In an interview with Russia Today-Crimea, Zaur Smirnov referred to the Crimean Tatar battalion as an ‘extremist group’, adding that the Crimean government is aware of the fact that ISIS militants and members of the Grey Wolves, a group banned in Turkey, are being recruited to the battalion.  

“We are aware of the fact that militants of ISIS, an organization involved in hostilities in Syria and banned in Russia, as well as members of the Grey Wolves, a group banned in Turkey, are being recruited to the battalion. Neither of the two groups have anything to do with Islam and Crimean Tatars,” Smirnov said.

Smirnov also called an explosion that occurred outside Kharkov’s Mejlis office ‘a response to the presence of representatives of foreign radical groups in Ukraine’.  

“The Ukrainian authorities are doing nothing about radicals getting increasingly active, which is only making things worse. If what is happening in the Kherson region starts happening all over Ukraine, the so-called Jihad the group declared will help it gain more followers. In fact, they are now being actively recruited, including outside Ukraine. If that happens, Ukraine may face a greater risk of becoming a hot spot like Syria,” Smirnov claims.

Lenur Islyamov, coordinator of Crimea blockade, whom QHA reached for comment, had the following to say about the allegations Smirnov made.

“There are no ISIS militants in our battalion. It is mainly made up of Crimean Tatars, as well as Crimean Turks. Five million Crimean Tatars live in Turkey. We are all brothers, I mean Crimean Turks. It’s a choice of each citizen to fight against Russian occupation. Therefore, we want to join all nations, all Muslims. The battalion will be made up of representatives of all nationalities. Not only kosher food, but also an imam and chaplain.

I would advise Zaur to handle repatriates and water supply. He is a Crimean Tatar but he is funding Cossacks in Crimea. He has ceased being Zaur and become Smirnov now,” said Islyamov.