Crimean Tatars are to be forced off their lands and relocated, according to Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev. Russia’s official RIA Novosti news agency reports that Mr Temirgaliyev said in an interview that he wants to “regularise” the land taken over by Crimean Tatars during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He said: “We have asked the Crimean Tatars to vacate part of their land, which is required for social needs, but we are ready to allocate and legalize many other plots of land to ensure a normal life for the Crimean Tatars.”
The Crimean Tatars are a Turkic people native to the peninsula who once ruled it as the ‘Crimean Khanate’. They were deported en masse to Central Asia by Stalin in the 1940s, but many returned as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Finding the lands they had previously occupied now under new ownership, many took to squatting in unclaimed land. Ukrainian authorities have failed to solve the disputes.
They now make up 15 percent of the Crimea’s population and staunchly support the government in Kiev, opposing Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. Although Mr Temirgaliyev said that he expects the next Crimean government to have Tatar ministers, many ordinary Tatars are now fearful of Russian rule.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia in a referendum on Sunday. The region had originally been part of Russia, but the Soviet government gave it to Ukraine in the 1950s.