Tatars of Crimea are "the new enslaved people in today's Europe", says Lithuanian statesman Vytautas Landsbergis.
Vytautas Landsbergis and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dhzemilev
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

Speaking at a Vilnius-hosted conference on human rights violations in Crimea, Landsbergis, Lithuania's former head of state, has noted "the shadow of repeated Tatar genocide in consciousness and sub-consciousness" amidst prevailing xenophobic sentiments after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

"Therefore, international organizations should see and stress the liability of invading Russia for the safety of all residents of Crimea, especially the Tatars who are subjected to xenophobic hatred," said Landsbergis.

"The Tatars of Crimea are suffering multi-faceted violence. They are the new enslaved people in today's Europe. They have been violently separated from Ukraine. (...) As citizens of Ukraine, Tatars of Crimea do not have to obey the order of any foreign country, however, they are now terrorized to obey it. This is what happened in the Baltic states occupied by the Soviets. We were under terror for over 50 years. The Ukrainian republic has the right and duty of defending its citizens, and it is incapable of doing this in the occupied territory due to the force-majeure situation there. Defence can only be legal and diplomatic," said the politician.

In his speech, he also voiced concerns about the emergence of radical Islamic ideas among Tatars in Crimea, possibly fuelled by Russia.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has said that the conflict in Ukraine was started by external forces, and the events in the country were directly related to Lithuania in light of the emerging threats.

"Today marks two years after the annexation of Crimea, and different thoughts come to mind, there's anger and possibly despair, as this is an example how an artificial conflict in current history brought the disasters to Ukraine and the peoples living in Ukraine. It is a fully artificial conflict," said Linkevičius.

Participants of the conference were shown a greeting video from US Senator John McCain where he spoke in support of tighter sanctions for Russia, a higher degree of isolation and arms supply to Ukraine.

"These proud people are forced to either adopt Russian citizenship and customs, or live without basic services and rights. This oppression cannot go on. Crimea is an ancestor land of the Tatar community and they have the right to live in their homeland with freedom and dignity. The world cannot stand by then the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation is flagrantly violated. That's why I believe the United States must impose additional course on Russia, by increasing targeted sanctions, providing the Ukrainian people with weapons they need to defend themselves and taking steps to deepen Russia's international isolation," McCain said in his message.

On Monday, the Lithuanian parliament is hosting a meeting of the executive committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars and an international conference on Mass Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Crimea. Unidentified hackers attacked the parliament's website prior to the event to make it unavailable from abroad.

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