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Russia bans second Tatar leader from Crimea

Monday 7 Jul 2014 5:46 a.m.

Crimean Tatars' assembly leader Refat Chubarov speaks at the Kurultai (Reuters)

Crimean Tatars' assembly leader Refat Chubarov speaks at the Kurultai (Reuters)

Russia has barred a leading member of Crimea's pro-Kiev Tatar community from entering his home region for five years.

Refat Chubarov, the chairman of the Tatar assembly, or Mejlis, told news agency AFP on Sunday he had been blocked from crossing into the Black Sea peninsula and handed an official document banning him from Russian territory until 2019.

The decision to bar Chubarov follows an earlier ban to stop Ukranian lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev, the head of the Tatar minority, from entering the region.

"It feels like an entire state has declared war on me," Chubarov said after being stopped from crossing the border on Saturday.

"This is a small piece of the huge injustice that is now taking place in Crimea."

Moscow in March annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula following a disputed referendum in which pro-Kremlin authorities said nearly 97 per cent of voters chose to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Crimea's 300,000 Muslim Tatars, who make up around 12 per cent of the peninsula's population, largely boycotted the vote and have faced increasing difficulties since the switch to Russian rule.

The UN says it has documented "serious problems" of harassment and intimidation facing the Tatar community in Crimea amid growing fears of religious persecution among practising Muslims in Crimea.

More than 7200 people from Crimea - mostly Tatars - have become internally displaced in Ukraine, the UN says.

The Tatar community has previously said it would push for greater autonomy, while the new Russian authorities have threatened to prosecute community leaders for "extremism".

AFP

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