It’s been three years since Russia seized and occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
“Russia then staged an illegitimate referendum in which residents of Crimea were compelled to vote, while heavily armed foreign forces occupied their land,” noted
Acting State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner in a recent press statement.
“The United States,” he said, “does not recognize Russia’s [so-called] ‘referendum’ of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law. We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Since the occupation of Crimea three years ago, Russian authorities have moved systematically to suppress dissent in the peninsula. “Human rights monitors have documented enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and punitive psychiatric hospitalizations,” said Mr. Toner. “Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists, and independent journalists have been subjected to politically motivated prosecution and ongoing repression.”
Mr. Toner noted that Russian occupation authorities have silenced and forced the closure of nongovernmental organizations and independent media. International observers have been denied access to the peninsula.
In addition, the State Department’s most recent reports on the state of human rights, as well as on the condition of religious freedom in Crimea, point out that Russian-installed authorities have taken few steps to investigate or prosecute officials or individuals who have committed human rights abuses, creating an atmosphere of impunity and lawlessness; and that religious congregations not explicitly loyal to Russia are subject to harassment and intimidation.
The United States calls on Russia “to cease its attempts to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion,” said Acting State Department Spokesperson Toner. “Crimea is a part of Ukraine.”
“The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place,” he added, “until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”