Two years ago today President Putin signed the decree confirming the illegal annexation of Crimea. Today, Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, condemns Russia’s continued breach of international law and calls on Russia to end its illegal actions and return Crimea to Ukraine.
Two years ago today, Russia tried to legitimise its illegal occupation of Crimea with a unilateral “treaty” to “absorb” the peninsula – in reality it was a land grab, plain and simple.
Less than a week earlier, the Kremlin had staged an illegitimate “referendum” in Crimea. The so-called “referendum” was a mockery of democracy, cobbled together in just two weeks, at the point of a Russian bayonet and without independent international monitors. It was used as a pre-planned pretext for annexing Crimea, the first change by force to Europe’s borders in decades.
By annexing Ukraine’s land, violating its territorial integrity, and destabilising east Ukraine, Russia has contravened international law and challenged the rules based international order.
Such actions are simply not acceptable. That is why we are standing firm against this dangerous behaviour and responding in the serious and strategic way that this challenge demands, including sustaining our sanctions on Russia.
Our position is clear – we do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal takeover of Crimea.
Nor will we forget the continuing human rights abuses suffered by the victims of Russia’s aggression, including Crimea’s ethnic minorities - notably the sizable Crimean Tatar community who have borne the brunt of violations for which Russia is responsible. The recent decision by the Russian authorities to list the Crimean Tatar parliament as an extremist organisation is of serious concern. All allegations of human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, restrictions on freedom of expression, religion and right to assembly, must be fully investigated.
The illegal annexation of Crimea was an act of aggression. And in the face of this aggression, we must stand united in defence of our values.
I call on Russia to end its occupation and return Crimea to Ukraine.