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Muižnieks: Biggest Concern in Ukraine is Plight of Crimean Tatars


FILE - Armed men stand guard in front of the entrance of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the single highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars, in Simferopol, Sept. 16, 2014.

FILE - Armed men stand guard in front of the entrance of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the single highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars, in Simferopol, Sept. 16, 2014.

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights has expressed deep concern over the conflict in Ukraine, in particular for the situation of Tatars in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March.

Speaking Wednesday to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, Nils Muižnieks said a "reign of terror" continues unabated in rebel-held territories in Ukraine. He said the human rights of Crimean Tatars and other minorities are being violated, and media freedom is being curtailed.

“My biggest concern, to be honest, is the situation of Crimean Tartars, a population with a tragic history," Muižnieks said. "There is an urgent need to strengthen their sense of security, which has been shattered by a series of raids by armed, masked security personnel in religious institutions, schools, Tatar-owned businesses, private homes, and the community's assembly, the Mejlis.”

He said the stated goal of the raids “was to search for weapons or so-called extremist literature,” but they were “completely disproportionate for a community that has no history of violence.”

Muižnieks said with winter approaching, the situation of internally displaced people is particularly alarming.

Referring to the latest UNHCR report, he said that as of September 30, 2014, 368,000 Ukrainian IDPs are from conflict ridden areas, 350,000 from eastern Ukraine and 18,000 from Crimea.

Speaking Wednesday at a briefing in the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv, Refat Chubarov,the Head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people said ending Russian repression of the Crimean Tatar people "has to become a separate demand to Russia, and one more reason to reinforce sanctions on it by the international community.”

The Tatar leader noted the difficult conditions in which the Tatar people live and emphasized Crimean Tatars desire to live in their own land, preserving human dignity and national and religious identities.

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