Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has marked the ninth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, in an official statement, which follows in its entirety.
Exactly nine years ago today (Saturday-ed.), the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsula, illegally. Both the Ukrainian nation and the international community clearly remember the fraudulent referendum staged by the Kremlin, which laid the groundwork for this. Already then, Russia's actions contradicted the UN Charter, endangering international security and gravely violating Ukraine's sovereignty.
Russia has been waging a full-scale war against Ukraine since 24 February last year and still occupies several regions in southern and eastern Ukraine. Numerous, grave crimes have been committed in areas that were or remain under Russian occupation – extrajudicial killings, arrests, kidnapping, torture and rape on a mass scale.
Thousands of Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia by force and illegally adopted. It is obvious that the Kremlin's objective is not just to expand the territory of Russia, but also to completely destroy the independence, people and culture of Ukraine.
Russia's invasion and aggressive military action must be stopped as soon as possible, and war criminals, from privates to national leaders, must be held accountable. Yesterday's decision by the International Criminal Court – to issue arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova – is a great step demonstrating that the international community is ready to bring perpetrators of grave crimes to justice.
We, the international community, must offer Ukraine every support to ensure the sovereignty of Ukraine's state and the endurance of its people. At the same time, we must continue weakening the Russian war machine by boosting sanctions and restrictions. Ukrainians are not fighting only for their freedom; they are also fighting for ours. Let us remember that.
The formal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation took place on March 18, following a referendum whose legitimacy is not widely recognized by most states internationally, and which was illegal under the Constitution of Ukraine, ie. the sovereign state to which Crimea belonged.
Kremlin observers had used the 2013 Scottish Independence Referendum both to sow discord and as an effort to imply the Crimean poll was on an equivalent legal footing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte