Crimean Tatar Activist Defiant As Prosecutor Seeks Ban On 'Public Activities'

FEODOSIA, Ukraine -- A prosecutor in Russian-controlled Crimea has asked a court to sentence a Crimean Tatar activist who opposes Moscow's rule over the Ukrainian region to a suspended sentence of three years.

At a hearing in the city of Feodosia on February 28, the prosecutor also asked the court to bar Suleyman Kadyrov from "public activities" for two years -- a sentence that would prevent him from demonstrating.

Kadyrov is charged with public calls for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

The charge stems from his Facebook post of a video about a pro-Ukrainian volunteer military unit and a comment in which he wrote, "Crimea was, is, and will always be Ukraine!"

Kadyrov says he is not guilty, arguing that he has the right to express his opinion.

"I have never concealed my pro-Ukrainian position, I have always expressed it openly as it is my right, the right of a human being and a citizen," he said. "I do not hide it. I do not consider myself guilty."

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they call a campaign of oppression targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority and others who opposed Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.

The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.

In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens it said were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.