BAKHCHYSARAY, Ukraine -- Russian authorities have detained five Crimean Tatar activists after searching their homes in Ukraine's Russian-controlled Crimea region.
Crimea-based human rights activist Lutfie Zudiyeva told RFE/RL on March 11 that officers from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) had detained historian Seytumer Seytumerov, a member of the Crimean Solidarity rights group that has members in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, Amet Suleymanov, and three Crimean Tatar activists, Enver Mustafayev, Osman Seytumerov, and Rustem Seytmemetov, after their homes were searched in the city of Bakhchysaray.
Lawyer Nikolai Polozov confirmed to the TASS news agency that five Crimean Tatars were detained in Bakhchysaray on March 11 on suspicion of being members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group that is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine.
Since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
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.
In its annual report on religious freedom worldwide, released in April last year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that "[in] Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian authorities continued to kidnap, torture, and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims at will."
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 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.