By Diyar Guldogan
The EU on Thursday welcomed the release of leading Crimean Tatar figures Ulmi Umerov and Akhtem Chyigoz from jail on Wednesday.
"This is good news. The European Union does not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation and therefore does not recognize the application of Russian law in the Peninsula," it said in a statement.
Umerov, deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis -- a representative body -- and Deputy Mejlis Chair Chyigoz were jailed on Sept. 27 and 11 respectively after being convicted by a Russian court in Crimea
Umerov was sentenced to two years in prison, while Chyigoz got eight years.
The EU said it consistently advocated for their unconditional release and appreciated the efforts of all those who also worked for this outcome.
"The European Union expects Russia to reverse the decision to ban the activities of [the] Mejlis, the self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars, and respect the rights of the Crimean Tatars, including those of freedom of assembly and expression," it added.
It also called on Moscow to release immediately all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens on the Crimean Peninsula and in Russia.
Stella Kyriakides, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), also welcomed the release of Umerov and Chyigoz.
"As representatives of the Mejlis, an important and traditional structure of the Crimean Tatar community, their liberation is a step in the right direction," Kyriakides said.
She also called on Russia to remove all restrictions which limit the free functioning of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to reporters, neither confirmed nor denied the release of the two men.
Ukraine has been wracked by conflict since March 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after an illegal independence vote.
The UN General Assembly has voted to proclaim the Russian annexation illegal.
Along with many UN countries, the U.S., the
Since the annexation of Crimea, the region’s Tatar minority has complained of repression, including arbitrary arrests and detentions.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.