Eight months after Russia annexed the Black Sea resort region of Crimea , the descendants of the group that ruled the peninsula for centuries say they fear a new effort to divide them. Their top leaders are in exile in Kiev. Those who remain say the new Russian authorities in Crimea have spent more time investigating them than the kidnappings.
Analysts say Russian security services appear to be employing tactics they have used against Islamist insurgencies within their borders. The difference in Crimea, Tatar leaders say, is that there is no insurgency. But they fear that the tough approach may radicalize the most disaffected members of their community.
Memories of Soviet-era repression run deep, since Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea only in the final years of the Soviet Union. As part of an independent Ukraine, they developed new structures to govern themselves, which have now been shut down.
At least five Tatars have been kidnapped since March, and two more are missing, according to human rights observers. Two Tatars have died under mysterious circumstances.