MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promised a top Tatar official in Russia he would consider rehabilitation for the Crimean Tatars, a painful issue for a people deported under Stalin.
Putin made the comment in a meeting with Rustam Minnikhanov, the president of the Russian republic of Tatarstan on the Volga which is thousands of kilometres from Crimea but whose Tatar population are close ethnic kin of the Crimean Tatars.
Minnikhanov, who has travelled to Crimea after its annexation by Russia, asked Putin to consider the Crimean Tatars a "repressed people" subject to rehabilitation under an earlier Russian law.
"It would be nice if the Crimean Tatars were considered... under the 1991 law," Minnikhanov said. "It would be serious moral support to the Crimean Tatars." Putin responded by saying that he will "certainly examine this" as well as consider meeting Crimean Tatar activists.
The Crimean Tatars, native inhabitants of the peninsula that was annexed by Russia last month, spent decades in Central Asia after Joseph Stalin ordered their banishment, ostensibly for Nazi collaboration.
They were allowed to move back in the late 1980s. But Ukraine never adopted the bill to rehabilitate the people, and Crimean Tatars are still battling with issues of land ownership, among others.
Russia in 1991 adopted a law to rehabilitate repressed people by proclaiming their persecution illegal and granting them the right to compensation and territorial integrity.
Putin has already made overtures to the Crimean Tatars, who were massively opposed to the referendum on March 16 that supported joining up with Russia and still often call Russia "occupants" of the peninsula.
"There was a period when the Crimean Tatars suffered a great injustice, along with other peoples of the Soviet Union," Putin said last month.
"I think there should be necessary political and legal steps that will complete the process of rehabilitation of the Crimean Tatar people, decisions that will reestablish their good name." Tatarstan officials, including Minnikhanov and his hugely powerful strongman predecessor Mintimer Shaimiev, have tried to assure the Crimean Tatars that their rights will be respected in Russia.