World Bulletin / News Desk
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday to rehabilitate Crimea's Tatars and other minorities who suffered under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, courting a group that largely opposed Moscow's annexation of the region from Ukraine.
The Muslim Tatars were allowed to return in the waning days of the Soviet Union, whose 1991 collapse left Crimea in an independent Ukraine. They now make up 12 percent of the Crimea peninsula's mostly ethnic Russian population of 2 million.
Many boycotted the March 16 referendum in Crimea in which an overwhelming majority of voters supported joining Russia, whose annexation of Crimea in April sparked the biggest crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
"I have signed a decree to rehabilitate the Crimean Tatar population, the Armenian population, Germans, Greeks - all those who suffered (in Crimea) during Stalin's repressions," Putin told a State Council meeting shown live on state television.
Putin's order appeared aimed at easing minorities' concerns about joining Russia by depicting Moscow as a supporter, not an oppressor, and calling for measures to encourage the "national, cultural and spiritual renaissance" of the minority groups.
The decree, published on the Kremlin website, said it aimed "to restore historical justice and remove the consequences of the illegal deportation (of the groups) and the violations of their rights."
It said Russia would "foster the creation and development of national-cultural autonomies" for the groups - implying little change for the Crimean Tatars, who have their own assembly - and allow for basic education in their native languages.
CRIMEA PM SLAMS TATAR LEADER
The Prime Minister of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, slammed Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev, who entered his homeland for the first time over the weekend since the region was annexed by Russia.
“Mustafa Jemilev arrived in Crimea to create a provocative situation. This is his personal desire, aimed for getting financial benefit. We all know that he is supported by Western special services. That means he was assigned to destabilizing the situation in Crimea,” Aksyonov said.
Former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) and current Ukrainian MP Mustafa Jemilev feared that he would be on a Russian blacklist of individuals barred from Crimea due to his opposition of its annexation.
The 70-year-old Tatar leader has claimed that most in the Russian FSB support the exile of the native Turkic-speaking Muslim Crimean Tatars in a repeat of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's mass deportation of them in 1944.
The 300,000 Crimean Tatars, who have been reduced to a minority of 13% in their homeland due to being displaced by ethnic Russians over the decades, started returning in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
They largely boycotted the March 16 referendum in which Crimea's mainly ethnic Russian population voted to split from Ukraine and join Russia.
Since the referendum, Crimean Tatars have complained that pro-Russian militias have been marking their homes and that Tatars have been attacked for speaking their own language.
On Monday, the Qirim News Agency reported that current Mejlis leader Refat Chubarov had his car stopped by armed masked militants who demanded to see his passport before letting him go.Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2014, 17:26