Thursday

19th May 2022

Opinion

Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Four years ago, on 18 March 2014, Russia took the final step to illegally occupy Crimea, a part of Ukraine's sovereign territory that Russia had recognised as such in several international treaties.

The Russian takeover comprised a series of equally illegal actions: from using disguised Russian elite troops to the hasty organisation – in breach of Ukrainian and international law – of an illegitimate "referendum".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

President Putin initially claimed that those troops had no association with Russia, but then admitted that he had ordered the entire takeover in late February 2014. He later generously decorated Russian servicemen with medals for carrying out the occupation.

The inhabitants of Crimea suddenly found themselves living under Moscow's de facto rule. They have subsequently been forced to obtain Russian citizenship, and to serve in the Russian armed forces – both in violation of international law.

Broad repressive policies have followed, leading to widespread human rights abuses such as imprisonment on political grounds, closure of media outlets and schools, and several cases of killings and disappearances.

The indigenous Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, many opposed to the illegal annexation, have been particularly targeted. Dozens have been convicted on trumped up charges, such as the appalling 20-year prison sentence for "terrorism" handed down to Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker.

Sentsov and more than 60 other political prisoners must be released immediately. The dire human rights situation in Crimea, as reported by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and others, must be addressed without delay.

Access must be granted to international monitoring organisations. Some brave civil society organisations have taken on the tough task of defending human rights. They deserve our full support.

Russia claims that the "annexation" represents "new facts on the ground". Today, stating that Crimea is part of Ukraine according to international law is regarded by Russia as an act of separatism and punishable by law.

No international recognition

But Russia's claims on Crimea have not been acknowledged by any other international actor. Its violations of international law and the continuous militarisation of Crimea have been widely condemned by the international community.

The UN General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions reaffirming the commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted the illegal annexation.

The construction of the Kerch bridge will be considered in this context. The EU has also introduced a ban on trade and investment and restrictions on travel and tourism.

Moreover, the EU does not recognise elections held by Russia in Crimea.

We will not allow Crimea to slip off the international agenda.

To this end the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini makes a yearly statement on Crimea on behalf of the EU. As long as the illegal annexation continues, the restrictive measures and sanctions will be maintained.

The illegal occupation of Crimea increases the security risks in the Black Sea region, but its repercussions reach far beyond the region.

Together with the ongoing Russian aggression in the Donbas, it also violates the European security order, a set of rules and principles that have served as the basis for Europe's stability and security since the end of the Cold War.

What happened in Crimea is not just about Ukraine, it concerns us all. That is why we will neither forget nor abandon Crimea.

Anders Samuelsen, minister for foreign affairs of Denmark, Sven Mikser, minister of foreign affairs of Estonia, Edgars Rinkevics, minister of foreign affairs of Latvia, Linas Linkevicius, minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania, Jacek Czaputowicz, minister of foreign affairs of Poland, Teodor-Viorel Melescanu, minister of foreign affairs of Romania, Margot Wallstroem, minister for foreign affairs of Sweden, Pavlo Klimkin, minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Feature

Sanctions on Crimea hurt some more than others

From small businesses to commercial giants, many have been affected by the US and EU sanctions imposed after Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014. But some locals have found ways around them.

Feature

Crimeans seek stable life under Russian control

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, there has been a somewhat mixed reaction to the increased Russian presence on the peninsula. Some welcome it, others reject it in hushed voices.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

West told Ukraine to abandon Crimea, document says

US moved warships out of Russia's way. Germany urged Ukraine not to fight - newly-published minutes of a Kiev crisis meeting in 2014 show how the West let Putin seize Crimea out of "fear."

Exclusive

Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani said he is resigning as a board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. His replacement may be Jerome Riviere - another far-right French MEP from the Identity and Democracy group.

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Finland expects cut in gas supply after Nato application
  2. Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands push offshore wind
  3. Turkey strong-arms Finland and Sweden on extraditions
  4. Sharp increase in irregular migration to EU
  5. Russia ejects 85 European diplomats
  6. Germany shuts ex-chancellor Schröder's office over Putin ties
  7. Russia soldier pleads guilty to Ukraine war crime
  8. EU to protect Finland and Sweden until they join Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Nordic Bridges unveil latest highlights of Spring programme
  2. EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities
  3. EU and US keen to seize Russian funds for Ukraine
  4. EU to boost solar and renewables rollout to cut Russian gas
  5. Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag
  6. Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy
  7. Watchdog calls for tougher curbs on 'problematic' revolving doors
  8. Borrell: EU arms flow to Ukraine amid 'record' Russian losses

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us