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>> Russian police are stepping up their scrutiny of this community, the Crimean Tatars. Its been two years since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and property searches, raids, and arrests are now the norm, say locals. The Tatars remain a Muslim community, making up 15% of the population of the peninsula.
Reuters' Alessandra Prentice in Kiev explains both points of view.>> The Russian-backed authorities in Crimea say some Crimean Tatars are members of Islamist groups that they deem extremist. They say the raids and surveillance are necessary to prevent acts of terror. Meanwhile, the Crimean Tatars say that they are being singled out for their opposition to Russian rule.
>> The Tatars were deported by Stalin during World War II and only returned four decades later. Since 2014, Russia has been in de facto control of Crimea when it sent in troops to push out Kiev's forces. This recent ramping up of surveillance though, has gone on somewhat under the radar.
That's because it's not easy to separate official's legitimate concerns about extremism from other possible motives. Rights campaigners and community activists emphasized the Islamist problem is being overstated. There are hardliners, but the vast majority of Crimean Tatars are moderate. Women in their community don't usually cover their heads.>> Reports of the mistreatment of Tatars in Crimea has further strained relations between Moscow and the West, relations which are already at their worst since the end of the Cold War.
Most recently in April, the EU in Washington condemned a decision by Russia to ban the Crimean Tatars' governing body, the Mejlis, on the grounds it was an extremist organization.>> The police tactics even causing concern among Kremlin advisors. The treatment of the ethnic group will be discussed in June at the presidential human rights council.