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Crimean Tatars Alarmed By Ukrainian-Russian Agreement

Picket at the walls of the Crimean government, Tatars protest
Picket at the walls of the Crimean government, Tatars protest
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The Crimean Tatars plan to hold a national congress, or kurultay, this weekend to discuss perceived threats to their community and to Ukraine's territorial integrity, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Ali Khamzin, who heads the public relations department of the Crimean Tatars' Mejlis (council), told RFE/RL that the Kurultay was originally scheduled for December, but has been brought forward in light of "the current complicated security situation in Ukraine."

Khamzin referred specifically to an agreement signed in Kharkiv on April 21 by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Dmitry Medvedev and Viktor Yanukovych. The agreement extends until 2042 the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in return for cutting the price Ukraine pays for Russian natural gas.

Khamzin argued that after the signing of the Kharkiv agreements, Ukraine is no longer in a position to resolve the problems facing the Crimean Tatars without assistance. He said the kurultay should seek to bring the Tatars' fears and grievances to the attention of European and international organizations, including the UN, which could "help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity and protect it from various encroachments that became possible after the Kharkiv agreements."

The kurultay's agenda also includes Crimean Tatars' participation in the local elections on October 31, and further activities to protect their rights.