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UN Calls On Russia To Respect Crimean Tatar Rights On Key Anniversary

  • RFE/RL

The United Nations called on Russia to respect minority rights on the May 18 anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea in 1944.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said the persecution of Tatars has grown during two years of Russian annexation of the peninsula, marked by the intimidation, harassment, and jailing of Tatar officials.

"Since April 2014, Crimean Tatars have been subjected to arbitrary searches, seizure of books, and arrest," he said in a statement on May 17. "Last year, the authorities shut down a number of Crimean Tatar media outlets, and last week were reported to have also blocked Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Crimea news website."

Colville said Russia has "a duty to ensure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples" and should immediately lift the ban on the Mejlis, the Tatars' legislative body.

During Stalin's reign, starting on May 18, 1944, some 200,000 Crimean Tatars were put on trains -- most of them in the space of just two days -- and sent to Uzbekistan. Thousands are believed to have died during the journey.

*This article has been amended to correct Rupert Coville's title.