Crimean Tatars Held Candlelight Vigil Marking 70 Years Since Mass Deportation

World Today

Crimean Tatars in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, held a candlelight vigil marking 70 years since the mass deportation of Tatars from the peninsula…under orders from the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin. The actual anniversary is Sunday, but participant’s say this year’s remembrance comes at a worrying time for the community. CCTV’s Roee Ruttenberg has more from Kiev.

Crimean Tatars Held Candlelight Vigil Marking 70 Years Since Mass Deportation

Crimean Tatars Held Candlelight Vigil Marking 70 Years Since Mass Deportation

Crimean Tatars in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, held a candlelight vigil marking 70 years since the mass deportation of Tatars from the peninsula...under orders from the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin. The actual anniversary is Sunday, but participant's say this year's remembrance comes at a worrying time for the community. CCTV's Roee Ruttenberg has more from Kiev.

The candles had been laid out ahead of time. They were lined-up to form a map of Crimea, the Tatar symbol, and — in red — the number 70, and the words “no genocide.”

The Crimean Tatar leader-in-exile attended the ceremony. He offered harsh words for Russia, which banned him from returning to the peninsula for the next five years.

Mustafa Dzhemilev, Crimean Tatar Leader in Exile, says: “This is a country using its force to occupy another one in the twenty-first century. And we hope that the international community and the Ukrainian people – united – will help end this lawlessness.”

After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, this year’s ceremony held extra significance for many Tatars.

Aisha Saidova, Crimean Tatar Participant, says: “We are holding this ceremony here. But it’s sad and painful, because we’d rather go back there.”

Many of those who lit a candle here were non-Tatar Ukrainians. Some said, in hindsight, they wish they could’ve done more.

Vasyl Ovsienko, Former Ukrainian Dissident, says: “During the last twenty-something years, Crimean Tatars were actually the only pro-Ukrainian force in Crimea. They were supporting Ukraine. And yet, we weren’t able to protect them as we should have.”

It’s a loyalty prominently on display…the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian flags sharing the same two colors.

The candles were lit to remember the past. But they also shine a light on what many here fear is a very dark future. Organizers say on Sunday they’ll participate in a march here in Kiev, in solidarity with those in Crimea who can’t.