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Four injured in ethnic clash in Crimea
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Aug. 13 – Four people were injured in Crimea Saturday after hundreds of ethnic Russians had clashed with Crimean Tatars over a market place forcing the authorities to send riot police to stop the fight.

This is the second clash between the two ethnic groups in Bakhchisaray over the past month raising further concerns about mounting tensions in an ethnically sensitive region.

Ihor Drizhchaniy, the chief of SBU security service, local leaders and law enforcement officials held an emergency meeting in Crimea following the clash, seeking immediate steps to diffuse the tensions, officials said.

During the meeting, the authorities, Crimean Tatar leaders and law enforcement agencies have agreed in principle to remove the market place that had been erected near an ancient Muslim cemetery.

Refat Chubarov, the deputy head of Medzhlis, the Crimean Tatar ruling body, told Interfax-Ukraine on Sunday that the parties have signed declaration that calls for removing the market place from the area.

The owner of the market place, an ethnic Russian, has apparently agreed to start dismantling it on Tuesday and will completely dismantle the market place within 10 days, Chubarov said. The area must be completely free from the market place by Sept. 12, he said.

Meanwhile, there were signs that the situation has been slowly getting out of control from the central government and could lead to a new wave of tensions, analysts warned.

The clash broke out a day after Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had visited Crimea for meetings that had been apparently aimed at diffusing the tensions. The clash shows that Yanukovych mission had failed, analysts said.

Yanukovych on Friday supported the plan that calls for shutting down the market place within a month. But the plan was not apparently backed by Crimean leaders, including Crimean Parliament Speaker Anatoliy Hrytsenko and Crimean Prime Minister Viktor Plakida. Hrytsenko is the leader of a party that has so far been loyal to Yanukovych.

A Crimean lawmaker, Oleh Rodivilov, the leader of the Crimean branch of the Russian Bloc and a member of a party loyal for Yanukovych, apparently led the attack on Crimean Tatars on Saturday, according to a spokeswoman of Medzhlis.

At one point, three hundreds of ethnic Russians clashed with about the same number of Crimea Tatars, forcing the authorities to dispatch the riot police that had fired shots in the air to stop the fight.

Rodivilov was not available for comments on Sunday.

The development may indicate a split between the central government and the local government in Crimea unless the issue is tackled quickly, analysts said.

Mustafa Dzhamiliov, the leader of the Medzhlis, said the clash may have been politically motivated and provoked to destabilize the situation in the region. But he fell short of naming the parties that may have been responsible. (tl/ez)

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