SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Russian authorities who control Ukraine's Crimea region say they have detained 20 Crimean Tatars following house-to-house searches, in what rights groups call a persistent clampdown on a minority group whose members mostly opposed Moscow's takeover of the peninsula in 2014.
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on March 27 that the detainees were suspected of being members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group.
Crimean Solidarity, a human rights group that has members in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, said that the searches were conducted on March 27 in the regional capital, Simferopol, and nearby districts.
The FSB said its officers, police, and National Guard troops had searched the homes of people suspected of being members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group.
Since Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted 31 Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
In February, the FSB branch in the Black Sea region launched probes against eight alleged members of the group accused of plotting to seize power in Crimea.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a global organization based in London that seeks to unite all Muslim countries into an Islamic caliphate.
The group can operate legally in Ukraine.
However, Russia's Supreme Court banned it in 2003, branding its supporters "extremists."
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 seizure and 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 some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.