MOSCOW : Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday he had signed a decree rehabilitating Crimea’s Tatars, an ethnic group accused of collaborating with Nazi Germany and exiled under Stalin.

“I have signed a decree to rehabilitate the Crimean Tatar population of Crimea, the Armenian population, Germans, Greeks, all those who suffered during Stalin’s purges,” Putin told a government meeting. Crimea’s 300,000 Tatars, who make up around 12 percent of the population, largely boycotted a disputed referendum last month in which nearly 97 percent of voters chose to split from Ukraine and join Russia. The decree is seen is an attempt to win the sympathies of Tatars, who view the Kremlin with distrust and are seeking a quota system to ensure power sharing in the local government. Crimea’s entire Tatar population was deported to Central Asia at the end of World War Two.  They began returning to Crimea under former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and became Ukrainian nationals after that country won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.