REUTERS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has said Ukraine continues to consolidate international efforts to achieve the complete de-occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol and to bring Russia to justice for its crimes.

"On that day in 2014, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People organized a ten-thousand-strong rally in front of the Crimean Parliament building in Simferopol in protest against the intentions to tear Crimea away from Ukraine. Since then, February 26 has become for Ukraine a symbol of resistance to the occupation, which has already lasted for seven years," the ministry said in a comment on Resistance to Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol Day on February 26.

"Russia seized Crimea by armed aggression and attempted its illegal annexation on the pretext of an unlawful and rigged referendum. By doing so, it grossly violated the basic principles of international law and undermined the European and global security system," the diplomats said.

Read alsoTurkey declares non-recognition of Crimea annexationRussia has been pursuing a criminal policy of colonization and assimilation of the peninsula from day one of the occupation, diplomats stress, adding that Russia "systemically violates international law and human rights, uses brutal repression against all those who have the courage to resist the occupation."

"The national, cultural, and religious rights of ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are being curtailed, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is being persecuted, the freedom of speech is suppressed and the independent media are destroyed," the comment says.

It is noted the occupiers purposefully persecute the indigenous people of the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars, who do not accept the occupation. Russia is trying to criminalize all dissidents, illegally detaining them and convicting them on trumped-up charges of "terrorism" and "extremism."

Back in 2016, Russia banned the Mejlis (the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people) and outlawed all its members. Despite the 2017 order of the UN International Court of Justice, the Mejlis remains banned.

Russia is also intensifying the militarization of Crimea. The peninsula, known as Ukraine's resort area before the occupation, has been transformed into a Russian military base, which poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to other countries in the region, including many NATO and EU-member states.

Read alsoU.S. welcomes Ukraine's initiative on Crimean Platform – Blinken"Ukraine is grateful to its allies and partners for their consistent and effective support in the struggle for the restoration of our country's territorial integrity. The international community should increase political and sanctions pressure on Russia to persuade it to liberate the occupied Ukrainian territories, release all political prisoners, and abide by the international court rulings," the reports says.

"Ukraine continues to consolidate international efforts to achieve the complete de-occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol and to bring Russia to justice for its crimes. To this end, Ukraine is creating a new international coordination format, the Crimea Platform, and calls on all partners to join it. Together, we will restore justice and stability through joint actions. Crimea is Ukraine," the ministry stressed.

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 in response to which sanctions against Russia were introduced.

Ukraine's parliament voted to designate February 20, 2014, as the official date when the temporary occupation of Crimea began.