Life in Crimea since Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014 has become similar to conditions experienced in the region during the rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Crimean politician Refat Chubarov said Monday. Chubarov, a leading figure in Crimea’s Tatar ethnic group, accused Russia of targeting his people and others who question President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
“Russia today is very close to a Stalinist regime,” Chubarov told Ukraine Today, an English-language Ukrainian broadcast news service. “This is all based on the fact that every night in Crimea when a family goes to sleep they can’t be sure that at night or early in the morning someone isn’t going to come knocking at the door and take someone in the family away.”
Crimea’s Tatars constitutes about 10 percent of the peninsula’s total population. Russia banned Tatar top opposition figure Mustafa Dzhemilev from Crimea in 2014 and has reportedly targeted Tatar businesses and leaders.
Putin considers Crimea to be part of the Russian Federation and has cracked down on dissent since taking control of the peninsula. Russia shut down ATR, the only Crimea Tatar news service, just days after seizing Crimea. Other news outlets were forced to register with Russian censors or face a similar fate, the Kyiv Post reported.
“Today everyone is convinced that the aim of the occupiers is to force out anyone who doesn’t agree with the occupation,” Chubarov said. “The Crimean Tatars are exactly such people and not only do they not welcome the occupation they proceed from the fact that Crimea should be returned to Ukraine.”
Government censorship was a hallmark of Stalin’s rule over Communist Russia during World War II and the Cold War. Putin ordered Russian military personnel to enter Crimea last year after rising dissent amongst opposition groups forced former Ukrainian President Viktor Vanukovych, a pro-Kremlin figure, to resign from his post.
Shortly thereafter, Russia announced its annexation of Crimea from Ukrainian control. Putin later claimed the overwhelming majority of Crimea’s residents supported Russian rule and that he would have considered use of nuclear weapons to maintain control over the territory if Western leaders had intervened.