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Senior Ukraine Tatar figure in Moscow for Russia talks

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 13:04

Moscow: One of the most senior representatives of the Tatar minority in Crimea was expected to hold talks in Moscow Wednesday, amid concern about the fate of the Muslim community as Russia takes control of the Ukrainian region.

Mustafa Dzhemilev is a former head of the assembly for the Turkic Tatar minority in Crimea and is currently a lawmaker in the federal Ukrainian parliament for the Batkivshchyna party of former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Dzhemilev will hold talks in Moscow about the situation in Crimea, in a visit that has been approved by the new authorities of Ukraine who took over after the fall of Viktor Yanukovych, said a statement from the Mejlis Crimea Tatar assembly.

It said that he had already flown into Moscow on Tuesday.

The statement said he had been invited by Mintimer Shaimiyev, the former leader of Russia`s region of Tatarstan, many of whose residents are close ethnic kin to the Crimean Tatars.
President Vladimir Putin`s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Dzhemilev had been invited to Russia for talks but declined to give any further details, the Interfax agency reported.

Reports said that Shaimiyev was seeking to arrange a meeting between Dzhemilev and Putin in the Kremlin but Peskov did not confirm that it was planned.

Crimea is to hold a referendum on joining Russia on March 16, after which it is expected to be rapidly absorbed into Russian territory.
The Tatars of Crimea, who have traditionally been staunch supporters of Ukraine`s independence, have however expressed huge alarm about Russia`s swoop.

Suspicion of Moscow is high among Crimea`s Tatar community who were deported en masse by Stalin to Central Asia during World War II and only started returning home in the late 1980s.

However officials in Russia`s region of Tatarstan -- which enjoys the status of a republic within Russia -- have sought to reassure the Crimean Tatars they have nothing to fear.

AFP
First Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 13:04

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