Some militant Tartars may be prepared to fight Russia over potential annexation of Crimea, warn local leaders
A senior Crimean Tartar leader has warned that Russia risks provoking jihadi attacks if it annexes Crimea.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Sunday, Mustafa Jemilev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, said a number of militant Tartars had approached him to say they would fight the Russians. “We can’t stop people who want to die with honor,” said Jemilev, who reportedly made clear that he himself did not endorse a jihadi campaign.
A referendum on whether Crimea should become part of Russia is set to take place in March, triggered by Russia’s occupation of the peninsula earlier this month. Crimean Tartars, a Muslim minority group who make up roughly 12 per cent of the region’s population, are largely in favour of remaining part of Ukraine. Their opposition is rooted in a long history of persecution under previous Russian rule.
Jemilven said he and other Tartar leaders are reluctant to believe the reassurances from Crimea’s pro-Russian leaders, including offers of senior government positions for members of the community. “This agreement is not worth the paper it’s written on. Everything can change tomorrow.”