The State Security Service of Ukraine is establishing a special unit to investigate Stalin-era crimes against Crimean Tatars, who are commemorating the 65th anniversary of their mass deportation from Crimea. The investigation will also look into the forced deportation of other ethnic groups from the peninsula during World War II.
The head of the Ukrainian State Security Service, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, announced the creation of the special investigative unit in the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Nalyvaichenko said Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered the creation of the unit to investigate crimes involving the repression and destruction of Crimean Tatars under the Soviet Union.
Stalin-era deportation kills tens of thousands of Tatars, Soviets deny charges
Deportation of as many as 200,000 Crimean Tatar men, women and children began on May 18, 1944. They were accused of Nazi collaboration, placed in train cattle cars and sent to Central Asia. Tens of thousands perished along the way, and others died of malnutrition or disease soon after arriving. In 1967, the Soviet government said the charges were false.
The investigation will cover the deportation era and the years that preceded it. The Ukrainian State Security Service has also declassified Soviet documents related to the execution of Crimean Tatar intelligentsia members. Nalyvaichenko says the forced deportation of innocent Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans and others from Crimea will also be investigated.
Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev told VOA he welcomes the Ukrainian decision, but notes the purpose of the investigation is not to capture or punish anyone.
Dzhemilev says those directly responsible for the deportation are no longer alive. But he says it is important to see the full picture of the crime, and for society to know it was in fact a crime, because that will help in the overall recovery of society.
Leader says Crimean Tatars should have education in their native language
Crimean Tatars were allowed to return to their homeland in the late 1980s and about a quarter-million have done so. There are now about 300,000 Tatars in Crimea, about 12 percent of the peninsula's population.
But Mustafa Dzhemilev says no laws have been passed to reinstate the social and legal rights of Crimean Tatars. He also warns the culture and language of his people can disappear within decades if nothing is done to revive education in the native language.
Tens of thousands participated in a rally Monday in Simferopol marking the 65th anniversary of the Crimean Tatar deportation.