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Ukraine Crisis Puts Strain on Turkey-Russia Ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council gathering in St. Petersburg in late November 2013. Although the conflict in Ukraine and the treatment of ethnic Tatars in Crimea has strained the Russo-Turkic relationship, Turkey has decided not take as strong a political stand against Russia as its NATO allies. (Photo: Russian Presidential Press Service)

The deepening Ukrainian crisis is placing Turkey in a difficult diplomatic position. At stake for officials in Ankara are Turkey's commitments to its Western allies and its cultural kin, Crimean Tatars, against its economic and political relationship with Moscow.

Turkey’s diplomatic dilemma intensified in early May amid a rapid escalation of tension between Crimean Tatars and Russian officials. The early May troubles were triggered by the banishment of Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Jemilev. Tatar protesters conducted several rallies seeking to have the ban on Jemilev lifted. Local Russian officials responded with a threat to prosecute Tatar leaders and ban their civic organization, the Mejlis.

Prior to the protests, Jemilev lobbied Turkish officials directly for support. “I told the Turkish government that I was banned from entering Crimea under fictitious pretexts,” Jemilev said on May 3 when speaking to reporters in Kyiv.

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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.

Ukraine Crisis Puts Strain on Turkey-Russia Ties

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