The flag of the Tatars was the rallying call for an estimated 10,000 protesters outside the Crimean regional parliament in Simferopol. It was a show of unity by a people who see themselves as Russian but citizens of Ukraine.
Their ancestors were purged from the region in 1944 during Soviet rule by Stalin. An official apology with a call to return to Ukraine was given by Kyiv in 1991. They do not want the country to be divided.
“I am an ethnic Russian but I want to live in the territory of Ukraine,” stressed one of the Tatars.
There were reports of some minor clashes with pro-Russian demonstrators calling for the region to return to rule from Moscow. There are reports that some of the protesters raised a Russian flag on the parliament building.
The Crimea was gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by the then General Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Krushchev.
The Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet is harboured in the city of Sevastopol.