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Crimean Tatar Leader Skeptical About Crimea's New Prime Minister

Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of Ukraine's unofficial Crimean Tatar assembly
Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of Ukraine's unofficial Crimean Tatar assembly
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The leader of the unofficial Crimean Tatar Assembly (Medjlis), Mustafa Dzhemilev, has questioned the choice of Ukrainian Interior Minister Anatoly Mohylyov as prime minister of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych officially approved Mohylyov's new appointment on November 7. Mohylyov was named interior minister in March 2010. Before that, he headed the Interior Ministry's General Directorate in Crimea since 2007.

Dzhemilev told RFE/RL on November 7 that Mohylyov's track record in Crimea leads him to conclude that his appointment as Crimean prime minister was "not a thoughtful decision" and could fuel interethnic tensions.

"Police opened fire at unarmed people near the peak of Ai-Petri in Crimea, when Mohylyov was in charge," he said. "But the major concern is, of course, his attitude to the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars [to Central Asia in 1944]. In his statements, he tried to justify the atrocities of Stalin's regime against the Crimean Tatars and other ethnic groups deported purely because of their ethnicity."

On May 18, 1944, Soviet Army and Interior Ministry troops deported the entire Tatar population of Crimea -- some 180,000 people -- to Siberia and Central Asia. Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered the deportation on the grounds that the Crimean Tatars had allegedly collaborated with Nazi Germany. Thousands of people died en route.

In 1991, the Crimean Tatars received official permission to return to Crimea. They currently account for more than 12 percent of the peninsula's population of some 2.1 million.

Crimea's previous prime minister, Vasyl Dzharty, who died in August, was known for his support for the Crimean Tatars' efforts to establish a dialogue with local and central government on the restitution of their land and property.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is expected to introduce Mohylyov to the Crimean government and parliament on November 8. The parliament of Crimea must formally approve his appointment.

Read more in Ukrainian here and here