Crimea's Tatars condemn Russian annexation, appeal to international bodies for autonomy

The Associated Press

Crimean Tatars greet Russia's top Muslim Cleric Ravil Gainutdin, foreground right, during the Crimean Tatar Qurultay, a religious congress, in Bakhchysarai, Crimea, Saturday, March 29, 2014. The Crimean Tatar Qurultay, a religious congress will determine whether the Tatars will accept Russian citizenship and the political system that comes with it, or remain Ukrainian citizens on Russian soil. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

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BAKCHYSARAI, Crimea (AP) — Leaders of Crimea's Tatar minority have condemned Russia's annexation of the peninsula and appealed to international bodies for recognition as an autonomous group.

Tatars, an ethnically Turkic and mainly Muslim group that was subjected to mass deportation from their native Crimea by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1944, gathered Saturday to forge a collective response to Russia's absorption of their home province.

Decisions on whether to accept Russian citizenship and possible participation in a Moscow-loyal government were deferred as the community further contemplates its options.

But the forum underscored difficulties Russia will face in integrating a community that resisted annexation and largely boycotted the March 16 referendum to join Russia. Tatars account for around 12 percent of Crimea's population.

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