Kyiv, UKRAINE — In the Soviet Union, they were branded as unfaithful and forced into decades of exile far from their homeland.
In an eerie echo of that escape, many Crimean Tatar men are now fleeing to Kazakhstan to escape Russia’s hastily convened conscription.
According to the Ukraine-based Crimean Tatar Resource Center, in one area of Crimea — home to the Tatars and part of Ukraine that Russia has occupied for the past eight years — 48 people have received draft notices. All but two of them were Tatars. , rights groups.
Ukrainian officials say Russia has lured Tatars to other parts of the peninsula, and their numbers are far out of proportion to their share of the Tatar population. Dozens of Tatars sought legal help to avoid conscription.
“An analysis of the mobilization clearly shows that this is a continuation of the Crimean Tatar genocide,” Eskender Valiev, head of the resource center, said in an interview. “This is a violation of the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said, adding that “we are already too few.”
Opposition to the draft has increased in Russia after President Vladimir V. Putin announced last week that hundreds of thousands of civilians would be forced into military service following the shameful battlefield losses in Ukraine.
At least 2,000 anti-war protesters have been arrested in Russia since the announcement, according to OVD-Info, a human rights group that monitors police activity. Young Russian men are also fleeing the country or heading to border checkpoints for fear of being forced into the military.
On Monday, gunmen, apparently distraught by the chaotic mobilization, opened fire at a recruiting office in Siberia, seriously injuring a recruiting officer.
But ethnic minorities in the occupied territories of Russia and Ukraine have been disproportionately affected by the draft, which human rights activists and Ukrainian officials say are overtly discriminatory. This is the latest abuse Russia has been accused of in a war that has rained down on cities and towns with artillery and missiles, deported Ukrainian orphans to Russia and recorded cases of torture.
Supporters of the Crimean Tatars say that by recruiting men from an ethnic minority group that has long plagued Moscow, Russian security forces can achieve two goals at once.
In a Sunday evening speech Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of singling out the Crimean Tatars and said Moscow’s policy was to “physically exterminate men who are representatives of indigenous peoples.” said it is. He called it “deliberate imperial policy”.
The Soviet Union deported the Crimean Tatars from their homeland during World War II, fearing they would side with the German army along with members of other minority groups. Many returned home during the late Soviet era and after Ukraine’s independence, but returned to Moscow’s control when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.
During Russia’s seven-month war in Ukraine, the Russian military has deployed units of soldiers from ethnic minority areas. For example, soldiers from Buryatia, a Siberian region bordering Mongolia, fought in northern Kyiv and eastern Ukraine.
Putin’s mobilizations disproportionately target regions with large ethnic minority populations, such as remote regions of Russia and predominantly Muslim regions of Siberia and the North Caucasus. Protests involving a woman against the drafting of her husband and her son broke out in Chechnya and Dagestan over the weekend.
For the Crimean Tatars, the enlistment effort had an added element of fear: it forced Ukrainian men to fight other Ukrainians.
Dozens of Tatar men have written letters against the draft, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from Russian authorities. The lawyer said it would be more dangerous to go to war than write a letter, adding that the father of a large family was also seeking exemption.
Baliyev said the Tatar men were leaving the peninsula, via Russia, and on their way to Kazakhstan.
“This is discrimination based on ethnicity,” he said of mobilization. “It started in the Russian Empire, continued in the Soviet Union, and continues in Russia now.”
Maria Varenikova contributed to the report.
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