MOSCOW (AP) — Human Rights Watch says Russian authorities have intensified a crackdown on Crimean Tatars in an apparent bid to silence dissent on the Black Sea Peninsula.

The watchdog said in Tuesday's report that since 2014 Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Russian authorities have subjected members of the Crimean Tatar community and their supporters to harassment, intimidation, threats, searches, physical attacks, and enforced disappearances.

Hugh Williamson, HRW's Europe and Central Asia director, said the authorities have "portrayed politically active Crimean Tatars as extremists and terrorists, forced many into exile, and ensured that those who choose to stay never feel safe to speak their mind."

Russian officials have denied persecuting Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group of Turkic origin that suffered a mass deportation at the hands of Soviet authorities in 1944.