Turkey, US, EU condemn Russia’s move on Crimea
ISTANBULTurkey, the United States and the European Union have condemned an April 26 Crimean court decision to ban the Mejlis, the governing body of the Crimean Tatar community.
“The prohibition of the Mejlis’ activities is the latest step taken by Russia that targets the unity and integrity of the Crimean Tatars in the aftermath of the  annexation [by Russia] of the [Crimean] Peninsula,” read the statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on April 27, while adding that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis was “the democratically elected and legitimate representative and decision-making body” of the Crimean Tatars.
The United States also expressed its concern over the ban of the Mejlis.
“We put out a statement on April 21 and we called on the Russian Federation to reverse [the Justice Ministry’s] recent decision to designate the Mejlis as an extremist organization as well as a decision by de facto authorities in Crimea to suspend this democratic institution. We’re obviously disturbed by the reports banning the Mejlis council because, frankly, it removes what little representation and recourse that the Tatars have left under Russian occupation,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said April 26.
Toner added that the Crimean Tatars faced oppression, repression and discrimination in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Crimea on April 26 banned the 33-member Mejlis, branding it an extremist organization in the latest move against the peninsula’s ethnic minority.
The Supreme Court of Crimea ruled in favor of a lawsuit lodged by the top prosecutor of the Black Sea peninsula, who had accused the body of illegal actions and “acts of sabotage” against the territory’s new Russian authorities.
The European Union on April 26 slammed the ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, calling the move an “attack” on the rights of Crimean Tatars.
“The decision by the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea to prohibit the activities of the Mejlis, [...] labelling it ‘an extremist organization,’ represents a grave attack on the rights of the Crimean Tatars as a whole,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in a statement.
Mogherini said the decision set a “further very negative escalation in the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula since its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation in 2014.”
Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland in a statement called on Russian authorities to “take appropriate measures to reverse this decision rapidly,” expressing concern that the ruling would “considerably increase the risk of further alienation” of the Crimean Tatars.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko slammed the decision as a “criminal ruling” when discussing the issue with European Council head Donald Tusk on April 26, his office said.
Prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya earlier this month ordered the Mejlis to cease its activities, accusing the respected body which has been working in Crimea for 25 years of “extremism.”
The lawyer for the Mejlis, Dzhemil Temishev, said the organization would appeal the decision in higher courts.
“The prosecutor did not prove that the Mejlis’ activities are extremist; everything we heard in court is her personal assessment,” Temishev told AFP on April 26.
The Crimean Tatars make up about 13 percent of Crimea’s population. They are a Muslim people native to the peninsula who were deported under Soviet leader Josef Stalin, returning only at the collapse of the Soviet Union when the territory was granted autonomous status within a newly independent Ukraine.
The Mejlis resisted the peninsula’s return to Moscow rule in 2014 and has been operating under pressure ever since, with many key figures banished from the region and now working from Ukraine.