Two Die in Riots By Tatars in Crimea
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) _ The Crimean government appealed for calm Monday after hundreds of Crimean Tatars clashed with police in riots that spread to at least six towns. Two people were killed and 10 wounded.
Some 600 Tartars, angered by police corruption and armed with sticks, stones and firebombs, burned down a store, bombed a restaurant and attacked shops during the rampage Sunday night. In one town, they briefly took the police chief hostage, but released him unharmed.
The rioters set off for Simferopol in a convoy of over 100 vehicles, but were blocked by armored personnel carriers about 30 miles east of the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Police opened fire on the convoy, killing 2 Tartars and wounding 10.
All-night negotiations led by Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Franchuk ended the standoff, but both sides agreed to form a commission to investigate the rioting and the deaths.
Crimean Tatars, numbering around 250,000 or one-tenth of Crimea’s population, have had poor relations with the ethnic Russians who dominate the Black Sea peninsula. But Tatars said the rioting had nothing to do with that conflict.
The rioters were protesting corruption among Crimean police, which Tatars believe led to the slaying of two Tatar market vendors on Friday.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, a Tatar leader, said the two were killed by racketeers after refusing to pay bribes to police.
``We are very worried that this is going to be depicted as an inter-ethnic conflict,″ Dzhemilev said. ``But what we are angered about is that local authorities have sold out to the mafia.″
The violence began after the funeral for the vendors on Sunday, and spread through the towns of Kurortnaya, Feodosia, Sudak, Shebetovna, Koktebel, and Novisviet.
Armored vehicles and heavily armed troops from Ukraine’s National Guard were checking all cars entering the capital.
The Tatars still consider Russians their historic enemy, and oppose the efforts of some Crimean leaders to break away from Ukraine and reunite with Russia.
The entire Crimean Tatar population was branded Nazi collaborators by Josef Stalin, a charge that continues to haunt them. They were deported in cattle trucks overnight in 1944 and their property was confiscated. Tens of thousands died in transit and from disease. They began returning to the Crimea in the final days of the Soviet Union.
Tatars are demanding to be paid compensation and want their land back.