Photo from UNIAN

Head of the NATO Representation to Ukraine Alexander Vinnikov says militarization of Crimea, Azov and Black seas by Russia constitutes a threat to Ukraine's sovereignty.

Speaking at "Occupied Crimea: Five Years of Resistance" forum in Kyiv, Vinnikov stressed the fact that the issue of Crimea should remain in the focus of international community.

A clear message should be sent to Moscow that no one is going to recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea.

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From the very beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Allies have continuously expressed full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, according to Vinnikov.

"Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region. Leaders condemned Russia’s construction and partial opening of the Kerch Strait bridge between Russia and the illegally annexed Crimea, which represents another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the infringement of its navigational rights in its territorial waters," Vinnikov said.

Allies condemned the human rights abuses and discrimination practices by the Russian de-facto authorities against the residents of the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, including the Crimean Tatars, as well as Ukrainians and persons belonging to other ethnic, political and religious groups. They called on Russia and its de-facto authorities to release Ukrainian prisoners and hostages detained in Russia, Crimea and the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by the Russia-backed militants.

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NATO has called repeatedly for Russia to return the Ukrainian ships and sailors it seized in November as a result of an unjustified use of military force against Ukraine, according to NATO official.

He believes the reintegration of Crimea into Ukraine through peaceful and diplomatic mechanisms should remain a priority of Ukraine's long-term policy.

Vinnikov also noted that the international community is increasingly concerned over the deterioration of humanitarian situation in Crimea.

The occupying authorities have been pursuing a comprehensive policy of ethnic (particularly ethno-religious) discrimination against the Crimean Tatar and the Ukrainian communities, he said.

Allies have repeatedly urged Russia to respect the rights and freedoms of the entire local population, including the indigenous Crimean Tatars and other members of local communities," Vinnikov stressed, adding that they "have repeatedly urged Russia to allow for international monitoring of the human rights situation in Crimea."

The leaders of NATO nations and Ukraine also expressed their concern about the use of torture and the transfer of Ukrainian citizens to prisons in Russia, he added.