BRUSSELS -- Exiled Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov have urged the European Union to keep and expand sanctions imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
The EU imposed economic sanctions that hit Russia's oil and military industries in response to the annexation of Crimea as well as Moscow's backing of separatists in fighting against Ukrainian government troops in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking to the European Parliament's subcommittee on human rights on January 24, Umerov told EU lawmakers that no economic sanctions on Moscow should be lifted and that "there should be new reports and resolutions, cultural events should be banned and boycotted, and we should expand economic sanctions so that Russia is so affected that they leave Crimea and [the eastern Ukrainian region of] Donbas.”
The bloc has also introduced asset freezes and visa bans on more than 200 people in Crimea and Russia and enacted an EU investment ban for the peninsula.
Although sanctions have been renewed on a regular basis, some EU member states have questioned the bloc's sanctions policy, arguing that their removal would improve EU-Russia relations.
Chiygoz said the EU sanctions regime had been "mild" and asked the EU to "be united just like when you helped us ... help other prisoners, save our people and our motherland."
Chyigoz and Umerov were released from Russian custody in Crimea in October after being handed down prison sentences by Russian-controlled courts a month earlier.
Chiygoz had been convicted of organizing an illegal demonstration and was sentenced to eight years in prison whereas Umerov received two years for separatism for his opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea.