ANKARA (AA) - Turkey has termed the deportation and ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars 72 years ago by the then Soviet regime as a black mark on history, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement Tuesday.
In a written statement, Tanju Bilgic said that Turkey condemned the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars between May 17 and May 18, 1944.
On May 18, 1944, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime, which accused them of having collaborated with occupying Nazi forces.
Around 180,000 people were deported to various regions within the Soviet territory, in particular Siberia and Uzbekistan. Almost half of the exiles, who endured long months of dire living conditions, are thought to have died of starvation and disease.
"On the anniversary of the deportation, Turkey condemns the ethnic cleansing which passed into history as a black mark," Bilgic said.
He said Turkey will always continue to take sides with Crimean Tatars in their democratic, peaceful and fair struggle. "Turkey will never forget the atrocity which aimed to wipe off an entire nation from history," the spokesman added.
This 30-year exile of Crimean Tatars continued until 1987, when the Soviet government allowed 2,300 Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. Another 19,300 people followed in 1988.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014. Since then, the region’s Tatar minority has complained of repression, including arbitrary arrests and detentions.