Two Die in Riots By Tatars in Crimea
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) _ Hundreds of Crimean Tatars angered by police corruption clashed with officers in riots that spread to at least six towns. Two people were killed and 10 wounded.
Some 600 Tatars, armed with sticks, stones and firebombs, burned down a store, bombed a restaurant and attacked stores 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 about 100 vehicles, but were blocked by armored personnel carriers 30 miles east of the Crimean capital.
Riot police opened fire on the vehicles, killing two Tatars and wounding 10.
All-night negotiations led by the Crimean prime minister, Anatoly Franchuk, ended the standoff. 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 Monday. ``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.
Rioters ran through the streets with stones, sticks and firebombs, destroying businesses suspected of ties to the local mafia, Dzhemilev said.
In Feodosia, the rioters took the local police chief hostage, but released him before heading to Simferopol.
Armored vehicles and heavily armed troops from Ukraine’s National Guard were checking all cars entering the Crimean capital on Monday.