Estonia and 18 countries published a joint statement condemning Russia's "false narrative" about the occupation of Crimea and said it "distorted the realities on the ground".
The joint statement was issued by Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, the UK and the United States.
It followed a Aria-formula meeting at the United Nations Security Council on March 17.
The statement said:
Russia held an informal meeting at the UN today to promote a false narrative about its occupation of Crimea, which it seized in violation of international law in 2014. We condemn Russia's human rights abuses and military build-up on the peninsula. We strongly reject Russia's attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Russia's actions are of global concern and inconsistent with international law, including the UN Charter, and contrary to the Helsinki Final Act.
Today's event distorted the realities on the ground in Crimea and only served the interests of Russia's occupation. If Russia is truly interested in increasing the understanding of the situation in Crimea, it would allow UN, OSCE, and Council of Europe envoys, as well as humanitarian workers, international human rights monitoring missions, and human rights non-governmental organizations, immediate and unimpeded access to Crimea.
As we saw during the March 12 High-Level Arria-Formula meeting on Crimea hosted by Estonia and with 23 co-sponsors, as well as during the February 23 General Assembly Debate, Ukraine has the support of the international community in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We call on Russia to immediately end its occupation, stop human rights abuses, release all Ukrainian prisoners it unjustly holds, cease its aggressive actions in Ukraine, respect its international obligations, and implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements. We reiterate our support for the efforts of the Normandy format and our firm commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in line with the Minsk agreements and with full respect of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Estonia holds UNSC meeting on seventh anniversary of Crimean occupation
On March 12, Estonia organised a high-level virtual meeting at the UN Security Council on Crimea. The discussion was opened and chaired by Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center).
The meeting marked seven years since the Russian Federation unlawfully annexed the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and is a follow-up to the meeting Estonia organised on the same topic at the UN Security Council a year ago.
"While a year ago, we had seven co-sponsors, this year, 23 countries supported the meeting – a historic number that sends a clear signal of condemnation to Russia. Many countries care about what is happening in Crimea," Liimets said.
The human rights situation in Crimea continues to deteriorate and the actions of the Russian Federation have the clear purpose of tilting the demographic situation in Crimea to its favour. According to estimates, thousands of people from Russia have been resettled in Crimea.
"It goes without saying that this violates both the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter," the minister added.
"The increasing military presence of the Russian Federation in Crimea sends a signal of possible danger for the security structure of Europe in general and we cannot remain bystanders in this situation. We call on Russia to withdraw its military forces and equipment from the peninsula, free all political prisoners, and meet its international commitments," Liimets said.
#UNSC meeting regarding situation in #Crimea today:— Eva-Maria Liimets (@eliimets) March 12, 2021
Urged #Russia to stop persecution, to free all political prisoners, to comply with #internationallaw, and to withdraw its military forces and equipment from the peninsula. #CrimeaUNSC #CrimeaIsUkraine pic.twitter.com/FKjP9UIK6W
Estonia's Ambassador to the UN Sven Jürgenson noted that the mass militarisation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation has devastated the nature and cultural heritage there. Blocking trade routes in the Azov-Black Sea region has had an extensive negative impact on the economy of Ukraine's coastal regions.
The meeting had a record number of co-sponsors – 23 states from Europe and beyond. They were UN Security Council members France, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom and United States, as well as UN member states Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Editor: Helen Wright