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Leader Hopes Crimean Tatars Will Stay, Despite Pressure

BRUSSELS -- A senior leader of the Crimean Tatar community says he is urging members of the Muslim minority to remain on the Black Sea peninsula despite worsening conditions following Russia's takeover a year ago.

But in remarks at the European Parliament on March 24, Refat Chubarov grimly evoked the deportation of the Crimean Tatars under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

"After April 2014, we do not exclude any action on the part of Russia, including the deportation of whole nations," said Chubarov, leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or assembly.

In 1944, Stalin ordered the mass deportation of about 180,000 Crimean Tatars to Central Asia, and many died during the journey or after their arrival.

Many deported Crimean Tatars or their children returned to Crimea during the late 1980s and the 1990s, but rights groups say they have faced discrimination and abuses since Russia seized control last spring.

Most Crimean Tatars opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Chubarov said he could see a trend of emigration from Crimea.

He said the last session of the Mejlis was held via Skype because eight members are living in mainland Ukraine.

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