In 1917 communist takeover of Russia, Tatar Muslims were one-third of south eastern Ukrainian population. Then in 1944, Joseph Stalin accused them of collaborating with Nazi Germany and ordered their mass deportations. Nearly 200,000 Crimean Tatars were sent to Central Asia by freight trains. Nearly half of all Crimean Muslims died in 1944–1945 from hunger and disease. Their property and territory were given to mostly ethnic Russians who were resettled by the Soviet Union in Crimea.
Akhmetov's decision to support Ukraine's unity may turn the tide against the pro-Russia separatists in the Ukrainian conflict He has ordered thousands of his steelworkers on Thursday to restore order and establish control over the streets of Mariupol. They now appear to have routed the pro-Kremlin militants who had seized control of important government buildings several weeks ago.
By late Thursday, Akmetov's miners and steelworkers had deployed in at least five cities, including the regional capital, Donetsk, though they had not yet become the dominant force there that they are in Mariupol, the region’s second largest city and the site just last week of bloody confrontations between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian militants, according to The Globe and Mail.
Here are excerpts of a Washington Post report on Akhtemov's crucial role in the crisis:
"Two days after Akhmetov deployed workers from his steel plant to restore order in a region torn by separatist violence, calm appeared to return Friday to the center of this eastern city. A few steps from a recent deadly clash, people lunched on sushi as a song by Katy Perry played. Near the scorched city council building that had been held by pro-Russian militants, a group of Akhmetov’s unarmed steelworkers lounged and smoked cigarettes as they kept watch." A few blocks away, at the ruins of the city police building where at least seven people died last week, retired steelworker Oleg Krivolapov welcomed Akhmetov’s intervention. “He has his factories, his industries, a lot of money — he could do a lot,” said Krivolapov, who trusts that his former colleagues at Akhmetov’s Ilych Factory can keep the peace. “Of course, he should have done something sooner.”
Whatever Akhtemov's motivations may be, let's hope he can pull off what the US, Europe, NATO and the government in Kiev have failed to do so far. Let's hope peace returns to Ukraine soon.
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