SIMFEROPOL, May 23 (RIA Novosti) – About 300 people, mostly Crimean Tatars, are rallying outside the Russian Consulate in the Ukrainian city of Simferopol, demanding that the Russian Consul there be stripped of diplomatic status and declared persona non grata.
The protests broke out after Russian Consul Vladimir Andreyev criticized a movie about the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, saying the film “distorts the truth about the Great Patriotic War [World War II].”
“We demand that the Russian leadership strip Andreyev of his diplomatic status and recall him from Ukrainian territory within 24 hours. We also demand that the Ukrainian government declare him persona non grata,” said Akhtem Chiygoz, one of the organizers of the rally.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry earlier said it was concerned by Andreyev’s “inappropriate remarks.” Andreyev replied that he stood by his opinion and would not retract his words, adding that he was not questioning the wrongfulness of the deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet leadership.
One of the main heroes of the film in question, titled Haytarma, is Amet-Khan Sultan, a Soviet fighter and test pilot with Crimean Tatar roots who was twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union. The film’s director and producers invited Russian pilots trained by Sultan to attend the premiere of the movie, but most of them were absent after Andreyev advised them not to attend.
About 190,000 people – almost all the Tatar population – were deported from the Crimea, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1944 as punishment for the alleged collaboration of some Crimean Tatars with Nazi Germany during the war.
Tatars began to return to the Crimea in the ’80s and ’90s, and today, the Crimea’s Tatar population numbers about 260,000.