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Speech delivered by Commissioner Christos Stylianides on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini
Dear colleagues, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
Thank you so much for this opportunity to discuss the human rights situation in Russia and in particular the situation of both illegally detained Ukrainians as well as environmental activists.
The European Union has repeatedly expressed concern at the fate of all Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in the Crimean peninsula and in Russia. These include Crimean Tatars and others who have opposed the illegal annexation, and other Ukrainians. We continue to call for immediate and unconditional release of the captured Ukrainian servicemen and their vessels, as ordered also by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Diplomats from the EU Delegation and our Member States' embassies in Moscow regularly attend the court hearings and are in contact with the lawyers. The EU also regularly raises individual cases, including Oleh Sentsov, Pavlo Hryb and Edem Berkirov - who require urgent medical assistance - in bilateral meetings with Russian representatives and in public statements, including in the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
Russia holds special responsibility for respecting human rights in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. The right to legal counsel, access to consular officers and health care must be fully respected. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted that Crimean Tatars continue "to be disproportionately affected by police raids and prosecuted under terrorism and extremism-related offences in proceedings falling short of human rights standards." All pending cases of violations and abuses should be thoroughly investigated. The human rights situation in non-government controlled areas of eastern Ukraine where Russia plays a destabilising role is also deeply worrying.
The overall environment for human rights and civil society activists in Russia is characterised by restrictions on fundamental freedoms. At a time of international awareness of climate catastrophe, violent assaults on individual environmental activists such as Andrey Rudomakha and his colleagues, and judicial harassment of others such as non-governmental organisation Ecodefence! are deeply troubling.
We recall that it is the duty of the Russian authorities to respect and protect the rights of all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens, and the rights of Russian citizens and activists in line with Russia's international human rights commitments.
I conclude by reaffirming our strong commitment and support for human rights and civil society including environmental activists in Russia, as well as illegally detained Ukrainians in particular. The European Union has consistently called on Russia to ensure that human rights violations in Russia and the Crimean peninsula are investigated and accountability and justice for victims assured.
Thank you for your attention.