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Crimean Tatars fear future in Crimea under potential Russian rule

March 9, 2014 at 1:42 PM

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, March 9 (UPI) -- Crimea's 300,000 Tatars, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, say they worry about their future as the peninsula is contested by Ukraine and Russia.

Pro-Russia militia has already begun targeting Tatar homes in the cities of Simferapol and Bakhchisaray by defacing them with a large "X," the Kiev Post said Sunday.

The marks are similar to those Tatar's faced in 1944, when more than 200,00 Tatars in Crimea were deported to central Asia under the pretext they aided the Nazis in World War II. Survivors and their descendants returned to Crimea after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

"It has taken more than 20 years to rebuild our lives, and we are very worried it could all be taken away again," said Ildar Ibramov, a local member of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars' governing body.

Chairman Refat Chubarov, in a Facebook post, called pro-Russian members of Parliament encouraging Crimea to leave Ukraine and join Russia "lunatics" who are "fulfilling someone else's will. The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars does not recognize this referendum" on Crimea's future, scheduled for next Sunday.

"We want peace, prosperity and development, and for Crimea to remain with Ukraine," he added.

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