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Crimean Tatars ask for status as indigenous people

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars and all the Tatars of Crimea ask the Ukrainian government to grant them recognition as a indigenous people, deputy head of Mejlis Nariman Dzhelyal told Radio Svoboda, on March 17.

“We know the Russian government is preparing to annex Crimea. This is why we turn to the Parliament of Ukraine with the request to recognize the status of Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people and to immediately ensure the free self-expression of the Crimean Tatars,” said Dzhelyal. He added that an all-Ukrainian referendum could serve as the means to guarantee the rights of the Crimean Tatars to self-determination.

According to Dzhelyal, this decision will ensure the presence of Ukrainian statehood on the Crimean peninsula regardless of further developments in Crimea

“Everyone knows that Crimean Tatars have been consistent defenders of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and this is why we turned to the Parliament of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people to give us the opportunity to enhance our status, the status of an indigenous people, and to recognize this status in Ukraine through a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. This would strengthen us and we could better defend the Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea,” Dzhelyal said.

The Crimean Parliament, which has been dissolved by the the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, on March 17, declared the region an “independent state” — the Republic of Crimea — and turned to the Russian Federation with the request to join Russia. According to the self-proclaimed government of Crimea, almost 97% of voters voted for union with Russia during yesterday’s so-called “referendum.” Ukraine and the international community consider this “referendum” illegitimate. Crimea has been under Russian occupation since the end of February.


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