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Russian Police Search Homes Of Two Crimean Tatar Activists

Crimean Tatar activist Rolan Osmanov (file photo)
Crimean Tatar activist Rolan Osmanov (file photo)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – Police have searched the homes of two Crimean Tatar activists in Ukraine's Russia-controlled Crimea region, a Ukrainian human rights group says.

Crimean Solidarity, a rights group that has members in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, said that Russian police and security officers searched the homes of Rolan Osmanov and Delyaver Bekirov on the outskirts of the regional capital, Simferopol, on April 30.

According to Crimea Solidarity, the activists were not arrested and nothing was confiscated during the search.

The group quoted Osmanov as saying that police officers told him they were “looking for narcotics" in his home, while no clear explanation was given to Bekirov about the reason for the search in his house.

An ambulance was called for Osmanov's mother, who felt unwell during the search, Crimea Solidarity said.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian authorities who control the region.

In late March, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) detained 20 Crimean Tatars following house-to-house searches in Simferopol and nearby districts.

The FSB said at the time that the detained activists were suspected of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that is banned in Russia but legal to operate in Ukraine.

Since Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

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 on April 29, 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 some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.