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Russians Briefly Detain Crimean Tatar Leaders At Checkpoint

Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev (file photo)
Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev (file photo)
The veteran leader of Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, has been briefly detained by Russian border guards while entering Crimea from mainland Ukraine.

Dzhemilev was accompanied by Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis.

Dzhemilev, who is also Ukrainian lawmaker, told Crimea-based ATR television channel that he and Chubarov were held at the Chonhar checkpoint for about an hour on April 19 before Russian border guards finally allowed them to enter the peninsula, which was annexed by Russia last month.

He said supporters travelled to the administrative boundary in some 50 cars with Ukrainian and Tatar flags to meet the two leaders.

According to Dzhemilev, the border guards confiscated his and Chubarov's travel documents and had a telephone conversation about the incident, "most likely with Moscow."

In what appeared to be a sarcastic reference, he described the situation at the checkpoint as "entering the zone of Russian democracy."

Dzhemilev has reiterated his stance that Crimea is a part of Ukraine and his nation sees its future within the independent state of Ukraine.

Last month, Dzhemilev and the Mejlis refused to recognize the self-proclaimed, pro-Russian government in Crimea and the referendum on Crimea's cessation from Ukraine.

Dzhemilev, 70, is a well-known Soviet-era human rights activist who served six jail sentences in Soviet prison camps from 1966 to 1986. He is also known for going on a 303-day hunger strike -- the longest in the Soviet human rights movement's history. He survived due to force-feeding.

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Meanwhile, in related news, Russian migration authorities claim only 3,000 residents of the newly annexed Crimea have refused to become Russian citizens.

Konstantin Romodanovsky, the head of the Russian Migration Service, said on April 19 that the agency had already prepared 250,000 Russian passports for Crimea residents.

The agency says it plans to issue Russian passports to up to 1.7 million local residents.

Romodanovsky said those who have failed to apply for Russian passports "will not be held liable" for the absence of compulsory registration during the transition period, which ends on January 1, 2015.

On April 18, Ukrainian media quoted Dzhemilev as saying officials in Crimea are checking the residents' documents "in every street."

He said Crimean Tatars who don't want to become Russian citizens have been warned they would be "fired from their jobs."
With reporting by ATR TV Channel, Interfax, and
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