Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky hosted on Friday, the first “official” iftar with Muslim servicemen, representatives of the diplomatic corps, and the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people outside a mosque in the centre of Kyiv, reported Kyiv Independent, an online Ukrainian newspaper. Zelensky addressed the gathering and criticised Russia’s treatment of the Muslim-minority Tatar community in Kremlin-controlled Crimea and vowed to recapture the peninsula.
“Russia’s attempt to enslave Ukraine…began exactly with the occupation of Crimea, exactly with repressions against Crimean, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar freedom and of Crimean Muslims,” said Zelensky, reported AFP. Russia captured the Black Sea territory from Ukraine in 2014, a move which had garnered significant criticism from Kyiv and its allies in the West.
The Tatar community accounted for at least 12 to 15 per cent of the two million Crimea residents. Reports suggest that after Moscow took over Crimea, it banned the traditional assembly of the Tatar Muslim minority also known as Mejlis. Additionally, Russia has also declared it an extremist organisation and has jailed members of the community since, citing security concerns.
“There is no alternative for Ukraine, or for the world, other than the de-occupation of Crimea. We will return to Crimea,” said the Ukrainian president.
Zelensky also conferred awards to several Muslim Ukrainian servicemen and thanked the Muslim community for defending Ukraine, during the gathering for ‘iftar’ the meal breaking the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. He also said that Kyiv “values every person, values every community,” adding that diversity is a part of the country’s character.
“Ukraine is grateful to the Muslims of our country and to everyone in the Muslim community of the world who, like us, longs for peace and protection from evil,” said the Ukrainian president. He also later took to Twitter and wrote, “Despite the sadness and pain of war, may the holy Ramadan be bright for you! May iftar bring consolation to everyone in the world, in the Muslim community, wherever you happen to be now.”
Despite the sadness and pain of war, may the holy Ramadan be bright for you! May Iftar bring consolation to everyone in the world, in the Muslim community, wherever you happen to be now. The big world Muslim community can always rely on Ukraine, on our respect and solidarity. pic.twitter.com/BCWfZORBP2
Zelensky added, “The big world Muslim community can always rely on Ukraine, on our respect and solidarity.” Notably, Russia is home to a large Muslim minority from southern regions, including Chechnya and Dagestan, many of whom are said to be fighting for Moscow in Ukraine, reported AFP.