Crimean Tatars urge global community to stand with Ukraine in war with Russia

A leading group representing the Crimean Tatar community has issued a call for the world to support Ukraine after Russia launched an invasion of the country last Thursday. 

On Sunday, the World Crimean Tatars Congress released a statement that described the Russian invasion of Ukraine as "banditry" and called on members of the Crimean Tatar diaspora and the world community to "fight against this immoral attack of Russia" in any way they are capable of doing.

“Our Congress recognises its humanitarian and moral obligation to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and all other heroes and civilians who are victims of attacks and war, and so help them in all ways they are capable," read the statement. 

In a second appeal, the Congress directed a message at ordinary Russians to urge them to demand an end to the war. In it, they encouraged the Russian people to act and put a stop to a conflict that has created a “threat to world security.”

After Russia began its attack on Ukraine, thousands of Russians took the streets chanting “No war!” across the country. About two thousand Russians have been arrested since and the government has moved to restrict access to social networks like Facebook to reduce protestors’ ability to organise and stifle dissent. Russian authorities have also issued reminders to citizens to refrain from protesting or donating money to Ukraine lest they risk criminal charges that include treason

“Together with the people of Ukraine, we will continue our dignified struggle,” the Congress said in its statement. 

“However, it now depends on you - the honorable people living in Russia, all Russian citizens, to stop the dictator holding onto unacceptable fantasies about the world order, and put an end to this bloody war.”

The Crimean Tatars, a Turkic-minority with roots on the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula, have been vocal in speaking out against Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and its occupation of their ancestral home. After Russian forces began their assault on Ukrainian cities last Thursday, Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians together protested against the war in Ukraine, Turkey and even in Crimea itself. 

Historically the majority residents of Crimea, Russian and Soviet repression drove many Crimean Tatars into exile in Turkey, parts of Central Asia and beyond. Since the seizure of Crimea in February 2014, Russia’s security services have been accused of persecuting members of the Crimean Tatar community there with arrests aimed at activists, politicians and ordinary citizens alike. Some have reported being tortured in custody by Russian intelligence officers. 

Turkey has repeatedly voiced its support for the rights of the Crimean Tatars, who it views as kinsmen. Since the annexation of Crimea, Turkey has refused to recognise the move and it has spoken out against Russia’s repression of Crimean Tatar activists while sponsoring resolutions in support of the community in the United Nations. 

During his last visit to Kyiv on February 3, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with senior members of the Crimean Tatar community, including Mustafa Dzhemilev, who is recognised as their leader. Like Ukraine's President Volodomyr Zelenskiy, Dzhemilev urged Erdogan to seal the Black Sea for Russian warships and blockade them inside, according to Al-Monitor. 

Erdogan declined, citing the risk to the Turkish economy from Russian retaliation. However, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the current conflict as “war” between Russia and Ukraine, and said that Turkey would enforce provisions of the 1936 Montreux Convention that grants it control of the Bosphorus Straits. It remains unclear if this would mean Turkey closes the Straits to Russian vessels.

 

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