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The European Union would like to thank the High Commissioner for her important update on the situation in Ukraine.
The EU remains deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed against persons living in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the government of Ukraine, and in illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.
The 27th report of the OHCHR Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine documented a 51% increase of civilian casualties. The ongoing conflict continues to severely affect the lives and wellbeing of the civilian population residing close to the contact line, including through damage to critical infrastructure and schools.
The ongoing human rights violations committed on the Crimean peninsula since its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation remain of great concern to the EU. We reiterate that the EU does not recognize the illegal annexation and will continue to condemn this violation of international law. The EU remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures.
We call upon the Russian Federation to grant international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms unrestricted access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, in line with relevant UN resolutions. We deplore the continuous systematic persecution of Crimean Tatars and persons belonging to Ukrainian speaking communities, as well as restrictions on human rights of all inhabitants of Crimea, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, movement, and religion or belief.
Recent prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia means that finally Oleg Sentsov, Pavlo Hryb, Edem Bekirov, and the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors, and others whose release the European Union has called for so many times, are free and back in their country. Their release is testimony to the work and determination of those, including civil society, activists, and legal experts, who have worked tirelessly for this outcome. The European Union expects all parties to build on this momentum and calls for the immediate release of all Ukrainian citizens who remain illegally detained and imprisoned in Russia and illegally annexed Crimea, including Crimean Tatar activists.
The EU also calls on all sides of the conflict to respect and ensure respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law and in this context we stress that all international human rights observers and monitoring mechanisms should be granted full, free and unrestricted access to the entire sovereign territory of Ukraine. This particularly includes illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as laid out in UN General Assembly resolution 71/205, 72/190 on the situation of human rights in Crimea/Sevastopol and resolution 73/263. It is unacceptable that millions of civilians, including Crimeans, remain outside the UN monitoring mechanisms. We stress the need to fully implement the UN General Assembly resolutions on Ukraine and the recommendations contained in the OHCHR Mission's reports.
It is also crucial that all parties fully respect and implement their obligations under the Minsk Agreements as a first step towards a sustainable political solution that is based on the respect for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. We underline Russia’s responsibility in this regard and once again call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the armed formations it backs to meet these commitments in full.
The EU underlines the need to ensure the respect for rights already exercised of persons belonging to national minorities as enshrined in UN and Council of Europe conventions and related protocols, non-discrimination of persons belonging to national minorities and respect for diversity. The EU noted the legal acts taken by Ukraine with regards to the Law on Education and the Law on the functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language. The EU continues to follow closely the developments in this regard. The EU encourages Ukraine to take into account the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft law on state language policy.
Madame High Commissioner,
What should be the next steps to improve the human rights and the humanitarian situation along the contact line and what more can be done to help the civilian population living close to the contact line and suffering most by the ongoing conflict?