Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday criticized Russia’s treatment of the Muslim minority Tatar community in Kremlin-controlled Crimea and pledged to retake the peninsula from Russia at a first official iftar.
Russia wrested control of the Black Sea territory from Ukraine in 2014 and pushed through a referendum on annexation that was condemned as fraudulent and illegitimate by Ukraine and its Western allies.
“Russia’s attempt to enslave Ukraine…began exactly with the occupation of Crimea, exactly with the repression against the freedom of Crimean, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatars and against Crimean Muslims “, he told Ukrainian Muslim leaders and ambassadors from Muslim countries.
The Tatar community, which made up 12-15% of Crimea’s two million people, largely boycotted the 2014 vote.
Moscow then banned the Mejlis – the traditional assembly of the Tatar Muslim minority in Crimea – declaring it an extremist organization and has imprisoned members of the community since, citing security concerns.
“There is no alternative for Ukraine, or for the world, other than the divestiture of Crimea. We will return to Crimea,” Zelensky said, before presenting awards to several Muslim Ukrainian servicemen.
Zelensky, speaking at a mosque outside the center of the capital, announced that Ukraine was starting a new tradition of holding an official iftar, the meal breaking the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
“Ukraine is grateful to the Muslims in our country and to all members of the Muslim community around the world who, like us, yearn for peace and protection from evil,” he added.
Several Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have positioned themselves as mediators in the conflict in Ukraine, negotiating agreements between Kiev and Moscow on grain exports or prisoner exchanges.
Russia has a large Muslim minority from southern regions including Chechnya and Dagestan, many of whom are fighting for Moscow in Ukraine.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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