Ukrainian MFA issues statement on deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944

In 1944, Crimean Tatars were deported from the Crimean Peninsula as a result of state-organized and forcible action, ordered by then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The deportation was a form of collective punishment for alleged Crimean Tatars’ collaboration with the Nazis during 1942-1943 and is known as Surgunlik in Crimean Tatar (meaning exile). A total of 238,500 Crimean Tatars were deported.

In 1967, a Soviet decree withdrew the charges against Crimean Tatars and the USSR government did nothing to facilitate peoples’ resettlement in their native lands of Crimea. Reparations neither for lost lives nor for confiscated property did not take place.

In January 1974, bans to return to places of former Greek, Armenians, Bulgarians and Crimean Tatars’ residences in Crimea were lifted by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

Since proclamation of Ukraine‘s independence in 1991, the Government of Ukraine made efforts to provide Crimean Tatars with necessary resources for their resettlement and integration into the Ukrainian society. Almost 270, 000 Crimean Tatars (up to 13 percent of the population) settled in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

In February-March, 2014 Russia‘s attempted annexation of Crimea lead to significant deterioration of human rights and freedoms. Crimean Tatars now are facing similar repressions and political prosecutions as in the years of 1944 deportation. Mr M. Jemilev and Mr R. Chubarov, leaders of Crimean Tatars are banned to entry Crimea, until 19 April 2019 and July 2019 respectively.

Irrespective of Russia’s actions “on the ground” in Crimea, Ukraine remains committed to protecting rights of Crimean Tatars and establishing necessary and secure environment for their free development.

Russian occupation authorities in Crimea are determined to continue their discriminatory policies, forced application of Russian laws and regulations along with suppressive measures, power and physical force abuses.

Ukraine calls on the international community to condemn Russia’s illegal actions towards Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and human rights defenders. We call on world democracies to urge the Russian Federation let international organizations and human rights missions in Crimea do their job.

Deportation began on 18 May, 1944 in all Crimean inhabited localities. More than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to Uzbekistan. This includes the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as smaller number of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians. The lack of accommodation and food, failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of Crimean Tatars’ exile. According to 1960s surveys, conducted by Crimean Tatar activists, more than 109,956 (46.2 percent) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947 because of starvation and disease. From May to November, 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (9 percent of those deported to the Uzbek SSR). Nearly 30,000 (20 percent) died in exile during a year and a half according to the NKVD data. As Soviet dissident information says, many Crimean Tatars were forced to work in the large-scale projects implemented by the Soviet GULAG system.

Although in 1967 a Soviet decree withdrew the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for the lost lives and confiscated property. Crimean Tatars, led by Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of the Perestroika in the mid-1980s. Return of Crimean Tatars to the Crimea became widespread since 1987. In early 1990 the Crimean Tatars were the third largest ethnic group in Crimea.

Since Ukraine’s 1991 independence, the Government of Ukraine assumed full responsibility for the fate of all its citizens, including those returning to its territory after deportation. Declaration of Rights of Nationalities of Ukraine, Laws of Ukraine On Minorities in Ukraine, On Restoration of Rights of Persons Deported on Ethnic Grounds are among topical legal grounds of Ukraine’s state policy in the sphere of protecting rights of formerly deported people. The following programs on social adaptation of Crimean Tatars were adopted by the Government of Ukraine: Programme to promote social adaptation of Crimean Tatar youth in 2002-2005 (2002), Programme of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on resettlement of deported Crimean Tatars and other nationalities, who returned to Ukraine for residence, their adaptation and integration into Ukrainian society for the period until 2010 (2006, extended lately until 2015).

In February-March, 2014 Russia’s attempted annexation of the Crimean Peninsula lead to significant violations of international law and human rights sphere. Crimean Tatars became targets for enforced disappearances and abductions by Russian occupation authorities and their illegal gangs. As of now, 21 representatives of Crimean Tatars were kidnapped, 3 of whom were found dead, more than 130 criminal cases against Crimean Tatars were filed.

As a result of Russia’s occupation policies, over 10,000 Crimean Tatars to leave Crimea and settle mostly in other parts of continental Ukraine. Many Crimean Tatars activists are banned to entry Crimea: Mr M. Jemilev and Mr R. Chubarov (until 19 April 2019 and July 2019 respectively), Ismet Yuksel, chief coordinator of Information Agency Crimean News – until August 2019. Sinaver Kadyrov, dissident, Azatlik movement founder, member of the Committee of Protecting Crimean Tatars – until January 2020.

Considering the importance of protecting Crimean Tatars and other national minorities in Russia’s occupied Crimea, Ukraine undertook number of legislative actions in order to protect Crimean Tatars. Mr Mustafa Jemilev, MP and former head of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar nation, was appointed as President’s representative on Crimean Tatars. On March 30, 2014 the Parliament of Ukraine passed a decree On Acknowledging Crimean Tatars as Indigenous People of Ukraine, special department on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was established within the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and inter-party “Crimea” union was established by MPs.

UN, OSCE ODIHR, Council of Europe and other international organizations draw attention to numerous cases when Ukrainian locals, especially Crimean Tatars and pro-Ukrainian activists, were kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned by Russian occupation authorities. The responsibility for all violations of human rights in Crimea rests on the Russian Federation as an occupying authority under international law, the Ukrainian MFA said.

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