UWC calls for heightened sanctions on the 5th anniversary of Russia’s invasion and illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula
On March 16, 2014, under the watchful eye of Russian militia, the people of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula were forced to vote in favour of union with Russia. Five years have passed since Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula was invaded by the Russian military and illegally occupied. This sham referendum has been unanimously condemned as illegal and illegitimate by the European Union and every democracy around the world. This Ukrainian territory today continues to be occupied by the Russian Federation in contravention to international law and multiple security agreements.
“The Ukrainian World Congress calls upon the international community to increase economic and political sanctions against the Russian Federation for this illegal occupation and militarization of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Governmental and non-governmental organizations must establish monitoring missions to gather information about the ongoing human rights violations and war crimes being committed by the Russian military and their proxies on Ukraine’s occupied territories of Crimea and the Donbas. This evidence will be important in future war crimes trials against Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants who are responsible for the murder of over 10,000 people in Ukraine, the bombing of flight MH17, political assassinations of their political opponents in Russia, Ukraine and around the world, chemical weapons attacks in Syria, among many other crimes,” stated UWC President Paul Grod. “We call upon all governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses such as Google to maintain their support for Ukraine and those people on Ukraine’s occupied territories by abiding by U.S., Canadian, European and United Nations policy of non-recognition of Russia’s military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.”
Since the beginning of the invasion in February 2014, Russian occupation authorities have increasingly militarized the peninsula, using Crimea as a platform for the aggression against Ukraine and threatening other states in the Black Sea region. Russia has been actively refurbishing old Soviet military bases in Crimea and building new ones stocked with the latest weaponry and equipment. The coastline is being fortified and new military airfields are being built. Close to 60,000 Russian troops are currently stationed in occupied Crimea, with the possibility for rapid expansion to 100,000. In contravention of international law, the Russian occupation authorities have also drafted about 12,000 Crimean residents into its armed forces.
The ongoing militarization of Crimea was demonstrated in late November last year with the attack and seizure by the Russian Federation of three Ukrainian vessels and crew in international waters near the Kerch Strait. To this day, the vessels and their 24 crew members remain captive in Russia. This is in addition to the 70 Ukrainian political prisoners, including renowned filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who remain imprisoned by Russia in violation of international law.
Over the past five years there has been a rapid deterioration of the human rights of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians opposed to the occupation. Thousands are the subject of persecution including show trials, illegal detentions, murders, disappearances, and threats. The rights of national and religious minorities residing on the Crimean Peninsula are systematically violated. Among these violations was the disbanding in 2016 on fabricated charges of extremism by the Russian Federation of the Meijlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people.
Russia’s occupation authorities have eradicated centres of Ukrainian cultural and religious life on the peninsula, including the closure of Ukrainian schools, churches, and cultural societies. All independent media outlets and NGOs that did not abide by the Kremlin’s narratives have been forced to shut down or relocate to mainland Ukraine. The resulting vacuum has been filled by the Russian state outlets with their anti-Ukrainian disinformation and pro-Kremlin propaganda.
UWC calls on the international community to bring the Russian Federation to justice for its ongoing violation of international law, human rights and war crimes, and its ongoing military aggression against Ukraine. Specifically, the international community must:
- closely monitor the security and human rights situation on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the Donbas region;
- deploy and secure entry for a permanent monitoring mission to Crimea to protect the residents from continued persecution and human rights violations;
- secure the immediate and unconditional release of all Ukrainian political prisoners, hostages, and prisoners of war languishing in Russian jails;
- develop a multilateral de-occupation platform;
- introduce additional restrictive measures and sanctions, including prohibition of Russian ships from docking at EU, U.S., Canadian and other international ports; and
- terminate construction of the NordStream2 pipeline from Russia to Europe which is intended to isolate Ukraine and destabilize Europe’s energy security.
UWC welcomes the European Parliament’s Resolution of 12 March 2019 calling for the termination of any Russia-EU strategic partnership and continuation of the EU sanctions policy against Russia. The UWC also congratulates and calls upon the international community to follow the precedent of the U.S. Congress in passing the Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act, that enshrines in legislation the non-recognition of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine around the globe must amplify this effort to raise awareness and maintain international pressure on Russia until it withdraws its troops from the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas.