Russia has relocated up to 1 million people to the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea, according to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the longtime leader of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's envoy for Crimean Tatar affairs.
Dzhemilev told Ukrinform on May 27 that Moscow was bringing "large numbers" of people from various regions of Russia to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
"But this is held as a military secret because they know perfectly well that it is a crime," Dzhemilev said.
He estimated that the total number of Russians brought into the disputed region was between 850,000 and 1 million.
Dzhemilev, a dissident during Soviet times and longtime activist for Crimean Tatar causes, did not say what sources he had used to make his estimate.
Crimea had a population of some 2.24 million people in 2014, the year that Russia illegally occupied the Ukrainian peninsula.
"Russia is now roughly repeating the same strategy that was used during the first occupation [of Crimea] under [Empress] Catherine [the Great]," he said. "At that time it wasn't possible to deport people since there were no railroads. So they simply created impossible living conditions for people in order to force them to migrate. As a result, Crimean Tatars very quickly became a minority people."
Russia has announced steps increasing the number of military personnel in Crimea but exact numbers on the amount of personnel moved to Crimea have not been made public by Moscow.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in an action that was overwhelmingly condemned by the international community and the UN General Assembly.
The annexation as well as Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine prompted the United States, the European Union, and several other countries to impose targeted sanctions against selected Russian individuals and companies.