Authorities Said To Round Up And Send Home Hundreds of Tatars
MOSCOW (AP) _ Authorities have rounded up and sent home hundreds of the Crimean Tatars who descended on Moscow this summer and staged highly visible protests demanding the return of their ethnic homeland, sources said Saturday.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said as many as 500 of the estimated 1,000 Crimean Tatars who had gathered in Moscow had been detained and sent home. The figure could not be confirmed independently.
Hundreds of Tatar activists gathered in Red Square July 25 and staged an extraordinary, nearly 24-hour protest to press their demand to return to the homeland on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine from which Stalin had them deported en masse in 1944.
Police surrounded but did not interfere with the protest, which broke up when the group’s leaders were promised a meeting with Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko, head of a newly appointed commission on their plight.
On Monday, Gromyko made no promises and told the group to go home and stop pressuring the government. Three days later, about 20 of the group’s leaders were detained and sent home.
A Moscow woman who had lodged three Tatar activists said Saturday that police brought them to her apartment at 4 a.m. to pick up their belongings, then took them to the airport for flights out of the city.
Many other such actions were reported, she said.
The woman also said that a large group of Tatars was detained near a northeast Moscow park, apparently on Friday evening.
Several hundred Tatars had gathered at the park Friday to pick new leaders, vowing to continue their protest.
The Moscow woman and other sources said they had been told by members of the loosely organized group that as many as 500 of them had been detained and ordered out of the Soviet capital.
The activists have been staying at apartments thoughout Moscow, so the figures could not be confirmed independently. The Tatars’ estimate of the number of protesters at Red Square on July 25 was substantially higher than estimates by reporters on the scene.
Crimean Tatars, who lived in an autonomous republic before World War II, were branded Nazi collaborators and deported to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Ural mountains in Soviet Central Asia. Their republic was dissolved.
Tatars are descendents of Mongol and Turkic peoples who conquered much of Russia in the Middle Ages. More than 5 million of them live in the Soviet Union, about 300,000 of them Crimean Tatars.
The activists who gathered in Moscow this summer want their homeland re- established and that they be allowed to return. The government has made no promises, saying the demography of the Crimea has changed substantially since World War II.