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Moslem Tartars and Christian Slavs brawl in Ukraine city


dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday January 18, 2007

Kiev- Hundreds of Moslem Tartars brawled with Orthodox Christian Slavs in the centre of a Ukrainian provincial city on Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported. A long-simmering conflict in Simferopol, the regional capital of the Black Sea peninsula Crimea, turned violent after more than 100 security personnel hired by a real estate company attempted evict Tartars living in an encampment built on a choice city lot.

More than a dozen persons were injured in fighting throughout the morning, four severely enough to require medical treatment. Police made six arrests, and suffered minor injuries themselves, said Oleksander Dombrovsky, a Simferopol police spokesman.

Crowds broke through the police barriers repeatedly. Weapons used included clubs, reinforcing rods, fists, and boots, as well as hurled bricks and paving stones. More than four hundred were reportedly involved in the fighting.

The developement firm, Olbi-Krym, was attempting to enforce an August court order telling the Tartars to leave the land. The Tartars living in the encampment refused to move, arguing regional authorities had reneged on years of promises to provide permanent housing to Tartars.

Police managed to separate the combatants by midday. The conflict dissipated after the security workers left the scene.

Olbi-Krym is closely allied with ethnic Russian and Ukrainian commercial clans running most Crimean industry. The firm last year announced plans to construct an up-market apartment building on the lot.

Tartar activists in previous statements had demanded single-family housing for Tartars, some living in temporary housing for more than a decade, be built on the city lot. Shortly before Olbi began work, in March, Tartar squatters occupied the land.

Eighty Tartar families were living in in tents and temporary housing built on the lot, at the time of the incident, said Zmine Avalmileva, a community spokeswoman.

Violence between ethnic Tartars and Slavs is chronic in Crimea. Usually the targets are Tatars.

Recent outbreaks include the murder of a Tartar journalist, the bombing of a Tartar activist's office, and fist fights at an old Moslem cemetary used by Slavs as a flea market.

Ethnic Slavs outnumber Tartars roughly two to one in Crimea. Russians and Ukrainians own almost all the businesses and productive land, while Tartars generally live in poverty.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin expelled Tartars from the Crimea in 1944. After the break-up of the Soviet Union hundreds of thousands of Tartars returned to the region, coming into conflict with Slavs living on what the Tartars believe to be ancestral lands.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency