Kyiv, Ukraine – In the Soviet Union, they were stigmatized as treason and driven into exile for decades away from their native land.
In a chilling echo of that mass exodus, many Crimean Tatar men are now fleeing to Kazakhstan to escape conscription in a hastily named Russian conscription to bolster its military in Ukraine, which Tatar activists see as a continuation of Moscow’s long history of repressive policies.
In one region of Crimea — the home of the Tatars and part of Ukraine occupied by Russia for the past eight years — all but two of the 48 people who received conscription notifications were ethnic Tatars, according to the Ukraine-based Crimean Tatar Resource Center. Rights group.
Ukrainian officials said that Russia recalled Tatars elsewhere on the peninsula in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. Dozens of Tatars sought legal assistance to avoid conscription.
“When we analyze the mobilization, we clearly see that this is a continuation of the genocide of the Crimean Tatars,” Iskandar Baryev, director of the Resource Center, said in an interview. “It’s a violation of indigenous rights,” he said, adding, “There are really very few of us.”
Opposition to the bill has grown in Russia since President Vladimir Putin announced last week that hundreds of thousands of civilians would be forced to serve in the military following embarrassing battlefield losses in Ukraine.
At least 2000 against the war protesters They have been detained in Russia since the announcement, according to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors police activity. Young Russians were too Flying abroad or Heading to the border crossingsFor fear of being pressured into service.
And on Monday, a gunman seems to be disturbed by the chaos in the mobilization They shot the recruitment office in Siberiaas a result of which a recruiting officer was seriously injured.
But rights activists and Ukrainian officials say ethnic minorities in Russia and occupied areas of Ukraine have been disproportionately hit by the clearly discriminatory draft. It’s the latest offense Russia has been accused of committing in a war that has seen artillery and rockets fall on cities and towns, Ukrainian orphans deported to Russia, and documented cases of torture.
Supporters of Crimean Tatars say that by recruiting men from minorities who have long been a thorn in Moscow’s side, Russia’s security services can simultaneously achieve two goals: suppress dissent and fill its military ranks in Ukraine.
In his evening speech on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of singling out Crimean Tatars, saying that Moscow’s policy is to “physically exterminate men – representatives of the indigenous population.” He went on to call it a “deliberate imperial policy”.
The Soviet Union deported Crimean Tatars, along with members of other ethnic minorities, from their homelands during World War II, fearing that they would take the side of the German army. Many returned in the late Soviet period and after Ukraine’s independence, only to find themselves again under Moscow’s rule when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.
Throughout the seven-month Russian war in Ukraine, the Russian army deployed units of soldiers from ethnic minority areas. For example, soldiers from Buryatia, a region of Siberia bordering Mongolia, fought in the battles north of Kyiv and eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Putin’s mobilization disproportionately targeted Russia’s hinterland and those with large minority groups, including in Siberia and Muslim-majority provinces in the North Caucasus. Protests involving women opposing the conscription of husbands or sons erupted in Chechnya and Dagestan over the weekend.
For Crimean Tatars, recruitment efforts came with an added element of terror: forcing Ukrainian men to fight other Ukrainians.
A lawyer working in Crimea with the Tatar community said that dozens of Tatar men wrote letters objecting to the conscription, requesting anonymity to avoid reprisals from the Russian authorities. Going to war was more dangerous than writing the letter, the lawyer said, adding that fathers in large families are also asking for waivers.
Mr. Bariyev said Tatar men were leaving the peninsula via Russia and traveling to Kazakhstan.
“This is discrimination based on race,” he said of the mobilization. “It began in the Russian Empire, continued in the Soviet Union and is now continuing in Russia.”
Maria Varnikova Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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