Three prominent Crimean Tatar officials, Nariman Dzhelyal and Ilmi Umerov from the Mejlis (Crimean representative assembly) and Zair Smedlyaev (Head of the Central Election Commission of the Qurultay) were banned from attending the Crimean Tatar World Congress to be held in the Turkish capital Ankara on Aug. 1-2.
Russian federal security service (FSB) prevention of Crimean officials from attending the congress was interpreted by Crimean Tatars as an embarrassing political move by Russia.
“The Russian authorities are putting pressure on us and we are not being allowed to leave Crimea, but we do not want to remain cut off from the World Congress and have therefore taped this address,” Zair Smedlyaev said on his personal account on Facebook, at the eve of the congress.
Some parts of Smedlyaev’s press release was broadcast by the Crimean Tatar channel TV ATR that is censored by Russia since March and currently broadcasts from mainland Ukraine.
On the eve of the congress, the organisers stated in a press release “Having returned to their homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 350 thousand Crimean Tatars are once again being subjected to totalitarian pressure and are threatened with annihilation. Since the annexation of the peninsula by Russia from Feb 27, 2014 to the present day, 15 thousand Crimean Tatars have been forced to leave Crimea.”
Eighty Crimean Tatar NGOs from 12 different countries have applied to participate to Crimean Tatar World Congress, which will bring together NGOs, community leaders, representatives of mass media, scientists, leading human rights defenders, politicians and activists.
Numan Kurtulmus and Naci Bostanci from the Turkish government and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin will attend the congress.
The first congress of the World Crimean Tatars was held in Aqmescit, the capital of Crimea, in May 2009.
After the annexation of Crimea by Russian Federation in March 2014, the many Crimean Tatars left Crimea and moved to Turkey, forming the most populous Crimean Tatar diaspora.
300,000 Crimean Tatars boycotted the Crimean referendum that was held on March 16, 2014 that placed the peninsula under Russian administration.