifles and smooth-bore shotguns and must undergo significant background checks. Roslyakov had only recently received a permit to own a shotgun and bought 150 cartridges just a few days ago, according to local officials.

Aksyonov, the regional leader in Crimea, said the gunman had been described as a shy boy who had no conflicts. “He wasn’t aggressive, he was rather timid,” Aksyonov said, speculating that Roslyakov might have “watched some movies” that inspired him to go on the shooting spree.

Some Russian news reports said the shooter had left his backpack containing the explosive device in the cafeteria and remotely detonated it before he started shooting. “I heard an explosion and saw glass shards and window frames falling down,” student Roman Voitenko said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television.

Another student, Semyon Gavrilov, said he had fallen asleep during a lecture and was awakened by the sound of shooting. He looked around and saw a young man shooting at people, he said. “I locked the door, hoping he wouldn’t hear me,” Gavrilov told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

He said police arrived about 10 minutes later to evacuate people and he saw dead bodies on the floor and charred walls. Another student, Yuri Kerpek, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the shooting went on for about 15 minutes.

Russia has seen several violent attacks by students in recent years, but none of them were even remotely as brutal as the Kerch rampage. Early this year, a teenager armed with an ax attacked fellow students at a school in Buryatia in southern Siberia, wounding five students and a teacher. The attacker also ignited a firebomb in the class and tried to kill himself before being apprehended.

In another attack in January, two teenagers stabbed children and their teacher with knives, wounding 15 people, and then attempted to kill each other before being detained. After Wednesday’s attack, local officials declared a state of emergency on the Black Sea peninsula and cordons of Russia’s National Guard circled the school. Security was also increased at a new 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge linking the peninsula with Russia, which opened earlier this year. Military units were deployed near the college to help emergency agencies.

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea triggered Western sanctions. Russia has also supported separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has left at least 10,000 people dead since 2014.

Over the past few years, Russian security agencies have arrested several Ukrainians accused of plotting terror attacks in Crimea, but no attacks have occurred.

Turkey marks 1944 tragedy of Crimean Tatars

18.05.2018

ANKARA

Turkey on Friday remembered the deportation and ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars 74 years ago by the Soviet Union.

In a written statement, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said that some 250,000 Crimean Tatar Turks were exiled thousands of kilometers away from their homeland on the night of May 17-18, 1944.

“Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatar Turks perished under the inhumane circumstances of this deportation,” Aksoy said. “Many of them passed away in exile under harsh conditions. Today more than 100,000 Crimean Tatar Turks still live far from their homeland.”

“On this occasion, we commemorate those who lost their lives during this exile and respectfully bow before their memory,” Aksoy said.

He also marked the date of May 21, 1864, which is commemorated as the anniversary of the “Circassian Exile” tragedy.

“During the invasion of the Caucasus by Czarist Russia, hundreds of thousands of Caucasian people lost their lives. Many survivors were exiled from their homeland and had to take shelter in Anatolia. The pain of this tragedy is still alive,” he said.

On May 18, 1944, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime, which accused them of collaborating with occupying Nazi forces.

The Crimean Tatars were deported to various regions within Soviet territory, in particular Siberia and Uzbekistan. Almost half of the exiles, who endured long months of dire living conditions, are thought to have died of starvation and disease.

The exile continued until 1987, when the Soviet government allowed 2,300 Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. Another 19,300 people followed in 1988.

Nearly 1.5 million Circassians were expelled from the region to the east of the Black Sea when it was overrun by Russia in 1864. Some 400,000-500,000 are believed to have died.

Most of the Circassian exiles were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, settling as far away as present-day Jordan.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/todays-headlines/turkey-marks-1944-tragedy-of-crimean-tatars/1149837.

Freed Crimean Tatar leaders fly back to Ukraine, vow to return to peninsula

October 27, 2017

Two Crimean Tatar activists sentenced for their political activities by Russian authorities in the annexed peninsula arrived in Ukraine Friday after being released thanks to an apparent deal brokered by Turkey.

Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after their flight from Ankara, the Kiev ally to which they had flown from Crimea upon their unexpected release Wednesday.

The men are two of the Crimean Tatars’ most high profile community leaders and have irked Moscow by opposing the Black Sea region’s seizure from Ukraine in March 2014.

The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to Crimea who were deported under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and only returned to their homeland in the 1990s.

Umerov and Chiygoz both vowed to return to Crimea in the future after being given a rapturous welcome by their supporters at the Kiev airport.

“I am definitely going home to Crimea, no matter what awaits me there,” Umerov told reporters upon his arrival.

“No one gave me any terms or conditions upon my release,” he said.

Chiygoz added that he did not see himself as a free man because the Crimean Tatars still remained under Russian rule.

“This is not freedom,” the 60-year-old said in a quiet voice. “We will not be free until every person [jailed in Crimea] is released.”

Chiygoz was sentenced in September to eight years in prison over deadly clashes at a rally.

Umerov received two years in a penal colony on charges of separatism but was allowed to remain at home pending an appeal. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes as well as other conditions.

Neither man explained what exactly prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign off on their handover to the Turkish authorities.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, the respected spiritual leader of the Crimean Tatar community, told the French Press Agency he had asked Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call for the activists’ release in talks with Putin.

The two men also thanked Poroshenko for playing an instrumental role in their release. Erdogan met Poroshenko in Kiev earlier this month.

The Turkish leader has tried to preserve good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has slowly begun to assume the role of mediator between the two countries.

