Three years of illegal occupation of Crimea
It's now been three years since Russia's illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Human rights in Crimea has deteriorated at an alarming rate in just a few years.
Russia disregards not only the very fabric of international law but also the basic rights of thousands of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea.
Such actions are part of the Kremlin’s broader pattern, which has also manifested itself in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces continue to target civilians as well as strategic infrastructure and have failed to implement the Minsk Agreements.
Despite the repeated calls by Ukraine and the international community demanding the immediate release of the illegally detained Ukrainians, the Russian leadership continues its shameful practice of using Ukrainians as hostages of its aggressive policy against our country.
Repression is rife
Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians continue to face constant discrimination and in many cases murders, tortures, harassment and arrests under fabricated charges.
For the first time since Stalin’s rule, Russia has started targeting dissidents with punitive psychiatry.
Russia has persecuted journalists, human rights defenders and activists as it seeks to eliminate public opposition to the illegal occupation of Crimea.
Local independent media have nearly all been coopted, pushed out, or forced to flee.
Russian forces regularly carry out illegal raids on mosques and Islamic schools under the pretext of confiscating banned Islamic literature.
Perhaps most worryingly of all, the Russian Supreme Court has moved to ban Mejlis, elected, self-governing body of Crimean Tatars, under false accusations of extremist activity.
With this act of repression against pro-Ukrainian communities, the Russian Supreme Court has endorsed a systemic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
This decision threatens around 3,000 members of the almost 250 central and local Mejlis structures, adding to the almost 40,000 Ukrainian citizens – around half of whom are of Crimean Tatar descent – who have already been forced to leave their homes in occupied Crimea and settle in other areas of Ukraine.
The situation shows no signs of improving, on the contrary, the unprecedented militarisation of the occupied Crimea has changed the security landscape in the region and constitutes a direct threat to the whole Europe.
Russian military forces have been nearly doubled and potential carriers of nuclear weapons, including warships, missile systems, and combat aircraft have already been deployed in the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia is clearly signalling that it does not intend to back down.
But this is more than a mere show of strength; its actions are indicative of far more sinister undertones.
Russia tries to persuade all of us that essential principles of international law and our common values - democracy, rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms – are no longer universal.
If we give in it would be a threat to human liberty as a whole.
it is time to act
After three years of the occupation and military aggression against Ukraine, it is high time for the international community to find a proper political response to Russia’s behaviour.
The UN GA Resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)” (2016) supported by the majority of UN Member States should be upheld and serve as guiding principles.
The EU should be ready to step up diplomatic and political pressure on Russia, including by strengthening its sanctions policy, to show that it won’t stand by and allow further severe human rights abuses on its doorstep.
We should spare no effort to make Russia urgently release all Ukrainian citizens who were illegally detained for political reasons at the territory of Russia or occupied Crimea as well as ensure unhindered access to Crimean peninsula for international human rights organisations and conventional mechanisms to put an immediate end to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied territories.
It is high time to elaborate and launch international negotiation mechanism for de-occupation of Crimea to restore Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula.
Russia should abolish all its illegal decisions, which lead to the occupation of the Crimea.
It is only Russia’s return to the tenets of international law that will ensure peace and stability on the European continent and will lift the threat of chaos and domination of force in the international relations.
Mykola Tochytskyi is chief of Ukraine's mission to the EU