Third player in Ukraine conflict: Turkey stakes claims to Crimea, Caucasus

Daily Sabah
May 18, 2022

‘Turkey to stand by Crimean Tatars to ensure their welfare’

Turkey will continue to stand by the Crimean Tatars and protect their identity and ensure their welfare, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said Wednesday, in a message issued on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of their deportation.

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“Turkey will always continue to stand by the Crimean Tatars to protect their identities and ensure their welfare and wellbeing,” he said.

Bilgiç also commemorated the Circassians who died after being deported by Tsarist Russia 158 years ago.

“The Caucasian peoples have suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties during the Tsarist invasion of Caucasia in the 19th century….”

[T]he deportation [of Crimean Tatars] is also linked to the Turkish Straits crisis between the USSR and Turkey after World War II….If a conflict were to arise with Turkey in the Black Sea, Crimean Tatars, who have ethnic ties to Turks and share a common history with them from the Ottoman Empire, would pose a threat as an internal enemy.

As the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the 20th century, Crimean Tatars started returning to their homeland. Ever since then, the people have commemorated the victims of the deportation with mass rallies and prayers.

The 70th anniversary of the nation’s tragedy, however, was marked by the Russian occupation of Crimea – strongly opposed by the Crimean Tatars who almost entirely remained loyal to Ukraine.

Although not that great in numbers – currently there are some 300,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea which make up roughly 13% of the peninsula’s total population of 2 millionthe nation’s cohesion on most matters makes it a formidable political force.

Read also:
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Since the Russian annexation, the United Nations, numerous international rights watchdogs and activists have documented increasing persecution of Crimean Tatars over their alignment with Ukraine…The Crimean Tatar Mejlis – the nation’s single highest executive-representative body – was banned by Russia as an extremist organization and its leaders were barred from entering the country.

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