Home Sweet Home: Crimean Political Prisoners Return To Ukraine
28 October, 2017

When Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz returned to Kyiv on October 27, a large crowd was waiting at Boryspil Airport to greet them. The two men — deputy chairmen of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis assembly and, until recently, political prisoners — had been freed by Russia two days earlier and sent to Turkey.  

People waving Crimean Tatar flags in the terminal at Boryspil airport. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Representatives from the Mejlis, the Ukrainian Ministry of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, and the Ministry of Information Policy organized a reception ceremony. Fellow Crimeans, friends, family, and journalists waited for Umerov and Chiygoz. Many of the young Crimean Tatars came carrying national flags.

Daily prayer. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Just before Umerov and Chiygoz’s flight from Ankara landed, Umerov’s daughter Aishe, Chiygoz’s wife Elmira Ablyalimova and the two men’s former lawyer Mykola Polozov arrived from Crimea by car.

The chairman of the of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis assembly Refat Chubarov (second from right), the deputy chairman Ilmi Umerov (left, in an embrace), the leader of the Crimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev (third from right), deputy chairman of the Mejilis Akhtem Chiygoz (right), October 27, Boryspil Airport Photo credit: HROMADSKE

When Umerov and Chiygoz arrived, the crowd shouted “Welcome!” in Crimean Tatar and also sang the Ukrainian national anthem.

Elmira Ablyalimova, wife of Crimean political prisoner Akhtem Chiygoz, greets her husband with an embrace. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

At the ensuing press briefing, the deputy chairmen of the Mejlis thanked the Ukrainian and Turkish presidents for all the efforts that went into their release.

The released political prisoners and those who came to meet them, together with a children’s musical ensemble, sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Deputy Chairman of the Mejilis Ilmi Umerov (center). Photo credit: HROMADSKE

The two former political prisoners, who had met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the previous day, emphasized that they asked him to assist in the release of other Crimean prisoners, especially film director Oleg Sentsov.

Umerov’s former lawyer, Mykola Polozov, also greets the former political prisoners. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Aishe Umerova, daughter of Mejlis Deputy Chairman Ilmi Umerov. Photo credit: HROMADSKE

Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz assured everyone that they would do everything in their power to return Crimea to Ukraine. They said they will attempt to travel to the peninsula in the coming weeks, as they have not received an official entry ban. After being reunited with their loved ones and speaking to the press, Umerov and Chiygoz went to the Presidential Administration building, where they received state awards from President Petro Poroshenko.

/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko