Ukraine will not compromise on its territorial integrity, said a Crimean Tatar deputy of the country’s parliament on Tuesday.
“Donbas and Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia, are our red lines,” said Rustem Umerov in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.
Underlining that they are defending their territorial integrity, he said: “We will not give up our people or our land.”
“We will talk about the situation of the Tatar population and other humanitarian issues in Crimea,” he added, referring to the Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, an act which some Ukrainians see as a prelude or the first act of the current war.
“There is nothing to discuss regarding the status of Crimea, a part of Ukraine as recognized by the international law and community.”
Oppression of Tatars in Crimea
After taking it over in 2014, Moscow turned the Crimean Peninsula, which is home to around 350,000 Tatars, into a large Russian military base by deploying weapon systems as well as 150,000 soldiers.
Turkiye and the US, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal.
Since that time Crimea's ethnic Tartars have faced a "systematic oppression and intimidation campaign," in the words of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, including the banning of their representative body the Mejlis, raids on homes and mass detentions, and suppression of the right to assembly and protest as well as freedom of expression.
Umerov, who is also a member of the Ukrainian delegation negotiating with Russia, said his country is putting up a stiff fight against Russia both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
“By initiating negotiations with Russia, we wanted to show to the world that we want the war to end,” he said, adding the negotiations are taking place in a difficult environment.
Heavy Russian attacks on the Azovstal Steelworks in the besieged southern province of Mariupol stalled the negotiations, Umerov added.
He praised Ankara’s support for Ukraine in many fields, including humanitarian, political and diplomatic.
“Owing to Turkiye’s support, we feel stronger at the negotiating table,” Umerov noted.
At least 3,381 civilians have been killed and 3,680 others injured during the ongoing Ukraine war that started on Feb. 24, according to UN estimates. The true toll is feared to be much higher.
More than 5.91 million people have fled to other countries, with some 7.7 million people internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.
*Writing by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara