More than 50 Crimean Tatars have been detained by the Russian intelligence service in Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Crimea region, Ukrainian officials said on September 4.
Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, had first detained five minority Crimean Tatar activists, including well-known activist Nariman Dzhelyal, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis representative body for the Tatars in Crimea, and raided their homes.
In response, more than 50 Crimean Tatars gathered in front of the FSB's branch in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, to protest the detentions.
“As a result, more than 50 Crimean Tatars have been detained," Denisova wrote on Facebook on September 4.
Some of them were brutally forced onto police buses, Denisova said, adding that two journalists were among those detained.
“They were shoved into buses with force and beaten and taken to different police precincts in the temporarily occupied Crimea, where they're being questioned without lawyers present,” she said.
Denisova called on “the entire international community to use all possible leverage...in order to end repressions against the indigenous population.”
Russian authorities have not yet commented on the arrests.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demanded the release of the detained Crimean Tatars in a tweet on September 4.
“The occupants of Crimea once again resort to persecution of Crimean Tatars. Regular raids and detentions take place in their homes,” Zelenskyy wrote. “All those detained must be freed!”
Since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group, which is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine.
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.