U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry marked the 70th anniversary of the expulsion of Crimea's Tatar population by speaking out against ongoing rights abuses against the community's remaining members, Anadolu agency reported.
Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin ordered the forced deportation of Crimea's Tatar population from the region in 1944 after accusing them of collaborating with the Nazis. The deportations began on May 18 of that year.
"The suffering caused by this mass expulsion is almost inexpressible," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement released to the press on Friday. "For many Crimean Tatars, these abuses are still fresh in their minds and Russia's occupation and illegal attempt to annex Crimea has reopened old wounds."
Tatars, an ethnically Turkic population, have vehemently opposed Russia's March 21 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The group constitutes roughly 12 percent of the Crimean population, according to a 2001 Ukrainian census.
Washington's top European diplomat said on May 8 that the Obama administration is "extremely concerned" about Crimea's human rights environment, especially for the region's minority Tatar population.
"We are extremely concerned about the human rights situation for all Crimeans but notably for Tatars," said Victoria Nuland, the top American diplomat for Europe and Eurasia while testifying before the U.S. congress. "Our grave concern is that Russia is cloning its local human rights practices in Crimea now."
Kerry further stated that a number of abuses against the region's Tatar community have become commonplace, including murder, beatings and kidnappings, leading many to flee.
"Thousands of Tatars and others have fled their homes in Crimea, fearful for their safety," said Kerry. "Those who remain face a future of repression, discrimination, censorship, limits on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the criminalization of dissent."