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PRESS RELEASE ON THE 6TH ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIA’S OCCUPATION OF THE AUTONOMOUS REPUBLIC OF CRIMEA AND THE CITY OF SEVASTOPOL, UKRAINE
26 February 2020 16:45


Ankara, 26 February 2020

It has been six years since the Russian Federation committed an armed aggression against Ukraine and occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.

By committing this heinous act, Russia flagrantly violated many norms and principles of international law, in particular those inscribed in such cornerstone international documents as the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Final Act. It deliberately disregarded its commitments envisaged in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum where it clearly signed up to respect existing borders of Ukraine and refrain from the threat of force or use of force against the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine. Moreover, it brutally breached numerous bilateral agreements, including the Ukrainian-Russian Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership.

As a result of Russia’s occupation, Crimea has become a grey zone in terms of human rights. Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars as well as all voices of dissent are systematically repressed. The number of political prisoners has long exceeded 100 and continues to grow steadily. The occupying power trumps up charges against activists, uses torture and ill treatment to them. Regardless of the International Court of Justice’s Order of 19 April 2017, activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People remain banned while an obligation to ensure a possibility to study in Ukrainian is ignored. Thousands of people are not allowed to visit Crimea because of Moscow’s unlawful prohibitions. Religious freedom of the believers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as well as Crimean Tatar Muslims increasingly becomes a concern. Moreover, Russia continues to illegally inflict demographic changes in Crimea (in 2014-2018, about 140,000 Russian citizens were relocated to the peninsula). It applies the Russian legislation, in particular assigns its citizenship and practices compulsory conscription to its army, to rule the life and punish local residents who remain under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Despite repeated appeals from the UN General Assembly and other international bodies, Russia refuses to allow international scrutiny of the observance of human rights in occupied Crimea.

At the same time, the Russian Federation spares no effort to legitimize its illegal occupation of Crimea by sending its emissaries illegitimately elected in Crimea to international for a and trying to lure foreign official, business and academic circles into toxic contacts with occupation structures in Crimea.

Russia has also turned Crimea into a massive military base which is used to undermine the security balance in the Black Sea as well as to project power to other regions, in particular to Syria. In its Resolutions 73/194 (2018) and 74/17 (2019), the UN General Assembly expressed its grave concern over the progressive militarization of Crimea by the Russian Federation as the occupying power, as well as over reports of the continuing destabilization of Crimea owing to transfers by the Russian Federation of weapon systems, including nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles. Besides, Russia increasingly tries to “privatize” the Black and Azov Seas while disturbing the freedom of navigation, closing large parts of the region due to drills etc.

Ukraine undertakes all possible measures both at home and at the international arena to restore its territorial integrity and protect rights of the population in Crimea. As a result, the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE, and many other international organizations and bodies have adopted a number of documents calling Russia to halt occupation and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity as well as to remedy violations of human rights, in particular the UN General Assembly resolutions on territorial integrity of Ukraine, situation with human rights in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine) and Russia’s militarization of Crimea and the Black Sea region. Yet, Russia continues to disrespect all these international documents and their prescriptions.

At the same time, Ukraine initiated a number of trials against Russia for the violations of international law, which are now heard by the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, European Court of Human Rights etc. We do our best to bring Russia to account ensuring that violation of international law cannot go without impunity and thus cannot create a dangerous precedent.

The Ukrainian Side relies on further solidarity and support of the international community for its cause and respective endeavors. It is of utmost importance to demonstrate to Russia that it will not be possible to conduct “business as usual” with Moscow as long as it maintains its aggressive policies and, in particular, occupies Crimea and Donbas, disturbs freedom of navigation in the Black and Azov Seas and militarizes the region. International pressure, in particular through adequate restrictive measures, are instrumental to this end.

The Ukrainian Side reiterates that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which are under temporary occupation by Russia, remain an integral part of Ukraine and requests all international partners to refrain from any connections with the occupied peninsula in line, in particular, with the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

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