Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Rustam Minnikhanov, president of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, and promised he would consider the rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatars and meet with Tatar activists.
“I have been to Crimea three times. There are several pressing issues which I would like to speak about and get your approval. They fell victim to political reprisals 70 years ago. You said in clear terms in your message that, in any case, the Law on Rehabilitation, passed by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation on April 26 1991, should be applied to the Crimean Tatars, as well. This would provide serious moral incentives for the Crimean Tatars,” Minnikhanov told Putin on April 1.
“Activists of the Crimean Tatar community would like to meet with you, if you find this possible,” the Tatarstan president said.
As DAWN.com reports, the law was passed by Russia in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union “to rehabilitate repressed people by proclaiming their persecution illegal and granting them the right to compensation and territorial integrity.”
Tatars used to be the majority in Crimea, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deported many to Central Asia after World War II. The people made their way back in the 1980s and only make up 15% of the population. Many battled with Ukraine over land rights, but the Tatars pledged their allegiance to Ukraine after Crimea made it known that the peninsula would break away and join Russia. Tatar leaders persuaded their followers to boycott the March 16 referendum, which resulted in Crimeans choosing to join Russia. In the days leading up to the referendum, Tatars over Crimea told The Washington Post that they lived in fear, and one woman even put a cross on her door so the Russians would not know she was a Tatar.
On March 19, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev told Russian media that Parliament wanted the Tatars to relocate. He said Moscow was ready to pay and help with the moves.
Moscow and the new Crimean government did their best to ease their fears with promises of equal treatment. But on March 30, they broke one of their promises and said Tatars would not receive 20% representation in Parliament. The vice president said the promise was made before Putin signed the annexation bill, and there is no possible way the government could promise the quota now. That same day, Tatars met and demanded autonomy in Crimea since Russia is in control.