The Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol - Ten years under illegal Russian occupation

On 26 February, Ukraine observes the Day of Resistance against the annexation of Crimea.

This significant date serves as a poignant reminder to the global community regarding the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which are pivotal for upholding global ruled-based order and justice.

In 2014 Russia invaded and attempted to annex the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol as well as the temporarily occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

Despite over eight years of concerted diplomatic efforts by Ukraine and its allies within the Normandy format, the objective of liberating Ukrainian territory from occupation and restoring sovereignty failed. Meanwhile, Russia was preparing its full-scale military assault against Ukraine.

Under the guise of occupation, Russia has implemented a draconian regime targeting not only ethnic Ukrainians but also the Crimean Tatar community and any dissenting voices.

The Crimean Tatars, in particular, have borne the brunt of Russia's oppressive measures, enduring incessant incursions into their mosques, residences, and workplaces.

Community leaders find themselves exiled, media outlets silenced, and autonomous governing bodies unjustly vilified as "extremist organizations." Tragically, the plight of those who vanished during the early stages of the occupation, as well as the countless others subjected to torture and persecution by Russia's security apparatus, remains unresolved.

Moreover, hundreds of Crimean children are growing up without paternal guidance, as their fathers languish in Russian penitentiaries, falsely branded as "extremists" and "terrorists" for their peaceful resistance to the occupation.

In addition to targeting specific demographics, Russia has embarked on a campaign to alter the ethnic composition of the temporarily occupied territories. This includes the forced deportation of Ukrainians to the Russian Federation and the coerced resettlement of individuals from remote Russian regions into Ukraine. Such actions not only contravene international norms but also underscore Russia's blatant disregard for the principles enshrined by the OSCE and the United Nations, particularly the prohibition against altering sovereign borders by force.

Furthermore, Russia's invasion extends beyond military aggression to encompass a systematic assault on cultural and educational institutions.

Ukrainian language and literature are systematically suppressed, while propaganda and indoctrination materials flood educational curricula. Military-themed educational programs indoctrinate Ukrainian youth, while media censorship and control over telecommunications infrastructure sever access to unbiased information.

Moreover, Russia's manipulation of religious institutions serves to consolidate its grip over occupied territories, with only Kremlin-affiliated churches permitted to operate. The confiscation of property belonging to displaced Ukrainians further underscores the violent nature of Russia's occupation.

The ongoing occupation of Crimea not only poses a direct threat to Ukrainian sovereignty but also jeopardizes regional stability and international security.

The Russian Federation must be held accountable for its flagrant violations of international law, including aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Concurrently, the international community must rally behind Ukraine, not only to repel external aggression but also to lay the groundwork for a durable and equitable peace settlement. The Peace Formula of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offers a pragmatic pathway towards resolving the conflict and reinstating respect for the rules-based international order.

As we mark the somber anniversaries of Russian aggression, it is imperative to reaffirm our collective commitment to upholding the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The International Crimea Platform, spearheaded by President Zelenskyy, embodies this commitment, uniting over 70 nations and organizations in solidarity against the unlawful occupation of Crimea.

The liberation of Crimea is not merely a Ukrainian cause but a universal imperative, essential for safeguarding regional stability and international peace.

Ruslan Nimchynskyi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Cyprus

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