Putin's spokesperson Dimitry Peskov has upped the rhetorical game by introducing a very charged subject into the debate over the Ukrainian region of Crimea. On Friday, Peskov predicted that "those who were behind the coup" would begin ethnic 'cleansing' in Crimea. Although Peskov's intention was to draw attention to the reasons Putin's government believes Russia's military needs to "protect" the region (which has a large population of ethnic Russians), there is actually a real concern among some about ethnic cleansing in the region amid the unrest. Just not for the reasons Peskov is implying.
During the Stalin-era Soviet Union, the bulk of Crimea's population of Tatars were deported to Central Asia. Although the government claimed that the Tatars had collaborated with the Nazis as their excuse for removing the Sunni Muslim population from its home, there's little evidence of that. In any case, when the Tatars were gone, ethnic Russians moved in to the towns and homes they once occupied, to resettle the peninsula as Russian. About half of the Tatar population died off in exile, until Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the population to once again set foot in Crimea decades later. The Tatars quickly began to repatriate their historical home. And now, Tatars are about 13 percent of the Crimean population, and they're pro-Ukrainian. That's caused a lot of tension.