Four years after a referendum was staged in Crimea as the basis for its illegal annexation by Russia, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) released a statement condemning the annexation and expressing continued support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity.
"Four years ago today, on March 16, the Russian Federation stage-managed a farce on Ukrainian soil that was billed as a referendum," Mikser said according to a ministry press release. "Two days later, on March 18, Crimea was illegally claimed as part of Russia. We condemn the unlawful annexation perpetrated by the Russian Federation four years ago, which ignored the Ukrainian Constitution, the will of the Ukrainian people and internationally agreed regulations. Crimea is, and will remain, part of Ukraine.
"Estonia also denounces the serious breaches of international law committed by Russia as an occupying force since the annexation: forced recruitment of locals into the army; forced adoption of Russian citizenship; seizure of property; and restriction of freedom of speech and religion. The situation of the residents of the peninsula has worsened in the last four years, and almost 40,000 locals have fled the region as a result of both psychological and physical intimidation. The occupying forces continue to breach human rights and fundamental freedoms: Ukrainian citizens have been detained; there have been reports of torture and mistreatment; and the situation of the indigenous population of Crimean Tartars is particularly deplorable. Annexation has also made it more difficult to keep existing relations with Crimean Estonians as close as before.
"Russia continues to integrate Crimea economically and politically. Steps are also being taken to militarize the peninsula, threatening security in the Black Sea region as a whole. Estonia denounces the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge, which has not been authorized by Ukraine and which will not only have a negative impact on security, but also restrict the access of cargo vessels to Ukrainian port cities.
"Breaches of international law must have consequences. As it has always done, Estonia supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We shall continue to raise the issue of Crimea in the international arena. We strongly support the policy of not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, including the continuation and revision of sanctions, and the release of those illegally imprisoned. It is of utmost importance that international organizations be given access to Crimea.
"Estonia condemns and does not recognize the organization of elections by the Russian Federation in the unlawfully annexed Crimea and Sevastopol, including the conducting of presidential elections on March 18."
Editor: Aili Vahtla