The U.S. rejects Russia’s assertion that Moscow has improved the lives of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians living in Russia-occupied Crimea.
“Since the so-called ‘Little Green Men’ first appeared in Crimea in 2014, the Russian regime has taken drastic steps to infringe upon the rights of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians, causing tens of thousands to flee the peninsula,” said U.S. Ambassador to OSCE James S. Gilmore, during OSCE meeting at Vienna about Ongoing Violations of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.
Ambassador expressed that the U.S. is deeply concerned by the ongoing repression of religious minorities in Crimea, and said “On May 26, occupation authorities raided the homes of four Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kerch and opened a new so-called criminal “extremism” case against at least one. On the same day, an appeals court upheld the six-year prison sentence handed down in March to Jehovah’s Witness Sergei Filatov for hosting a prayer meeting in his home. Dozens of Crimean Tatar men remain imprisoned for “terrorism” for so-called “extremism” in cases related to their exercise of their religious freedom. We are concerned by the news that one of these men, Teimur Abdullayev, who was sentenced to a 17-year prison term in Russia, has spent the past two months in an isolation cell.”
He called for the release of all Ukrainian citizens that Russia has imprisoned for their political views or peaceful religious practice.
Mr. Gilmore asserted that the council discussed the situation in Crimea at great length last week and heard from a number of participating States regarding the treatment of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians living there.
“All but one of those participating States underscored that Crimea is a part of Ukraine. All but one of those participating States called attention to Russia’s repression and infringement upon the human rights of the local population. All but one decried Russia’s conscription campaign in Crimea, characterizing it as a clear violation of international law. Today we would like to call attention to the Russian government’s continuing conscription of individuals in Crimea into Russian armed forces, compelling persons protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention to serve the forces of a hostile power is a grave breach of that convention.”
“Russia would have us believe that the Crimean Tatars are better off living under an occupation government, despite the reports of enforced disappearances, illegal imprisonment, forced psychiatric treatment, show trials, and torture,” he said.
The diplomat stated that it is time for Russia to drop the charade, return full control of Crimea to Ukraine, and withdraw its forces and materiel from eastern Ukraine. Only then, he believes, can Russia reclaim its place as a respected member of the society of nations, a goal it should want for a better future for its own citizens.
Lastly, the ambassador indicated that the United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters. ”We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea.”
“We join our European and other partners in affirming that our Minsk-related sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments. The Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” assured the representative of U.S. James Gilmore.