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Crimean Tatars Demand Language Rights On Deportation Anniversary

Crimean Tatars commemorate 65th anniversary of mass deportation in Simferopol.
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- At least 15,000 Crimean Tatars gathered in central Simferopol to mark the 65th anniversary of their deportation and to demand linguistic and political rights, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

On May 18-20, 1944, the Soviet authorities deported some 200,000 Crimean Tatars to Central Asia, with nearly half of them dying en route.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimean Tatars began returning en mass to the Crimea.

The demonstrators in Simferopol held Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar national flags and called for schools to be established that teach in the Crimean Tatar language and for that language to receive official status on the peninsula.

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Djemilev said that Crimean Tatars want Crimea to be an autonomous territory within Ukraine.

He said some 280,000 Crimean Tatars currently live in Crimea and at least 150,000 more are planning to return to their ancestral lands.