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Crimean Tatar leader hits out at Russian rule

CRIMEAN TATAR LEADER HITS OUT AT RUSSIAN RULE

A Crimean Tatar leader has told Anadolu Agency Russia's 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory was history repeating itself.

Mustafa Abduldzhemil Dzhemilev Kirimoglu, a former Ukrainian lawmaker and head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis -- now banned by the Russian authorities was referring to Russia's first annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 1783.

Crimea unilaterally decided to join the Russian Federation in a March 2014 referendum condemned by the international community and the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

Moscow backed the vote, calling it legitimate and in line with international legal standards. The majority of Crimean Tatars -- native to the Black Sea peninsula -- boycotted the referendum. The UN General Assembly later voted to proclaim the Russian annexation illegal.

Since then, there have been accusations that the Russian authorities have curtailed rights and freedoms of those opposed to rule from Moscow.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in Strasbourg on Friday Kirimoglu said people in Crimea were under pressure and even individuals' private activities on the Internet were being tracked.

"The Russian Federation did not come to our land to form a democracy," he added.

Praising Western sanctions against Russia, Kirimoglu said: "Our situation would be worse without [the help of] Western countries."

He went on to say Crimean Tatars had been living in a democratic country for a quarter of a century after Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Along with many UN countries, the U.S., the EU, and Turkey also do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

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