On Russia’s Ongoing Aggression against Ukraine and Illegal Occupation of Crimea

Ongoing Violations of International Law and Defiance of OSCE Principles and Commitments by the Russian Federation in Ukraine

April 2, 2020

Since Russian troops first invaded Crimea six years ago, citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula have suffered at the hands of their foreign occupier. The United States and other participating States highlight on a weekly basis the litany of abuses Russian occupation authorities inflict upon Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian citizens who oppose Russia’s occupation, including harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture.

We are troubled by the March 25 announcement that occupation authorities have opened a new criminal case against the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Refat Chubarov, for supposedly “inciting mass riots” because he peacefully protested Russia’s seizure of Crimea. This is a transparent attempt to further retaliate against the Mejlis and its leadership for their principled opposition to the occupation. Chubarov has been banned from returning to Crimea since 2014, and the Mejlis has been banned in Crimea as an “extremist organization” since 2016.

We are concerned about the health of all Crimean Tatar political prisoners held by Russia. There are reportedly at least two who have displayed symptoms of COVID 19 but are not being provided appropriate medical treatment, including the leader of the Crimean Solidarity movement, Server Mustafayev. We again urge Russia to release all those it has imprisoned for their opposition to the occupation.

We condemn President Putin’s March 20 decree restricting land ownership in Crimea to those who hold Russian citizenship. This is another attempt to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and a discriminatory measure against residents of Crimea who have retained their Ukrainian citizenship.

One year ago, on March 27, 2019, Russian occupation authorities carried out violent raids on over two dozen Crimean Solidarity movement members in retaliation for their peaceful actions taken in support of other political prisoners, such as observing trials and preparing food parcels. Twenty four men were arrested and immediately transferred to Russia, where they face up to life imprisonment on terrorism charges.

The United States reiterates a simple truth: Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine despite Russia’s violation of its sovereign neighbor’s territorial integrity and its fruitless attempts to justify its violation of international law. Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea via a sham referendum remains widely condemned by the international community. Russia’s militarization of the peninsula threatens our common security. We categorically reject any attempts by Russia to frame its presence in Crimea as anything but an occupation.

As Secretary Pompeo stated in his July 2018 Crimea Declaration, the United States refuses to recognize Moscow’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law. We call on Russia to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere, fulfil its OSCE commitments, and end its occupation of Crimea. The United States again affirms we will maintain sanctions on Russia until it ceases its aggressive behavior.

###