The Ukrainian World Congress issued the following statement on March 17.
Seven years have passed since Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was invaded and illegally occupied by the Russian Federation. On March 16, 2014, Russia’s armed forces staged an illegal referendum at gunpoint. Two days later, on March 18, 2014, Moscow declared that a massive majority voted to join the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin signed an “entry agreement” occupying Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. This was the first time since the Second World War that the boundaries of Europe were altered by armed invasion.
During the last seven years, Russia has transformed the Crimean Peninsula into one of the largest military bases in the region, which currently poses a threat to the entire Black Sea region. The Russian Federation is engaged in barbaric, ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of Crimea, which has already led to a catastrophic shortage of fresh water, which is decreasing every day. Human rights are systematically violated on the peninsula and members of the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities are routinely persecuted on the grounds of nationality, religion and more. In addition, the Russian authorities have implemented a policy of artificial population replacement in Crimea.
Since 2014, an estimated 200,000 Russians have been relocated to Crimea.
One thing has not changed – the so-called “accession” of Crimea to Russia has been and remains part of Mr. Putin’s Big Lie to the world. For seven years, Russia has been investing in an enormous disinformation campaign and using economic pressure to legitimize the occupation and rewrite the boundaries of Europe. The illegal occupation of Crimea undermines the international order and is in breach of every international agreement Russia has signed.
Nevertheless, Russian hybrid misinformation aggression is bearing fruit. More and more frequently around the world on leading TV channels, the internet, in school textbooks and geographical atlases Crimea is referred to as a “Russian region.” The rapid response and counteractions of Ukrainian community activists and the Ukrainian state has allowed these cases to be exposed and corrected. However, we must be vigilant and remember that this is how Russian propaganda works – this is how Mr. Putin’s Great Lie works.
“The Ukrainian World Congress calls for an international boycott on any international visits to occupied Crimea and escalating international sanctions on Russia until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored. We call on all Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine, wherever they live, to call-out Putin’s Big Lie and to never forget that Crimea is Ukraine,” stated UWC President Paul Grod.
The UWC statement included a call for readers to share their thoughts on social media regarding the situation in Crimea and “Russia’s attempts to impose its lies” by including the hashtag #PutinsBigLie.