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Today marks the 5th anniversary of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia.
The EU has repeatedly stated that we do not, and will not recognise this violation of international law. This is once more reiterated in our joint Declaration, which was issued yesterday.
We stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The past five years have brought systematic restrictions of fundamental freedoms and violations of the rights of the Crimean Tatars. Oleh Sentsov, who is in a Russian prison, received the Sakharov Prize last year. Many others have been sentenced by Russia in breach of international law.
We call on all human rights violations to be investigated, and international human rights actors to have full, free and unrestricted access to the peninsula.
The increasing militarisation of Crimea and Sevastopol over this period has had a negative impact on the security situation in the whole Black Sea region.
The dangerous increase of tensions at the Kerch Strait in November was another consequence of the illegal annexation. The European Union expects Russia to release the captured Ukrainian crewmembers and vessels unconditionally and without any further delay.
On Friday, we added 8 persons involved in this incident to the list of those subject to restrictive measures. The publication of this decision is in parallel with similar announcements made by our transatlantic partners. This demonstrates our continued unity, and a strong answer to this unjustified use of force by Russia.
Today we are further underlining our European unity and commitment to keep Crimea high on our collective agenda. We will continue to implement our non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation. We restate our firm belief that Crimea is Ukraine.