Freed Tatar leaders back in Ukraine, vow to fight for Crimea

October 27, 2017

Ilmi Umerov, Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatars Mejlis waves to supporters in Boryspil International airport at a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, representatives of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, had been unlawfully convicted by Russian authorities in the Crimea in 2014 for their public protest against Russia's illegal occupation of Ukraine's Crimea. Chiygoz and Umerov arrived in Ukraine on Friday after having been extradited to Turkey due to efforts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Two Crimean Tatar leaders released from prison in the Russia-annexed region have flown to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev and are vowing to continue their opposition to Russia’s control of the Black Sea peninsula.

Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz were released Monday and flown to Turkey, since Turkish President Reycep Tayyip Erdogan helped mediate their release.

Both are deputy chairmen of the Mejlis, a representative body for Tatars, a largely Muslim Turkic ethnic group that makes up about 15 percent of Crimea’s population.

Chiygoz had been sentenced to eight years in prison on a charge of organizing a riot during Russia’s 2014 annexation. Umerov had been sentenced to two years for criticizing the annexation.

Umerov says Friday that re-establishing Ukrainian control of Crimea will be “all of our fight.”

Update hourly