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Crimean Tatar Groups In Germany Appeal To Ukrainian President

Crimean Tatar organizations in Germany have sent an open letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych urging him to "protect Crimea's indigenous people from discrimination," RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

In their letter, the authors wrote that some pro-Russian groups in Ukraine's Crimea are trying to disband the Crimean Tatars' autonomous bodies. Last month, Crimean political groups such as the Russian bloc, the Russian Community of Crimea, and the Tavria Union officially demanded that Yanukovych ban the Crimean Tatars' Mejlis (parliament) and its Kurultai (congress), calling them organized criminal groups.

The Crimean Tatars first established their own Mejlis and Kurultai in 1917. But they were abolished by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, who ordered the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars to Central Asia in May 1944.

In 1991, the Crimean Tatars received official permission to return to Crimea and the Mejlis-Kurultai structure was revived. Crimean Tatars make up more than 12 percent of Crimea's current population of some 2.1 million.

Hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars and their descendants are living in Europe, North America, and Central Asia.