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MEPs Condemn Russia's 'Unprecedented' Abuses Against Crimean Tatars

Video Shows Raid On Crimean Tatar Business
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WATCH: This activist video shows a Russian police raid on the Simferopol headquarters of SimSitiTrans, a business owned by the father of Crimean Tatar activist Lenur Islyamov. Masked men carrying assault rifles refuse to answer any questions or present any ID.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning Russia for its treatment of the Crimean Tatar population in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

"I think it is fitting and adequate that this parliament comes together in a joint resolution to highlight the human rights situation in the occupied Crimean territories," MEP Reinhard Butikofer, of Germany's Green Party, told RFE/RL on February 4. "In particular, the Crimean Tatars have been persecuted from the very beginning of the Russian invasion.”

The resolution "strongly condemns the unprecedented levels of human rights abuses perpetuated against Crimean residents, most notably Crimean Tatars, who do not follow the imposed rule of the so-called local authorities." It also calls on Russia to grant international institutions and human rights monitors "unimpeded access" to the region.

Crimean Tatars, who were deported en masse from Crimea by the Soviet authorities in 1944 and only allowed to begin returning home in the late 1980s, number about 240,000 on the Black Sea peninsula and comprise about 10 percent of its population.

The overwhelming majority of Crimean Tatars have refused to recognize Russia's annexation of the region, which followed a military occupation and a referendum deemed illegitimate by 100 countries in a UN vote.

Tensions have been particularly high since last autumn, when Crimean Tatar-led activists on the mainland side of the administrative line between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine blocked cargo transport to the peninsula. Unknown activists also repeatedly sabotaged power pylons supplying electricity to Crimea, causing widespread outages.

Crimean Tatar activists said they were determined to draw attention to human rights violations on the peninsula and the disappearances of Crimean Tatars who they say have been abducted by Russian security forces.

Under pressure from the activists, the Ukrainian government made the trade blockade official in November.

In recent days, the Russia-installed authorities in Crimea have stepped up their pressure even more.

In the early morning hours of February 2, men identifying themselves as officials of Russia's Federal Migration Service knocked on Elzara Abdulzhelilova's door in the Crimean city of Feodosia for a "passport check."

Mustafa Dzhemilev
Mustafa Dzhemilev

Abdulzhelilova is the daughter of longtime Crimean Tatar national leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, a deputy in the Ukrainian parliament who Russian authorities have barred from entering Crimea for five years.

She told RFE/RL that the officials wanted to take her son, Erol, away "for a talk," but that they left after her lawyers advised her by telephone that they did not have the authority to do so.

"In our view, they did not have a legal basis for carrying out these actions," Nariman Dzhelyal, deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar executive body, the Mejlis, told RFE/RL. "One of the officers reportedly said as he was leaving that they'll 'find another way' to get to the relatives of Mustafa Dzhemilev."

In January, Dzhemilev's wife, Safinar, was summoned to the prosecutor's office for questioning.

Dzhemilev's son, Khaiser Dzhemilev, is serving a 3 1/2 year prison term in Russia on a conviction stemming from the shooting death of a friend in 2013. Mustafa Dzhemilev maintains his son's innocence and says he is being held by Moscow "as a hostage."

The same day, Crimean Tatar authorities reported "mass searches" of homes in the Dzhankoy district of Crimea. Those searches followed similar actions by police on January 28 in the Lenin district. On January 29, police raided the Islamic cultural center in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

Agents of Russia's Federal Security Service have carried out raids at the homes of several Mejlis members since the beginning of the year.

On February 1, police raided the Simferopol headquarters of the company SimSitiTrans, which is owned by the father of the vice president of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, Lenur Islyamov. Islyamov coordinated the cargo blockade against the peninsula and served as the spokesman for the activists.

"This pressure has been going on now for two years," Islyamov told RFE/RL. "It is moving from a 'soft' scenario to a harsh one. Under various pretexts, they want to take away everything that I have. They understand that they can't get to me, so they are going after my weak spots."

Islyamov, the owner of Crimea's Crimean Tatar-language ATR television station, has been the object of an arrest warrant in Crimea since November. ATR was forced to stop broadcasting in Crimea in April 2015.

"Let them take everything they want," he added. "Let them take away all our homes and property. I don't care. We will get it back. When we are able to come back, we will get everything back. This only makes us stronger."

Based on reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak and the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

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