SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Amid all the necessary analysis of what Russia's move into Crimea means geopolitically and strategically, it might also be good to remember Reshat Ametov. Mr. Ametov was buried this week. He was 39 years old, married and the father of three young children. He was last seen at a demonstration on March 3rd in Simferopol, where he joined other Crimean Tatars in silent protests before the pro-Russian armed men in unmarked uniforms who surrounded the cabinet ministers' building.
Tatars make up more than 10 percent of Crimea's population. Many Tatars, who are primarily Sunni Muslim, were brutally deported by Joseph Stalin in the 1940s, and scattered over the deserts of central Asia and Siberia. As many as 200,000 Tatars died in that government removal. Some Tatar families began to come back after Ukraine became independent in the 1990s.
Video from ATR, a local Crimean television channel, shows two armed men in green uniforms, and one in a black uniform, surrounding Reshat Ametov, taking him by the arms, and leading him away. He was just standing there and they took him away, Mr. Ametov's mother told the Kyiv Post, an independent newspaper. His family called the police, who said they could find nothing. Two weeks later, people in a village about 28 miles away found a man's body in a nearby forest. Local media reports suggested there was clear tape wrapped around his head and hands, and scars of torture.
Reshat Ametov's wife identified the body as her husband. Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into Reshat Ametov's disappearance and death. They're concerned the crime is not the only one of its kind. For weeks, armed, masked men who refuse to identify themselves have harassed and intimidated people, says Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. And Crimean Tatars living in Brooklyn and Queens told the New York Daily News that relatives in Crimea report that X's have been slashed in paint on the doors of some Tatar families.
Enver Ablakimov was at Reshat Ametov's funeral. He's 21 years old and told the Kyiv Post: There were always people here who didn't like us, but before, they hid it. Now, with the appearance of the Russian army, they feel protected and understand that no one will do anything. So, it's the experience of the past with Russia that may make Tatars in Crimea apprehensive about the future.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.