World Bulletin / News Desk
Russian FSB officers have surrounded the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) building, the representative-executive body of Crimean Tatars in Simferopol announced on September 16.
Masked, armed FSB officers and policemen who have encircled the Mejlis building in Simferopol have as yet refused to comment on the situation, claiming that they are not authorized to comment.
"I came to work shortly after 9.30 a.m. but the building was blocked by armed people in balaclavas and uniforms," Dilyaver Akiev, head of the secretariat of the assembly, or Mejlis, said by phone.
"They are not letting anyone in or out, they are assisted by regular police and the FSB (Federal Security Service) is carrying out searches inside," he said from Crimea's provincial capital Simferopol.
According to the Qirim News Agency, there is a search being conducted inside the building including a search of the editorial office of the Crimean Tatar Avdet newspaper, which is located in the Mejlis building.
Prisoner transport vehicles also reportedly arrived at the scene earlier this morning at the house of Eskender Bariev, a member of Mejlis. His home was searched for banned literature by armed FSB officers.
"The policy of mounting pressure on us, on the Mejlis and the community, continues and is growing in force," Akiev said. "That is to force us to conform with the new authorities, especially now after the elections.
"But we are not breaking any laws, there are no grounds for any searches," he added.
The incident comes a day after unknown masked men tore off Ukrainian flag from the Mejlis building.
CRIMEAN TATARS 'TARGETED'
Since the annexation in March, around 3,000 Crimean Tatars have left the peninsula for mainland Ukraine.
The U.N. has also pointed to the erosion of human rights in Crimea, which remains under the occupation of pro-Russian militias who particularly threaten the Crimean Tatars.
Crimean Tatars have complained that they have been targeted for speaking their Turkic language in public and have had their homes marked by pro-Russian militiamen.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis (Parliament) was also threatened with closure after they organized protests for former Mejlis head Mustafa Jemilev, who has been barred from entering the peninsula for five years along with current leader Refat Chubarov.
Earlier this month, Qirim News Agency general coordinator Ismet Yuksel was also given the same five-year ban.
The Crimean Tatars have largely opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, fearing a repeat of the events of 1944 when they were completely expelled as part of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's policy.
They gradually started returning in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, but still live as a minority in their homeland as they were displaced by ethnic Russian settlers who migrated there later on.
Since the annexation, Russia has been granting Russian citizenship to the people of Crimea in replacement of their Ukrainian nationality. Crimean Tatars, who have campaigned to reject Russian citizenship, reserve the right to remain as Ukrainian citizens, but will by default become foreigners in their homeland.Last Mod: 16 Eylül 2014, 17:50