SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Police struggled to keep apart rival groups holding competing rallies Wednesday in Ukraine's largely pro-Russian Crimea region where the regional parliament was to hold a crisis session on the turmoil that has gripped the country.
In the regional capital of Simferopol, 10,000 Muslim Crimean Tatars rallied in support of Ukraine's interim leaders, waving Ukrainian flags and chanting "Ukraine is not Russia" and "Allahu Akbar," while a smaller pro-Russian rally nearby called for stronger ties with Russia and waved Russian flags.
Protesters shouted and punched each other in ongoing scuffles, as police and leaders from both sides struggled to keep the two groups apart.
The tensions in Crimea, a peninsula jutting into the Black Sea that is strategically critical because it is home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet, highlight the divisions that run through this country of 46 million after months of protests that ultimately forced the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the capital. It also underscores fears that the country's mainly Russian-speaking east will not recognize the interim authorities' legitimacy.
Crimean Tatars took an active part in the protest movement against Yanukovych and harbor deep resentment against the Kremlin, having been deported en masse on the orders of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during World War II.
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