Crimean Tatars are traditionally pro-Ukrainian. Since the annexation, they have been subjected to intimidation, house searches and arbitrary detention, rights groups say.

Moscow says the overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to join Russia in a proper and fair referendum.

Source: Daily Sabah.

Link: https://www.dailysabah.com/europe/2017/10/27/freed-crimean-tatar-leaders-fly-back-to-ukraine-vow-to-return-to-peninsula.

Russia’s security agency detains 6 Crimean Tatar activists

October 11, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s domestic security agency said Wednesday it detained six people in Crimea accused of involvement in an extremist organization, a move described by one of the suspects’ lawyer as part of Moscow’s crackdown on the Crimean Tatars.

Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer for one of the six detainees, said that police also rounded up nine other Crimean Tatars who protested the detentions in the Crimean town of Bakhchisarai. The Federal Security Service or FSB, the main KGB successor agency, said it has stopped the activities of a local cell of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist group which Russia and several other ex-Soviet nations banned as a “terrorist” organization.

The FSB said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that it has opened a criminal probe against six people suspected of involvement in the group. Kurbedinov, a lawyer for Suleiman Asanov, whom the FSB accused of organizing the cell, described the charges as “absurd.” He said all six detainees were local Crimean Tatar activists who opposed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

Russia has faced criticism for infringing on the ethnic group’s rights since the annexation. “It’s yet another attempt to intimidate people with ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ labels,” Kurbedinov said by phone from Bakhchisarai.

Kurbedinov said nine other Crimean Tatars who were protesting the detentions were taken into custody for holding an unsanctioned demonstration and were set to face court hearings Thursday. Zair Smedlyayev, who heads an association of Crimean Tatars, also said the move was part of a continuing crackdown on the Turkic ethnic group.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting the Ukrainian capital, said Turkey was monitoring the situation of Crimean Tatars and thanked Ukraine for defending their rights.

Russia holds large-scale military drills in Crimea

September 09, 2016

FEODOSIYA, Crimea (AP) — Russia has deployed cruise missiles, multiple rocket launchers, tanks and its latest anti-aircraft system at massive military drills in Crimea. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in April 2014 and since then has sent thousands of troops and heavy weaponry there.

The defense ministry invited dozens of journalists Friday to a remote firing range at the Black Sea coast to display elaborate war games which involved paratroopers, tanks, cruise missiles launched from a submarine and the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

The drills, which began across southern Russia and Crimea earlier this week and involve over 120,000 troops, are some of the largest exercises Russia has held for years.

Crimean Tatars celebrate Eurovision win, Russians cry foul

May 15, 2016

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Crimean Tatars on Sunday celebrated Ukrainian singer Jamala’s win at Eurovision with a song that sheds light on their horrific deportations to Central Asia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin but also hints at their recent treatment under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many Russians, whose Eurovision Song Contest entry won the popular vote but finished third when the national juries’ votes were added, said they felt robbed of the win because of political bias. The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman joked sarcastically that to win next year’s contest a song will need to denounce “bloody” Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Moscow but blamed in the West for Syria’s 5-year civil war.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was condemned by the United States and European Union, which responded by imposing punishing sanctions. Inside Crimea, the seizure of territory from Ukraine was most strongly opposed by the Tatar minority, who now face persecution on the Moscow-ruled Black Sea peninsula.

“This song is about our tragedy … and I hope that people heard this,” said Emine Ziyatdinova, a 27-year-old Crimean Tatar who was among those celebrating the win at a Tatar restaurant in Kiev. Jamala’s song, “1944,” recalls how Crimean Tatars, including her great-grandmother, were deported during World War II.

In the space of three days in May 1944, all 200,000 Tatars, who then made up a third of Crimea’s population, were put on trains and shipped off to Central Asia upon Stalin’s orders, suspected of collaborating with the Nazis during their long occupation of the peninsula during the war.

Thousands died during the grueling journey or starved to death in the barren steppes upon their arrival. In the decades after the war, the Soviet Union developed Crimea as a naval base and a tourist destination, dominated by ethnic Russians along with Ukrainians.

It was not until the 1980s that the Tatars were allowed to return to their native land. Jamala, the stage name for Susana Jamaladinova, was born in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1983. She now lives in Kiev.

The lyrics of her song don’t touch on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and Jamala insists there’s no political subtext. But there’s no doubt the lyrics are powerful. She starts the song in English, singing “when strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all and say ‘we’re not guilty.'”

Russians believe anti-Russian sentiment in Europe swayed the vote. Their entry, Sergey Lazarev, had all the right ingredients for a Eurovision winner: a song with a thumping techno beat, a catchy refrain and a buff man in a tight shirt riding on an iceberg through space.

“This is a political contest, 100 percent,” said Anastasia Bagayeva, who watched the contest from a Moscow restaurant. “This is not fair, but this is the current time.” Russian officials also cried foul. Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said bitterly in a Facebook post that next year’s winning Eurovision song needs to be about Assad. She suggested this chorus in English: “Assad blood, Assad worst. Give me prize, that we can host.”

The country that wins Eurovision gets to host it the following year — an expensive obligation for the state broadcaster. In reporting on Ukraine’s victory, Russian state television questioned how the extravagant song contest can be held in a country where “there is a hole in the budget, a war is being waged in the east and in the capital there is often disorder.”

After Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president was ousted by street protests in early 2014, Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists who now control swathes of territory in Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the east. Their fight against the Ukrainian government has claimed more than 9,300 lives.

Alexander Roslyakov and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed.

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