The G7 group of nations has marked the seventh anniversary of Russia’s forcible annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula by reaffirming their “unwavering support” for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
In a joint statement on March 18, the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, as well as the EU's foreign policy chief, “unequivocally denounce Russia’s temporary occupation” of Crimea and its “violations of human rights on the peninsula, particularly of Crimean Tatars.”
They said they also “firmly oppose Russia’s continued destabilization of Ukraine,” especially in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid a wave of public protests.
Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula and Moscow’s involvement in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has prompted the EU, the United States, and other countries to impose a variety of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.
In their statement, the G7 and EU called on Russia to immediately release all those who have been “unjustly detained” during what rights groups and Western governments call a campaign of oppression targeting activists, journalists, members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority, and others who questioned the annexation.
On March 17, the U.S. State Department denounced the recent arrest in Crimea of Vladislav Yesypenko, a freelance contributor to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, for allegedly spying on behalf of Kyiv as “another attempt to repress those who speak the truth about Russia's aggression in Ukraine.”
The G7 statement called on Moscow to implement its commitments to the Minsk peace agreements aimed at putting an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, insisting that “Russia is a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, not a mediator.”
It said Moscow should “stop fueling the conflict” by providing financial and military support to the separatists and by granting Russian citizenship to “hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens.”
The statement noted that a cease-fire implemented in July 2020 has “significantly reduced violence,” while also deploring “recent military escalations by Russian-backed armed formations at the line of contact.”