NATO calls on Russia to return control of Crimea to Ukraine
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has called on the Russian Federation to return control of Crimea to Ukraine.
"Five years ago, Russia used force against Ukraine to illegally and illegitimately annex Crimea. This violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is a serious breach of international law and a major challenge to Euro-Atlantic security. We strongly condemn this act, which we do not and will not recognize. We call on Russia to return control of Crimea to Ukraine. We reiterate our full support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters. Crimea is the territory of Ukraine," according to a NATO statement posted on its website on March 18.
It is reported allies are deeply concerned by the human right abuses and violations being carried out by the Russian de-facto authorities in illegally annexed Crimea against Ukrainians, the Crimean Tatars, and members of other local communities.
"These violations include extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, violence, arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture. Despite the 2017 Order of the International Court of Justice, the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, remains under persecution and is banned in its homeland," the statement says.
"NATO calls on Russia to bring an immediate end to all violations and abuses in illegally annexed Crimea, to release Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages, and to grant international monitoring organizations access to Crimea. Any attempts to legitimize or normalize the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea must end, including the automatic imposition of Russian citizenship, forced population movements, conscription in the armed forces of the Russian Federation, and illegal holding of Russian election campaigns," it said.
NATO condemns Russia's militarization of the occupied peninsula.
"We condemn Russia's ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea, and are concerned by Russia's efforts and stated plans for further military build-up in the Black Sea region. We also condemn Russia's construction of the Kerch Strait bridge, which represents another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and is imposing additional hardship on Ukraine's economy," it said.
NATO also calls on Russia to free 24 captive Ukrainian sailors.
"Russia's unjustified use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel near the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait in November 2018 is part of the larger pattern of Russian aggressive actions in the region. In line with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 73/194 from December 17, 2018, we call on Russia to unconditionally release the Ukrainian crew members it detained, to return the captured vessels and to comply with its international commitments by ensuring unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and allowing freedom of navigation," NATO said.
"NATO's response to address Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine has been alongside and in support of an overall international effort, which has included sanctions. There can be no return to 'business as usual' until there is a clear, constructive change in Russia's actions that demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities," the statement said.