You are here

Opening words by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, H.E. Ms Eva-Maria Liimets on high-level Arria-formula meeting on Crimea

12. March 2021 - 19:55

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me now to make a statement in my national capacity.

As many today have already said, the situation in Crimea continues to deteriorate.

The Russian Federation has unlawfully imposed its laws and justice system there, and is conducting a severe crackdown on civil society and political opponents. The normal freedom of movement between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine has been hampered.

The military build-up on the peninsula has deteriorated the overall security situation in the Black Sea region and beyond.
First, on human rights.

International human rights law continues to be seriously violated in Crimea. The occupying authorities want to destroy the remains of civic activism in Crimea. For that purpose they use persecution and other forms of repression. Over a hundred Crimeans are currently being held on politically motivated charges in Russian prisons.

Only last week a pro-Ukrainian activist from Crimea was sentenced to five years in prison by Military Court in Russia. 62-year-old Oleh Prykhodko is an ordinary man, who did not accept the Russian invasion and takeover of the peninsula. We reiterate our call on Russia to release all political prisoners without delay.

Despite the Order of the International Court of Justice and calls by the numerous UN General Assembly resolutions, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people remain banned. We call on Russia to abide by its international obligations.

We are deeply concerned that independent journalism on the peninsula is practically non-existent. This affects most the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities, their right to information and their right to preserve their culture and identity. Many journalists fled Crimea to escape harassment, violence, and arrests.

We are also worried about education and language rights – school textbooks have been rewritten to falsely emphasise that Crimea has always been part of Russia. The number of children receiving education in Ukrainian has decreased by 54 times. Military preparation classes have become compulsory for students.

In addition, we see deprivation of civil and property rights through forced passportisation and conscription. Russia has adopted a presidential decree whereby non-Russian citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol can not own land in certain regions. The decree will come into force next week.

Second, the freedom of movement has been severely restricted – the residents of Crimea who have refused to take Russian passport are considered foreigners. If they decide to travel to other parts of Ukraine, the Russian authorities deny them re-entry. This is particularly cynical at the time of the COVID pandemic, where the already strained medical care system in Crimea is unable to cope with the high number of COVID patients.

Third, the increased presence of Russian troops in Crimea has turned the peninsula and its nearby waters into a mighty military outpost in the Azov-Black Sea region. This massive militarisation is destroying the natural and cultural heritage of the peninsula. And it has a negative impact on Ukraine’s economic development.

Russia also restricts the freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov, closing selected areas under its control on the pretext of military exercises. It conducts numerous, costly and time-consuming inspections of merchant ships sailing to the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

These actions on land and sea undermine the principles of post-war security order of Europe. They run against international law, including the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act.

Estonia welcomes the Ukrainian initiative of the International Crimean Platform. This helps to consolidate the international response with the aim of eventual de-occupation of Crimea.

Finally, I would like to express our wholehearted support for Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and others whose livelihoods have been adversely impacted by Russia’s aggression.  We strongly condemn this and urge Russia to stop persecution, to free all political prisoners, to comply with international law, and to withdraw its military forces and equipment from the peninsula.

Thank you.

About Estonia

Get closer acquainted with Estonia, coming here for a visit, studies, business or investments!

Official Estonian Gateway

Get closer acquainted with Estonia and see what are the most important facts and main areas of activity here.

Digital Society

Estonia has
transformed itself into
one of Europe’s business success stories of the last decade, mainly thanks to the sophisticated e-solutions available here.