KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — More than 50 Crimean Tatars have been detained by Russian law enforcement officers in Crimea, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.
Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, detained five minority Crimean Tatar activists, including Nariman Dhzelal, the deputy chairman of the Mejlis representative body for the Tatars in Crimea, and raided their homes.
In response, more than 50 Crimean Tatars gathered in front of the FSB's branch in the Crimean city of Simferopol to protest the arrests.
“As a result, more than 50 Crimean Tatars have been detained," Denisova wrote on Facebook on Saturday. “They were shoved into buses with force and beaten, and taken to different police precincts in the temporarily occupied Crimea, where they're being questioned without lawyers present.”
Denisova added that two journalists were among those detained and called on “the entire international community to use all possible leverage ... in order to end repressions against the indigenous population.”
Russian authorities and the authorities of Crimea have not yet commented on the situation.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that has been denounced by most of the world. Ethnic Russians, who form a majority of Crimea’s 2.3 million people, widely supported the Russian annexation, but Crimean Tatars, who accounted for nearly 15%, opposed it. An estimated 30,000 Crimean Tatars have fled Crimea since 2014.
Some who stayed have faced a crackdown by Russian authorities, who banned the Crimean Tatars’ main representative body and some religious groups. About 80 Crimean Tatars have been convicted of various charges and 15 activists have gone missing, according to Amnesty International.
Last week, Ukraine hosted the Crimean Platform, an international summit aimed at building up pressure on Russia over the annexation. The fate of Crimean Tatars was one of the top issues on the agenda.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry maintained that the latest detentions were carried out in “retribution for participation in the inaugural summit of the Crimean Platform" and represented “the latest in a series of repressions by Russia, aimed at intimidating representatives of the Crimean Tatar people and ousting them from the temporarily occupied peninsula."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded the release of the detained Crimean Tatars in a tweet on Saturday.
“The occupants of Crimea once again resort to persecution of Crimean Tatars. Regular raids and detentions take place in their homes,” Zelenskyy wrote. “All those detained must be freed!”