Mads Nissen

Simferopol, Ukraine

Crimean Tatar muslims at Friday prayer at the Kebir Jami mosque in Simferopol.

The Crimean Tatars are a muslim minority of approximately 250,000 people or 12 % of the population of Crimea. During the Second World War Stalin deported the Tatar people to Uzbekistan and other parts of the Soviet Union where large numbers died of disease and malnutrition. These days, most Crimean Tatars support continued unity with Ukraine.

Since the end of February, people in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, including Crimea, have voiced their opposition to the interim government in Kiev and Crimea has appointed a pro-Russian premier. Pro-Russian troops wearing no insignia have occupied strategic installations and barricaded the Ukrainian Army in its barracks while road blocks have been set up to control traffic in and out of Crimea. On 16 March referendum will take place to decide whether Crimea is to join Russia. Western governments and Kiev have deemed the referendum illegal and the US has warned of serious consequences if Crimea seceded from Ukraine.
Protests against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych were sparked on 21 November 2013 by the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association agreement with the European Union that would have increased trade with the EU. Some believe that the U-turn came about as a result of pressure from President Putin of Russia who wants Ukraine to join a customs union with itself, Kazakhstan and Belarus. On 18 February, after Yanukovych's party scuppered a move to change the constitution to reduce the powers of the president, renewed fighting between protesters and police broke out and had cost the lives of over 80 people by Friday 21st February. By 22 February Yanukovych had fled Kiev and was soon after stripped of the presidency by parliament.

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Mads Nissen
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