More than seven years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has emphasized its claim to the peninsula at an international summit. From now on, “the countdown to the end of the occupation begins,” he said at the first edition of the so-called Crimean Platform in Kyiv.
More than forty states are represented there, in most cases with government leaders or ministers. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the meeting a “witch party” and the Kremlin spokesman “extremely hostile” and “anti-Russian”. On Friday, Moscow imposed sanctions on Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a military invasion in response to what it called a pro-Western revolution in Kyiv. It has since been subjected to numerous sanctions by Western countries because Moscow is interfering in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have declared mini-states.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier reiterated that the German government and the other EU countries are committed to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will not recognize Russia’s annexation. EU President Charles Michel sees it as “our job to ensure that the annexation is never legalized”.
Russia has transformed Crimea from a vacation and recreation region into an ecologically endangered military base over the past seven years, President Zelensky lamented. He accused the Russians of violating the human rights of the Crimean residents. According to him, there are more than a hundred political prisoners on the peninsula.
Zelensky wants to use all political and legal means to regain Ukrainian control over Crimea and hopes that the presence of dozens of countries at the forum will eventually force Russia to the negotiating table. He called for stronger sanctions.