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The chairman of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has protested a ruling by Russia's Supreme Court that upheld a ban on the Mejlis, the self-governing body of Crimean Tatars in Ukraine's occupied territory of Crimea.

The ministry said in a statement that "the ban against the activities of the supreme representative and executive body of the Crimean Tatar people" was "openly blasphemous" and was done under "a far-fetched pretext of 'fighting extremism'."

The statement demanded that Russia immediately lift its ban and end what it called "the oppression of the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea."

Russia's Supreme Court ruling on September 29 upheld the decision of a Moscow-backed Crimean court to ban the Mejlis.

Mejlis' lawyer Kirill Koroteyev said the Russian court ruling will be appealed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

On April 26, more than two years after Russia seized and illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, Crimea's pro-Russian Supreme Court branded the Mejlis as an extremist organization and officially banned it.

The Mejlis had been legalized by the Ukrainian government in 1999.

Crimea's indigenous Tatars make up about 12 percent of Crimea's population of 2.5 million people.

Many Crimean Tatars fled the territory after it was seized by Russian military forces in February 2014 and illegally annexed by Moscow in March 2014.

Crimean Tatars who have remained in the occupied territory complain of harassment and enforced disappearances under the Moscow-backed authorities there.

Russia has been severely criticized by international rights groups and Western governments for its treatment of the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority since the annexation.

With reporting by Interfax and TASS
Peace Deal With 'Butcher Of Kabul' Sparks Protests In Afghan Capital
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Critics of a peace deal between the Afghan government and a militant group led by a notorious warlord accused of atrocities are protesting the agreement by changing their Facebook profile pictures to black.

The peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the exiled leader of the Hezb-e Islami militant group nicknamed the "Butcher of Kabul" for rocket attacks that killed scores of civilians during the 1990s civil war, was signed on September 29 in a ceremony broadcast live on television.

Under the agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and the government will press for international sanctions against him to be lifted.

Critics blasted the deal in numerous posts on social media.

"Hekmatyar will come to Kabul and we've rolled out the black carpet for him," wrote a Facebook user who called the peace deal "shameful" and changed his profile picture to a black void.

Hekmatyar, who addressed the signing ceremony via a video recording, has been accused of a long list of rights abuses, including indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the capital in the 1990s, the forced disappearance of political opponents, and torture.

Some referred to him on social media as a "criminal" and said that instead of granting him amnesty, the Afghan authorities should put him on trial.

"Go to the roof of the Arg palace and look at the cemeteries remaining from his crimes," a user who had joined the protest wrote on Facebook, referring to Afghanistan's presidential palace.

"Another dark day added to an already massive collection of dark days, as #Hekmatyar completes a group of criminals ruling #Afghanistan," Twitter user Ramin Anwari wrote.

Some said that the victims of Hekmatyar's alleged crimes have been ignored in the deal. "Yes, we have to mourn for the people, for the victims who have been forgotten," said a comment on Facebook.

However, there were also those who suggested that any peace deal that would put an end to violence and death of civilians should be welcomed. "Confrontation would mean the continuation of the current situation and the killings of the nation's children," a user commented on Facebook.

Human Rights Watch has called the deal "an affront to victims of grave abuses."

"[Hekmatyar's] return will compound the culture of impunity that the Afghan government and its foreign donors have fostered by not pursuing accountability for the many victims of forces commanded by Hekmatyar and other warlords that laid waste to much of the country in the 1990s," senior HRW Afghanistan researcher Patricia Gossman wrote earlier this month.

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