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Crimean Tatars Refuse To Replace Longtime Leader

Mustafa Dzhemilev (center) has been confirmed to continue in his role as Mejlis speaker.
SIMFEROPOL -- Crimea's Tatars have refused to replace Mustafa Dzhemilev, the longtime leader of their Mejlis (assembly), RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The Crimean Tatar Kurultai (Congress) held on December 5-6 in the Ukrainian city of Simferopol debated two main issues: the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine and the possible retirement and replacement of Dzhemilev, 66, who has headed the Mejlis for the past 18 years.

Dzhemilev, a prominent Soviet-era dissident, asked the members of the Kurultai to free him from his duties as Mejlis chairman but the delegates voted against that and urged him to remain in the post, which he agreed to.

Refat Chubarov, the chairman of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars who was considered a leading candidate to replace Dzhemilev, told RFE/RL that it is very important for Dzhemilev to remain Crimean Tatar leader in order to complete reforms in the Mejlis and to lead the organization through Ukraine's upcoming presidential, regional, and parliamentary elections.