This month marks the second anniversary of the sham referendum on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which Russia held in violation of international law and the Ukrainian constitution. The United States, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rob Berschinski, "does not and will not recognize Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea, and our Crimea sanctions will remain in place as long as the occupation continues."
The human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated appallingly, as occupation authorities have moved systematically to suppress dissent and impose and enforce repressive Russian laws. Ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Crimean Tatar community, have faced a campaign of repression.
Raids, arrests, baseless prosecutions and other intimidation tactics have become regular facts of life for the Tatar community. Tatar leaders have been banned from Crimea, and Tatar institutions like the Mejlis have been closed with Russia threatening to criminalize them.
Two years of disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Tatars and Ukrainians remain unsolved, and show trials of those opposing the occupation continue. Additionally,religious institutions not explicitly loyal to Russia face harassment and closure.
Russia has also cut Crimea off from outside news and information and has attempted to silence or drive out non-governmental organizations and independent media. International observers have been denied access to the peninsula.
The United States remains deeply concerned by the situation in Russian-occupied Crimea. The U.S. and the international community, said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby, "will not accept the redrawing of borders by force in the 21st century. Sanctions related to Crimea will remain in place as long as the occupation continues. [The U.S.] again call[s] on Russia to end that occupation and return Crimea to Ukraine."