A record number of nations are joining together to condemn the Russian Federation's 2014 annexation of the Crimea, Estonia's foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, says.
Speaking at a high-level, UN Security Council (UNSC) video meeting on the topic Friday afternoon, Liimets noted that: "Whereas a year ago, we had seven co-sponsors [in condemning the Crimean annexation], this year, 23 countries supported the meeting – a historic number, which sends a clear signal of condemnation to Russia. Many countries care about what is happening in Crimea."
Estonia is in the second year of its two-year, non-permanent UNSC stint. Russia is permanent member, a post inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had also been a permanent UNSC member.
Friday's meeting, which can be viewed in its entirety here, saw over 30 UN nations represented, including 12 foreign ministers or deputy foreign ministers.
Foreign minister Liimets chaired and moderated the meeting, which marked the seventh anniversary of the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, along with the port city of Sevastopol (which has been administered by Russia separately from the rest of Crimea since 2014 – ed.). Estonia had hosted a UNSC meeting on the same topic a year ago, when Urmas Reinsalu was foreign minister.
Liimets noted the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied region.
She said: "The pressure by the occupying forces on the Crimean Tatar people and Ukrainians living on the peninsula is becoming increasingly oppressive."
"The aim of this persecution is, on the one hand, to suppress any kind of civil activism and, on the other, to pressure native inhabitants into leaving the peninsula."
Estonia's Ambassador to the UN Sven Jürgenson told the meeting that Russia's mass militarisation of the Crimea has also had a deleterious effect on natural habitats and cultural heritage, while blockades of trade routes in the Azov-Black Sea region has done the same for Ukraine's economy.
Significant numbers of people have either relocated or been relocated in the Crimea from the Russian Federation, Liimets said.
"It goes without saying that this violates both the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter," she noted.
Liimets also issued a call to Russia to withdraw militarily from the region and release political detainees.
Six UNSC states – France, the U.K. and the U.S. (permanent members) together with Ireland and Norway (non-permanent members) – were joined by 18 other UN states inluding Canada, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine itself
The keynote speaker was Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights in New York Ilze Brands Kehris.
Estonia's statement can be read in full here.
The full video of Friday's meeting is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte