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Five Crimean Tatars Detained In Russia-Annexed Crimea

Searches were carried out in Crimea on August 17.

Russian authorities have detained five Crimean Tatars after their homes were searched in Ukraine's Russian-controlled Crimea region.

The Crimean Solidarity public group told RFE/RL on August 17 that the searches were conducted at the homes of Raif Fevziyev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Zaur Abdullayev, Rustem Murasov, and Rustem Tairov. All five men were detained later.

Fevziyev is an imam, a Muslim preacher, in the village of Strohonivka near Crimea's capital, Simferopol. The other four men are practicing Muslims residing in different villages near the city of Sevastopol.

No reason for the searches was given.

Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova condemned the Russia-imposed authorities' actions and called on the international community to "react to illegal actions of occupying authorities and increase pressure on the Russian Federation to stop its violation of human rights on the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea."

The search and detentions came a day after a court in Russia sentenced four Crimean Tatars to prison terms between 12 and 18 years on extremism charges, namely for being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group that is banned in Russia but is legal in Ukraine.

Since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Moscow’s takeover of the peninsula was vocally opposed by many Crimean Tatars, who are a sizable minority in the region.

Exiled from their homeland to Central Asia by the Soviet authorities under dictator Josef Stalin during World War II, many Crimean Tatars are very wary of Russia and Moscow's rule.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities in Crimea who are targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar community and others who have spoken out against Moscow's takeover of the peninsula.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries. Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.