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Crimea's return to Russia leaves Tatars fearful of future

Published on Mar 18, 2014 5:04 PM
 

BELOGORSK, Ukraine (REUTERS) - Among the voices drowned out by victory celebrations across Crimea as it voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia were those of the Tatars, a minority group for whom the prospect of a return to Moscow rule brings only fear and uncertainty.

The Sunni Muslims, who are of Turkic origin, consider Crimea their home, and their deportation to Central Asia by Soviet forces during World War II and earlier suppression by Josef Stalin meant they were far more comfortable with Ukraine.

Now they face being dragged into modern-day Russia against their will, despite their boycott of Sunday's referendum in which 97 per cent of voters in the Russian-majority region were said to have rejected Kiev.

Tatars account for 12 per cent of the Black Sea peninsula's population of two million people and their protest was not enough to change the outcome of a vote that has brought East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.

Mr Mustafa Asaba, a regional leader of Crimean Tatars, stands outside a friend's home in Belogorsk near the Crimean capital of Simferopol on March 17, 2014. Among the voices drowned out by victory celebrations across Crimea as it voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia were those of the Tatars, a minority group for whom the prospect of a return to Moscow rule brings only fear and uncertainty. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 
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