Leader in exile of Mejlis (executive council of the Crimean Tatar people) Refat Chubarov yesterday asked the United Nations to send a factfinding mission to Russian-annexed Crimea in order to verify the situation of indigenous peoples there. Chubarov said that during the Conference on Indigenous Peoples that is taking place these days in the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The remarks by the Tatar leader come after two weeks in which Tatar political representatives have received increased pressure from Russian authorities.
The most obvious example of this since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March is last week's assault on the Mejlis headquarters in Crimea. According to Today's Zaman, Russian police and soldiers stormed the building on Tuesday 16th and they searched it for 12 hours. After that, Russian judicial authorities notified the Mejlis that the building was being closed. Sources quoted by The Moscow Timessuggest that all Mejlis assets have been frozen.
After these incidents, Prime Minister of Crimea Sergey Aksionov said that from a legal point of view, the Mejlis "does not exist" since the organization "was not registered properly" under Russian law. Aksionov warned that those seeking to break ethnic harmony in Crimea could be expelled from the peninsula. This is the usual charge that Russian authorities put against Tatar representatives who continue to reject the annexation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation.
The Mejlis has been a statutory organization under Ukrainian laws since 1991. It used to act as the representative of the Crimean Tatar people before Ukrainian and Crimean authorities.
Two Tatar representatives prevented from travelling to New York
Moreover, two Crimean Tatar representatives complained that Russian authorities have prevented them from participating in the Conference on Indigenous Peoples. According to RFE/RL, passports of Nadir Bekirov and Gayana Yuksel were confiscated, thus preventing them from leaving Crimea for Kiev and flying to the United States.
Crimean representatives were not the only ones to denounce these practices. Kola Sami representative Valentina Sovkina said the Russian police stopped her several times on her way to Norway, where she needed to catch a plane to New York, also in order participate in the Conference on Indigenous Peoples. Sovkina missed the plane, but nevertheless she was able to take another flight and was finally able to arrive in New York.
Similar hindrances were reported by representatives of other indigenous peoples of northern Russia.
(Image: the Mejlis headquarters / picture by UNPO).