Vandals Desecrate Muslim Graves

KIEV -- Vandals have desecrated a Muslim cemetery on Ukraine's Black Sea Crimea peninsula, highlighting persistent ethnic tensions in the region, officials said Friday.

The regional police said someone overturned about 40 gravestones at the cemetery outside the province's main city of Simferopol late Thursday. The attack likely reflected tensions between Muslim Tatars -- a Turkic ethnic group -- and ethnic Ukrainians and Russians in the Crimea.

Representatives of the Crimean Tatars said the vandals had written offensive signs and slogans on the cemetery's fence.

Tatar leaders are accusing the authorities of turning a blind eye on what they say is rising xenophobia in the multiethnic region. Another Tatar cemetery was badly vandalized in February.

In 1944, the Tatar population of Crimea was deported en masse on the orders of Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis. Many have returned since 1991.