MOSCOW (AP) — The chief prosecutor of Crimea has ordered a suspension of the council representing the region's Tatar ethnic minority.
Tatars make up about 15 percent of the region's nearly 2 million people and have been broadly opposed to Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Since the annexation, Tatars have complained of official intimidation, the closure of Tatar language classes and a general atmosphere of mistrust of Tatar residents.
Crimean Prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya on Wednesday ordered the Tatar council, called the Mejlis, to be suspended. That prohibits it from holding public gatherings, using bank accounts or disseminating so-called propaganda, the Russian state news agency Tass reported.
The suspension is to hold until a court rules on a suit by Poklonskaya to ban the Mejlis outright as an extremist organization.
A statement from Amnesty International said suspending the Mejlis "demolishes one of the few remaining rights of a minority that Russia must protect instead of persecute."
The Crimean Tatars have a long history of repression. In May 1944, all 200,000 Tatars, who then made up a third of Crimea's population, were put on trains and shipped to Central Asia in the space of three days. Thousands died during the grueling journey or starved to death in the barren steppes upon arrival.
Unlike other peoples deported during World War II by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the Tatars were not allowed to return to their native land until the 1980s.