Crimean Tatars the latest target in Ukraine unrest

By April 22, 2014
Flag of the Crimean Tatar people.  (Image courtesy Riwnodennyk via WikimediaCommons)

Flag of the Crimean Tatar people.
(Image courtesy Riwnodennyk via WikimediaCommons)

Ukraine (MNN) — As photos and rumors circulate of Russia’s in-depth involvement in Ukraine’s unrest, Crimean Tatars once again face exile and oppression.

“On Monday, when the Crimean Tatars had their national meeting in the Crimean peninsula…they decide to put Ukrainian flag on their building,” shares Sergey Rakhuba of Russian Ministries.

“So, the unknown soldiers attacked–unknown soldiers in camouflage without any insignia. They attacked the building, and there was some violence applied there.”

Photos of “unknown soldiers,” also dubbed “green men,” are circulating in various news media, along with their alleged link to Russian Special Forces. While photos carried in a recent New York Times article have not been independently validated, U.S. officials are reportedly confirming the connection.

“There has been broad unity in the international community about the connection between Russia and some of the armed militants in eastern Ukraine, and the photos presented by the Ukrainians last week only further confirm this,” a State Department spokeswoman stated on Sunday.

Thousands of ethnic Muslim Tatars were forced out of Crimea by Joseph Stalin during the Soviet Union era; the mass exile led to at least 240,000 deaths caused by starvation or disease. Following the Soviet collapse in 1989, many Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland but were on high-alert when Russia re-claimed the Black Sea peninsula in March.

Crimea was an autonomous region before Russia took it by force in March.

Crimea was an autonomous region before Russia took it by force in March.

Some 20,000 of an estimated 300,000 Crimean Tatars fled into Ukraine, creating a refugee crisis. Those who remain are facing increasing oppression in light of a looming registration deadline. When Russia annexed Crimea, it gave Tatars 30 days to register with the Communist government.

“Crimean Tatars [are] appealing to the international community, asking for support, asking for help,” says Rakhuba.

“Not just Crimean Tatars are under the oppression there in Crimea…but also pro-Ukrainian-minded churches; Ukrainian Orthodox churches are under pressure, Ukrainian Catholic churches, and evangelical congregations that are openly showing their pro-Ukrainian loyalty. So, that’s a potentially serious issue.”

Will you stand beside the churches, leaders, and evangelical believers in Ukraine as they pray for the fate of their nation today?

“Ukrainian people overall want to have their independence, they want to have peace restored; they want to join the world community,” shares Rakhuba, who was born in Ukraine and still has family living there.

“We need to continue praying. Continue praying for the national leaders; pray for evangelical Christian leaders.”

To help Russian Ministries care for Tatar refugees taking shelter in Ukraine, click here. The ministry’s Emergency Fund provides physical support (food, clothing, temporary shelter, financial assistance, etc.) as well as spiritual support (printing and distribution of Luke’s Gospel).

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