Ukraine’s Zelenskyy hosts Ramadan iftar, honors Muslim Tatars shunned by Russia

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday hosted an iftar attended by servicemen and representatives of the Muslim community.

Iftar marks the time when observing Muslims break their fast, at sunset, during the holy month of Ramadan.

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Muslim military personnel, representatives of the ethnic Tatar people from Crimea, and members of the Muslim community, were among those who took part in the second state-led iftar, which was held on the territory of the Religious Administration of Muslims of Crimea.

At the gathering, Zelenskyy presented the Orders of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, III class, and the Orders “For Courage,” III class, to intelligence officers, artillerymen, machine gunners, and servicemen in the assault forces, the president’s office said in a statement on Monday.

Ukraine began the state-led iftar event in 2023, where Zelenskyy accused Russia of mistreating the majority-Muslim Tatar minority community of Moscow-annexed Crimea.

This year, Zelenskyy said: “I would like to recognize Muslim warriors – all those who are part of the Defense and Security Forces of Ukraine defending our country, our freedom. I thank each of our warriors for their bravery. I thank everyone who brings the liberation of our entire land and our Crimea closer.”

Ukraine recognized Tatar as indigenous in 2014. Muslims make up almost one percent of the population in Ukraine, which is predominantly Orthodox Christian.

Meanwhile, at least 13 percent of Crimea’s population are Tatars, but the community faces the brunt of the Russian occupation.

In 2016, Russia’s supreme court classified the Mejlis, a Crimean Tatar elected representative body, as an extremist organization. They were present for the Monday event.

At the iftar, the leader of the Tatar community, Mustafa Dzhemilev, was quoted as saying in the statement that “war for one’s Homeland is a duty for every Muslim.”
“You are now fulfilling not only your civil but also your religious duty.”

The iftar prayer was led by the Mufti of the Religious Administration of Muslims of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Ayder Rustamov.

Many Muslims are said to be fighting in various positions within the Ukrainian military.

“We are very grateful to our warriors who are jointly pushing the enemy out of our land, defending justice and peace,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, was quoted as saying.

Ukrainian attacks along the frontlines have increased in recent weeks as the war between Russia and Ukraine drags on into the third year.

The escalation comes at a time when Moscow is reeling from a deadly attack on a concert hall, claimed by ISIS, that killed at least 137 people and injured 182.
Russia has also increased large-scale bombings and attacks in Ukraine, destroying critical infrastructure.

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