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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The EU reaffirms its full support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
The EU recalls that the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014 remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all States.
The EU condemns this violation of international law and underlines that does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia.
The EU recalls that construction of the Kerch bridge constitutes a further violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We refer to the Declaration by the High Representative Federica Mogherini on behalf of the EU on the escalating tensions in the Azov Sea issued on 28 November 2018 where the EU expressed its utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait which had led to the seizure of Ukrainian vessels and their crews by Russia and shots being fired at them, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen.
We underscore that the EU were dismayed at this use of force by Russia which, against the backdrop of increasing militarisation in the area, is unacceptable.
The EU calls strongly on Russia to release the seized vessels, their crew and equipment unconditionally and without delay.
The EU expects Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.
We recall also the EU call on all for utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.