Lawyers say the authorities in Russia-controlled Crimea have detained four Crimean Tatars on suspicion of extremism in what activists and the Ukrainian government said was part of a discriminatory campaign targeting members of the Muslim group.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Crimea, which Russia occupied and seized from Ukraine in 2014, said on October 2 that several members of Tablighi Jamaat, a Sunni Muslim movement that is banned in Russia, were apprehended.
The head of the Russian-imposed government's committee on ethnic issues, Zaur Smirnov, said that three Tablighi Jamaat cells on the Black Sea peninsula were "liquidated."
The FSB did not name the detainees, whom it said would be charged with organizing "extremist activities."
But activists and lawyer Edem Semedlyayev told RFE/RL that Renat Suleymanov, Talyat Abdurakhmanov, Arsen Kubedinov, and Seyran Mustafayev were detained after police and FSB officers searched their homes in Crimea on October 2.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maryana Betsa sharply criticized Russia over the detentions.
"The cynical searches and detentions are [like] those that were practiced by the NKVD," Betsa tweeted, referring to a predecessor of the Soviet KGB. "We demand that Russia stop its discrimination against Crimean Tatars."
Russia has been sharply criticized by international rights groups and Western governments for its treatment of members of the indigenous Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority after Moscow seized control of Crimea.
The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.
Tablighi Jamaat, which was founded in India in 1926, describes itself as a pacifist organization that is not involved in politics.
The group was branded as extremist and officially banned in Russia in May 2009.
With reporting by TASS and Interfax