On 26 February, Ukraine marks the Day of Resistance to Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol.
On that day in 2014, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People organized a ten-thousand-strong rally in front of the Crimean Parliament building in Simferopol in protest against the intentions to tear Crimea away from Ukraine. Since then, 26 February has become for Ukraine a symbol of resistance to the occupation, which has already lasted for seven years.
Russia seized Crimea by armed aggression and attempted its illegal annexation on the pretext of an unlawful and rigged referendum. By doing so, it grossly violated the basic principles of international law and undermined the European and global security system.
Russia has been pursuing a criminal policy of colonization and assimilation of the peninsula from day one of the occupation. It systemically violates international law and human rights, uses brutal repression against all those, who have the courage to resist the occupation. The national, cultural, and religious rights of ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are being curtailed, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is being persecuted, the freedom of speech is suppressed and the independent media are destroyed.
The occupiers purposefully persecute the indigenous people of the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars, who do not accept the occupation. Russia is trying to criminalize all dissidents, illegally detaining them and convicting them on trumped-up charges of "terrorism" and "extremism." Back in 2016, Russia banned the Mejlis (the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people) and outlawed all its members. Despite the 2017 order of the UN International Court of Justice, the Mejlis remains banned.
Russia is also intensifying the militarization of Crimea. The peninsula, known as Ukraine’s resort area before the occupation, has been transformed into a Russian military base, which poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to other countries in the region, including many NATO and EU-member states.
Ukraine is grateful to its allies and partners for their consistent and effective support in the struggle for the restoration of our country's territorial integrity. The international community should increase political and sanctions pressure on Russia to persuade it to liberate the occupied Ukrainian territories, release all political prisoners, and abide by the international court rulings.
Ukraine continues to consolidate international efforts to achieve the complete de-occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol and to bring Russia to justice for its crimes.
To this end, Ukraine is creating a new international coordination format, the Crimea Platform, and calls on all partners to join it.
Together, we will restore justice and stability through joint actions. Crimea is Ukraine.