Four years on - but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

by EIGHT EUROPEAN FOREIGN MINISTERS

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Four years ago, on 18 March 2014, Russia took the final step to illegally occupy Crimea, a part of Ukraine's sovereign territory that Russia had recognised as such in several international treaties.

The Russian takeover comprised a series of equally illegal actions: from using disguised Russian elite troops to the hasty organisation – in breach of Ukrainian and international law – of an illegitimate "referendum".

President Putin initially claimed that those troops had no association with Russia, but then admitted that he had ordered the entire takeover in late February 2014. He later generously decorated Russian servicemen with medals for carrying out the occupation.

The inhabitants of Crimea suddenly found themselves living under Moscow's de facto rule. They have subsequently been forced to obtain Russian citizenship, and to serve in the Russian armed forces – both in violation of international law.

Broad repressive policies have followed, leading to widespread human rights abuses such as imprisonment on political grounds, closure of media outlets and schools, and several cases of killings and disappearances.

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The illegal occupation of Crimea increases the security risks in the Black Sea region, but its repercussions reach far beyond the region.

Together with the ongoing Russian aggression in the Donbas, it also violates the European security order, a set of rules and principles that have served as the basis for Europe's stability and security since the end of the Cold War.

What happened in Crimea is not just about Ukraine, it concerns us all. That is why we will neither forget nor abandon Crimea.

To read this essay in full, visit euobserver.

The eight foreign ministers who signed the piece are: Anders Samuelsen, minister for foreign affairs of Denmark, Sven Mikser, minister of foreign affairs of Estonia, Edgars Rinkevics, minister of foreign affairs of Latvia, Linas Linkevicius, minister of foreign affairs of Lithuania, Jacek Czaputowicz, minister of foreign affairs of Poland, Teodor-Viorel Melescanu, minister of foreign affairs of Romania, Margot Wallstroem, minister for foreign affairs of Sweden, Pavlo Klimkin, minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine.