Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a decree designating February 26 a memorial day to mark the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region by Russia in 2014.
Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by at least 100 countries. In April that year, Russia threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.
February 26 was designated the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, because on that day in 2014 Ukrainians held the largest protest in Crimea’s capital, Symferopol, against Russia’s intervention in the peninsula following the toppling of Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, President Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement.
Mr. Zelenskyy also said the return of Crimea to Ukraine was not only his goal as the country’s leader, but also his personal standpoint as a Ukrainian citizen.
Mr. Zelenskyy said Ukraine had the backing of the international community in its fight to bring Crimea back. “And we know that this day is sure to come,” he was quoted as saying.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr. Zelenskyy’s move “does not correspond to the real situation around Crimea,” adding that Moscow “categorically” disagrees with the wording of the Ukrainian president’s decree.
The previous day, U.S. President Donald Trump extended for one year a series of previously imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, in particular, forcibly annexing Crimea and further destabilizing the country.
Mr. Trump’s executive order was signed on February 25 and includes a package of sanctions that have expanded in scope over time since March 6, 2014.
They were first introduced by the administration of former President Barack Obama and broadened three more times in 2014 as well as in 2018.
President Trump’s order says Russia’s actions, including its “purported annexation of Crimea and use of force in Ukraine… undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of assets.”
To “deal with that emergency,” the sanctions “must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2020,” the executive order says.
With reporting by Interfax and TASS.
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