The West Must Not Abandon Crimea And Ukraine To Russian Aggression

KIEV, Ukraine -- Five years ago, Russia gravely challenged the idea of a peaceful and free Europe. With its aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia openly demonstrated its contempt for the principles of international law, and presented a serious threat to European security.


The construction of the Kerch bridge by Russia is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Today, the people of Ukraine are more united than ever in their support for their country’s European orientation.

Ukraine still has many demanding tasks and reforms to implement, but impressive progress has been made despite ongoing Russian aggression.

Ukraine of today is profoundly different from Ukraine pre-2014, and has never before been so close to Europe and European values.

By contrast, Crimea under Russian occupation is moving backwards.

The people living there are ever more isolated, and the situation with respect to human rights and socio-economic conditions continues to deteriorate.

The illegal annexation of Crimea – an act condemned by the international community – has jeopardised the international rules-based system.

The illegitimate “referendum” in Crimea on 16 March 2014 was judged illegal and invalid by the international community.

During these past five years that community has called, in the strongest terms, for Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be restored.

Sanctions and the non-recognition policy pursued by the EU, NATO and G7 member states reflect our common efforts, and our refusal to accept that the illegal occupation of any territory of a sovereign country can become the norm in the 21st century.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission and other international organisations have reported grave human rights violations in Crimea against the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority, ethnic Ukrainians, the non-Russian orthodox religious minorities and civil society activists.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill treatment and torture and at least one extrajudicial execution have been documented.

A large number of political prisoners and detainees awaiting trial have been transferred from Crimea to the Russian Federation, despite the fact that this practice is strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law.

One of the most poignant cases is the arrest and trial of the Ukrainian filmmaker, Oleg Sentsov, last year’s recipient of the European parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, Sentsov has become a symbol of struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world.

Last year there were increased tensions in and around the Sea of Azov.

The construction of the Kerch bridge by Russia is not only another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but has also been used as a tool to create artificial delays in traffic going to and from Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, hindering free navigation and imposing additional hardship on Ukraine’s economy, especially the port cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

The unjustified attack on Ukrainian vessels near the Kerch strait on 25 November 2018, their seizure and the illegal detention of their crews constituted a blatant violation of international law.

We call on Russia to release the arrested Ukrainian sailors, to return the captured vessels and to comply with its international commitments by ensuring free navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch strait. 

The events that unfolded in Crimea five years ago have once again taught us that we cannot take our security and freedom for granted.

The international rules-based system that is fundamental for our shared global security has been undermined, and we must stand ready to uphold international law and our individual and collective security.

Another lesson is that we have to strengthen the resilience of our societies against various forms of attacks and interference.

Ukraine has made real progress in this direction over the course of the past five years, supported by its partners.

Other European countries have learned from the events in Ukraine and are working to improve their own resilience.

Bringing stability back to the Euro-Atlantic space is our common goal.

Europe and its transatlantic partners have demonstrated their ability to unite in the face of external challenges, but we must continue to strengthen our resilience against attempts to disrupt this unity or weaken our collective security.

We will continue our non-recognition policy with respect to the illegal annexation of Crimea, and continue to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in the strongest terms.

Providing help and assistance to Ukraine is crucial as Ukraine’s security is linked to the security of the whole of Europe.

The policy of coordinated international sanctions sends a clear message to Russia that disregard for international law has consequences.

We will neither forget nor abandon Crimea.

Signatories 

  • Edgars Rinkēvičs, minister of foreign affairs of Latvia 
  • Pavlo Klimkin, minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine 
  • Sven Mikser, minister of foreign affairs of Estonia 
  • Linas Linkevičius, minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania 
  • Jacek Czaputowicz, minister of foreign affairs of Poland 
  • Margot Wallström, minister of foreign affairs of Sweden 
  • Anders Samuelsen, minister of foreign affairs of Denmark 
  • Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs of Canada 
  • Teodor Meleşcanu, minister of foreign affairs of Romania 
  • Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs 
  • Tomáš Petříček, minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic 
Source: The Guardian

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