At an international summit in Kiev, Ukrainian President Zelensky asserted that Crimea belongs to Ukraine. “From now on, the countdown to the end of the occupation begins,” he said at the so-called Crimean podium.
Representatives from about forty countries will participate in the summit, including European ministers and prime ministers and a delegation from the United States. The summit will be held on the eve of Ukraine’s 30th Independence Day. Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Tom de Bruyne will also participate in the summit in Kiev.
With the meeting, the Ukrainian government wants to put the Russian occupation of Crimea back on the international agenda and pressure Russia to withdraw. The government in Kiev also wants to draw attention to human rights violations in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The original inhabitants of the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars, are persecuted, according to Ukraine. According to President Zelensky, there are more than 100 political prisoners in the Crimea. Moreover, according to the president, Russia has turned the peninsula from a vacation and recreation area into an environmentally threatening military base.
Reporter Iris de Graaf says it remains to be seen whether Ukraine will regain Crimea. For Russia, in any case, recapture is not an option: the peninsula is of great strategic importance, especially due to the large military base of the Black Sea Fleet and its control of the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov.
The response could also mean losing face: in Russia, annexation has been justified for years under the guise of “historical justice.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the summit as a “witch party”. A Kremlin spokesman spoke of a very hostile and anti-Russian meeting.
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