Russian officials raided ATR, an independent Tatar Crimean television station, on January 26. The deputy director said the men took equipment and tapes, which basically shut down all operations. Russians have consistently targeted the Tatar minority since Moscow annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014.
Deputy Director Liliya Budhurova claimed the men were from Russia’s Investigative Committee. They even took footage from a February 26, 2014, protest when Russia started to make a play for the peninsula after Ukraine’s parliament ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
“It appears (the authorities) want to forbid us from seeing, hearing, and speaking,” Budzhurova said. “But we still have the right to live in our native land, and nobody will take that from us.”
She said Moscow previously asked for all information regarding the protest where two Crimean Tatars died.
“We’ve had warnings before,” said ATR general director Elzara Isylamova. “Several times the regime said that we were engaging in un-constructive activities, imposing thoughts that lead to anti-Russian propaganda. I don’t think this will be the last such event.”
Life for the Tatars in Crimea has deteriorated since Russia moved into and ultimately annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Moscow promised to respect the Tatars, who were persecuted under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Tatars expressed fear in the days leading up to the March 16 referendum.
“We Crimean Tatars believe that we are the ones who will suffer most,” said Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, its top body of representatives. “Opinions are being expressed among Crimean Tatars that a new deportation is possible. There is a feeling that we have fought to return to our homeland for 50 years and it would be better to die here rather than undergo a new deportation. This cannot be ruled out. We are getting information that bandit groups known as self-defense units are behaving in a very brazen fashion… They are so far not hurting Crimean Tatars, but if clashes do take place it will be difficult to stop this later.”
On March 19, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev demanded the Tatars leave their lands and move to assigned lands. Crimea promised Tatars 20% representation in parliament, but broke the promise at the end of March. Grigory Ioffe, vice president of the parliament, claimed the promise was voided since it was given before Moscow officially signed the annexation bill. No one included the 20% representation in the annexation bill. Then parliament warned Tatars not to fly the Ukrainian flag and banished leaders for five years.
VICE News published a short documentary on the Tatars in August.