U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said Russia's occupation and increasing militarization of the Crimean peninsula have implications far beyond Ukraine's borders, threatening the world's common security.
"The United States joins Ukraine in marking the seventh anniversary of Russia's invasion and seizure of Crimea – a brazen affront to the modern international order. We affirm this basic truth: Crimea is Ukraine," he said in a statement on February 25, as reported by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
"This occupation comes at significant human cost. Russian occupation authorities have sustained a brutal campaign of repression against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and members of other minority ethnic and religious groups in Crimea," Blinken said.
It is noted Russian occupation authorities have raided mosques and homes, driven independent media off the peninsula, and handed down lengthy prison sentences to those who dare to speak out against the occupation.
Read also U.S. welcomes Ukraine's initiative on Crimean Platform – Blinken Moreover, Russia's repression has left Crimean residents in a constant state of fear, unable to live their lives freely.
Russian occupation of Crimea
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 after its troops had occupied the peninsula. An illegal referendum was held for Crimeans to decide on accession to Russia. De-facto Crimean authorities reported that allegedly 96.77% of the Crimean population had voted for joining Russia.
On March 18, 2014, the so-called agreement on the accession of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia was signed in the Kremlin.
The West did not recognize the annexation, moving to introduce sanctions against Russia.
Read also Ukraine continues to consolidate int'l efforts to achieve complete de-occupation of Crimea, Sevastopol – MFA Ukraine's parliament voted to designate February 20, 2014, as the official date marking the start of the temporary occupation of Crimea.
Reporting by UNIAN