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US Dept of State demands release of detained Crimean Tatars suspected of damaging gas pipeline

WASHINGTON. Sept 6 (Interfax) – The US Department of State has demanded the release of those detained in Crimea, Nariman Dzhelyalov, who, according to open sources, is the first deputy head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, and four other people suspected of involvement in the case of damaging the gas pipeline.

"We call on the Russian occupation authorities to release them immediately.  This is the latest in a long line of politically-motivated raids, detentions, and punitive measures against the Mejlis and its leadership, which has been targeted for repression for its opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea," a statement posted by the U.S. Department of State reads.

It says that the United States "reaffirmed during the August 23 Crimea Platform Summit, Crimea is Ukraine, and the United States is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Nariman Dzhelyalov, a resident of Crimea, is suspected under two articles of the Russian Criminal Code: "sabotage" and "complicity" in the gas pipeline damage case, Dzhelyalov’s lawyer Emine Avameleva told Interfax on Sunday.

After searches in Crimea on September 3-4, apart from Dzhelyalov, Eldar Odamanov, Aziz and Asan Akhtemovs, Shevket Useinov were detained, Odamanova’s lawyer Lilya Gemeji told Interfax.

Earlier it was reported that the police opened a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (intentional destruction or damage to property) due to "mechanical" damage to the gas pipeline in the village of Perevalnoye, which is located on the road from Simferopol towards Yalta.

In August, Ukraine hosted the founding summit of the Crimea Platform – the format of consultations and coordination of Kyiv’s international partners in order to counteract the consequences of Crimea’s inclusion in Russia and the return of the peninsula under Ukrainian control.