Huff Post: by Alissa De Carbonel —
(Reuters) – Only five days ago, Tatars of Ukraine’s Crimea came out in their thousands, chanting Allahu Akbar in a show of loyalty to the new authorities in Kiev and opposition to separatist demands by the region’s Russian ethnic majority.
But now, with Moscow’s military forces having unexpectedly seized control, the indigenous Muslim people of the isolated Black Sea peninsula have all but vanished from the public square, keeping their heads down to avoid being sucked into war.
“If there is a conflict, as the minority, we will be the first to suffer,” said Usein Sarano, 57, as the midday call to prayer rung out from the 16th-century stone minarets of Bakhchisaray, once an ancient Tatar capital.
“We are scared for our families, for our children. This could be a new Yugoslavia.”
Back on Wednesday, thousands of Tatars turned out in the streets of Simferopol, the regional capital, marching in favor of Kiev’s new government at a counter demonstration to one held by Russian separatists. Some people were hurt in the scrum.
The next morning before dawn, unidentified armed men seized the Crimean parliament in a mysterious raid, since revealed to have been the start of a military operation launched by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to take control of the region.
Since then, there has been no sign of further Tatar protests. The community’s leader Refat Chubarov – once outspoken in his opposition to the prospect that Russia might try to seize the peninsula – chose his words carefully at a press conference in Simferopol on Saturday.